Beyond how cold they were and all that happened in their latest adventure, the Seahawks essentially survived.
And now they are renewed.
The winners of that 10-9 escape against the Vikings in a Minneapolis deep freeze know they are headed to where it should be about 55 degrees warmer on Sunday. That’s Charlotte, North Carolina, where it is predicted to be 45 degrees for the NFC divisional playoff game between sixth-seeded Seattle (11-6) and No. 1 seed Carolina (15-1)
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“It will be great to get back to normality,” Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said.
Normal, as in Sherman’s eyelashes aren’t going to freeze together in Charlotte. They did during the win at Minnesota in last weekend’s wild-card round.
The temperature isn’t the only thing that will be familiar for Seattle at Carolina. The opponent is, too.
This will be the sixth game between the Seahawks and Panthers in the past four seasons and the third in 12 months.
In October, the Seahawks blew a 23-14 lead with 5 minutes remaining at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. They lost on a Cam Newton pass down the center of the field to wide-open tight end Greg Olsen with 26 seconds to go. Sherman was in the correct coverage while the rest of the Seahawks’ defensive backs were not.
On Jan. 10, 2015, also in Seattle, Newton’s 31-yard pass to Olsen got Carolina inside the Seahawks 20 with 6 minutes to go in a playoff game, which Seattle led 24-10. Kam Chancellor then intercepted Newton and ran 90 yards the other way for the clinching touchdown in Seattle’s 31-17 win in last season’s divisional playoff round. That sent the Seahawks back to the NFC championship game.
That is one of Carolina’s two losses in its past 21 games dating to November 2014.
The Seahawks have in the past two years been where these Panthers, who were undefeated until Week 16 of the regular season, are trying to get to — the Super Bowl. Seattle enters Bank of America Stadium on Sunday trying to become the first team to reach three consecutive Super Bowls in the NFL’s salary-cap era, which began in 1994.
“If you can be the best, beat the best,” Panthers standout cornerback Josh Norman told Charlotte-area media members in the team’s locker room this week.
Carolina enters as the league’s highest-scoring team, averaging 31 points per game. The Panthers are second in rushing offense and are getting back running back Jonathan Stewart. The former star at Timberline High School missed the final three regular-season games with a sprained foot yet still gained 989 yards on the season.
“The Panthers are a great team, and that will be a special game,” Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said.
His ability to disrupt Stewart and Newton, and the offenses of many teams this season, will be key.
“We have had great battles with this team,” Bennett said. “And we always come back when it’s time to play championship football.”
The average of the final scores from the past five meetings in this series is Seattle 19, Carolina 14. Four of those five games have been decided by five points or fewer. As that average score indicates, Seahawks versus Panthers is usually grinding and rugged.
Even with how well Newton and the Panthers’ offense has been rolling, the Seahawks expect another street fight for a spot in next week’s NFC championship game.
“It’s going to be fun. It’s always fun when we play Carolina,” Sherman said. “It’s going to be a physical game, back and forth. Both teams are going to run it. Both teams are going to hit each other in the mouth.
“We’ll see who’s standing at the end.”
RELIEF FOR BENNETT
Defensive end Michael Bennett limped out last Sunday against the Vikings for one play late in the game. He initially feared a major knee injury but was relieved.
He’s already been playing all season with a grotesque-looking right big toe, the bottom of which looks dislocated outside of the rest of his foot when he has his socks off.
“My toe went out, and I was like, ‘Oh!’ Then I was like … go back in (the game),” Bennett said. “God blessed me that I didn’t tear anything. Probably (knee) meniscus out of place or something like that. You have to step up and play big football.”
Bennett had an injection two weeks ago in the toe and hasn’t missed a game this season.
NFL owners voting to approve the move of the Rams from St. Louis back to Los Angeles means Seahawks coach Pete Carroll will likely be coaching a game next season in an old home.
The Rams’ best option for a temporary venue until their new stadium is finished in suburban Inglewood in 2019 is Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. That’s where Carroll coached USC from 2000-09, before he became the Seahawks’ coach.
Think there would be a chance for a media frenzy around Carroll next season in the NFC West game against the Rams there?
Gregg Bell: firstname.lastname@example.org @gbellseattle
Seahawks’ next opponent
CAROLINA PANTHERS (15-1)
10:05 a.m. Sunday, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
Against the Seahawks: Seattle leads the regular-season series, 5-3, and has won both playoff meetings. Carolina won at Seattle, 27-23, in October, Cam Newton’s first win over the Seahawks in five attempts. This is the sixth meeting in the past four seasons and third in the past 12 months. The Seahawks won, 31-17, last January in an NFC divisional playoff game in Seattle. The Seahawks have won their past three games in Charlotte by scores of 16-12 (in 2012), 12-7 (in ’13) and 13-9 (in ’14).
What to know: Carolina had a bye last week as the NFC’s top seed. … The Panthers have lost just twice in its past 21 games dating to November 2014: at Atlanta in Week 16 of this regular season and last January in the playoffs at Seattle. … Cam Newton is probably going to win the league’s Most Valuable Player award. He has 35 touchdown passes against 10 interceptions, and this season has been doing something different: not taking risks with his throws. … Two weeks ago, Newton tied Steve Young for the most career rushing touchdowns (43). Young got his in 15 seasons. Newton did it in five. … Jonathan Stewart from Timberline High School returns after missing the past three games with a sprained foot. He gained 989 yards in the regular season. … The Panthers led the NFL in scoring average this regular season at 31 points per game and were No. 2 in rushing, thanks to Newton’s big boost. They were 24th in passing. … TE Greg Olsen remains Newton’s favorite target. He has 77 catches for 1,104 yards — more than Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin — with seven touchdowns. That includes the one with 26 seconds to go that beat the Seahawks in October. … The biggest reason Carolina is 15-1: a league-best turnover margin of plus-20. … The defense is hurting in the secondary. Starting cornerback Charles Tillman is out for the year facing reconstructive knee surgery. His replacement will be Robert McClain, who had been unemployed until Carolina signed him last month. … Talented nickel back Bene Benwikere is also out for the season with a broken leg he suffered last month. … The Panthers have been susceptible to long pass plays this season, before Tillman got hurt in the regular-season finale. … Carolina is sixth in points allowed, sixth in total defense, fourth against the run and 11th against the pass.
Quotable: “I didn’t want to play anyone else.” — Panthers safety Roman Harper on getting the two-time defending NFC champions after last Sunday’s wild card game.