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Panthers hold off Seahawks, will host Cardinals in NFC championship 01.17.16 at 4:22 pm ET
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After a late scare, Cam Newton (1) has the Panthers pointed to another NFC championship appearance. (Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports)

After a late scare, Cam Newton (1) has the Panthers pointed to another NFC championship appearance. (Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports)

Jonathan Stewart ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns while Cam Newton threw for another as the Carolina Panthers held off a furious second-half rally by the Seattle Seahawks to claim a 31-24 win in an NFC divisional game Sunday in Charlotte.

Steven Hauschka converted a 36-yard field goal with 1:12 left in the fourth quarter to draw the Seahawks within a touchdown. But Thomas Davis Sr. caught the onside kick to seal the win for the Panthers, who led at the half, 31-0.

The win sets up a matchup between the No. 1 seeded Panthers (16-1) and the No. 2 Cardinals (14-3) in the NFC championship next Sunday in Charlotte.

The Panthers broke out on top early in the first quarter, taking their opening drive down the field for a score. That drive was highlighted by a 59-yard run up the middle by Stewart, who became the first player to run for over 100 yards against the Seahawks since Jamaal Charles on Nov. 16, 2014.

Russell Wilson had a nightmarish first half, which included a pick-6 by Luke Kuechly moments after the Stewart touchdown run to open scoring. Wilson finished 31-for-48 for 366 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns went to Jermaine Kearse, who finished with 11 catches for 110 yards.

The Seahawks had a chance to get on the board late in the second quarter but Pete Carroll turned down a short field goal try to go for it on 4th-and-5. The Seahawks missed that chance and a 55-yard field goal attempt right before half.

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Jonathan Stewart
Seahawks hold off Vikings, advance to face Panthers, Packers rout Redskins, face Cardinals 01.10.16 at 5:11 pm ET
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Vikings kicker Blair Walsh (3) misses the potential game-winning field goal against the Seahawks Sunday. (Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY Sports)

Vikings kicker Blair Walsh (3) misses the potential game-winning field goal against the Seahawks Sunday. (Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY Sports)

Apparently, the curse of Marvin Lewis is with Mike Zimmer.

The former Bengals defensive coordinator, in his second season as Vikings head coach, needed only for kicker Blair Walsh to convert his fourth field goal of the day from 27 yards out to give him a win his his first playoff try.

Instead, Walsh hooked the attempt wide left with 22 seconds remaining, giving the Seahawks a 10-9 win over Zimmer’s Vikings on a Sunday afternoon in their wild-card playoff game at the University of Minnesota.

The game was played in sub-zero weather that tied for the third-coldest NFL game on record.

The win propels Pete Carroll‘s No. 6 Seahawks to the NFC Division round next weekend against the No. 1 seed Carolina Panthers next Sunday in Charlotte. Carolina (15-1) beat the Seahawks in Week 6, 27-23, in Seattle.

Until his fateful miss, Walsh had been spot on all day, converting three field goals that staked the upstart Vikings to a 9-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter. But the Seahawks came back with a three-yard TD pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin and a 46-yard field goal from Steven Hauschka to take a 10-9 lead.

As Seattle burned all of their timeouts, the Vikings drove down to the Seattle 9 with 26 seconds left in the game and seemed destined to win before Walsh hooked his kick.

In the late afternoon game, Aaron Rodgers threw a pair of touchdown passes while Eddie Lacy and James Starks each ran for a score to help the No. 5 Packers beat the No. 4 Redskins, 35-18. The Packers move on to play the No. 2 Arizona Cardinals next Saturday evening in the NFC divisional round at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals embarrassed the Packers in Week 16, 38-8, at the same venue.

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Read More: 2016 NFL playoffs, aaron rodgers, Arizona Cardinals, Blair Walsh
Ex-Patriots LB Akeem Ayers has some fun with Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, Twitter trolls after Rams’ win 09.14.15 at 12:00 pm ET
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Former Patriots linebacker Akeem Ayers, now with the Rams, had some fun at the expense of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on Sunday night.

Ayers, who signed a free agent deal with the Rams in the offseason, was part of a St. Louis team that knocked off Seattle on Sunday afternoon. The upset came a few days after Wilson appeared to predict a Seahawks win on Twitter. Ayers responded with a tweet of his own on Sunday after the game, complete with his Patriots Super Bowl ring — perhaps as a reminder to Wilson.

(UPDATE, 12:41 p.m. — It appears Ayers’ Tweet at Wilson has since been removed.)

Ayers also had some fun with a Twitter troll who asked him about the last time he was in the postseason.

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Read More: Akeem Ayers, Russell Wilson,
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson ‘been thinking about that one yard for the past 17 days’ 02.20.15 at 9:13 am ET
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On Thursday, Russell Wilson posted a video directed at Seahawks fans on the Players’ Tribune website, prefaced by two written paragraphs. In his post, Wilson took “full responsibility” for Super Bowl XLIX and said that he wants to get back to the championship game again and be remembered for something else.

“One yard,” he wrote. “I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been thinking about that one yard for the past 17 days. Everyone wants to know how I feel. Well … it’s complicated. Walking off that field in Arizona and seeing disappointed Seahawks fans in the stands was anguish. How could I not feel like I let them down? I tried to be positive, but I’m not perfect. I have been away from the game for almost three weeks, trying to escape football and clear my mind. But the funny thing is, I’ve never felt hungrier to get in the weight room and the film room, and keep pushing until we get to Super Bowl 50.

“How do I feel?” he added. “I don’t know if I can fit it into a soundbite. I definitely couldn’t fit it into a 30-second Instagram video. So, after the Players’ Tribune roundtable event on Saturday, I had the camera crew stick around so I could talk it out. Sorry if it’s not perfect. There was no script here. I just wanted to talk directly to the 12s. This is for you.”

Wilson began the video, titled “Call Me Crazy,” by expressing how much he hates losing and how when it hit him that the Seahawks had lost, it was tough.

“It’s a tough feeling of losing,” he said. “If anybody hates losing, I hate losing, and so being in that circumstance on the field in Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX and then making a play and us, me feeling I didn’t make the play and knowing that it’s over, all the hard work that you’ve put in all season long, and all the amazing plays, all the plays that you didn’t make, all the great games, all the comeback wins, all the things comes down to that one moment and it feels like it’s lost.”

Wilson talked about the importance of accountability and stressed how he asks himself how he can get better every day and learn something he’s never learned before, and better than he’s ever learned it. He said he could rehash the Super Bowl and that final drive, but stated that he made the video to talk about his mindset, not the game.

“It’s about right now, what can I do today, what can I do for my teammates?” he said. “How can I be a better teammate, how can I be a better leader, and if I can do that then the rest will handle itself.

“The mindset doesn’t change, the focus doesn’t change,” he continued. “The belief that I’m going to get there again and we’re going to do it better than it’s ever done, and that’s never going to change for me, no matter what the circumstances are, and that’s why I’ve been to two Super Bowls. That’s why I’ve been able to win a lot of football games because of the guys I have around me, because of the coaching staff because of the amazing fans, we’ve got that best fans in the National Football League, but also because I believe in my mindset.

“I believe my mindset is going to take me further than anyone else has ever gone, and I just believe that,” Wilson said. “I’m going to be the last guy to ever give up, I’m going to be the last guy to not take a risk, and I think that great things happen when you’re able to step out and make some crazy plays at times and just trust in your preparation and trust in all the things you’ve been able to do. And so through all the ups and downs and through all the questions and wondering what happened and all that, I’m prepared for the next moment and that’s all I know.

“In my mind, I believe I have a killer instinct. I believe that I’m just going to keep going and keep playing and keep fighting and keep doing everything that I can to be successful, and there’s a difference between just being successful and being significant, so my goal is to be significant. My goal is to make a difference, my goal is to do it better than anybody’s ever done it. Call me crazy, call me insane, I don’t know, but I believe I’ll get there again.”

Read More: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks,
Russell Wilson: ‘I have no doubt in the play call’ 02.04.15 at 10:22 am ET
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Malcolm Butler breaks up the late pass intended for Ricardo Lockette. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson‘s pass intended for Ricardo Lockette to clinch the Patriots’ 28-24 victory. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

What will live on as one of the greatest moments in Patriots history has been regarded on the other side as big a flub on a play call as any.

On the goal line, the Seahawks all but had the touchdown as they set up at the New England 1-yard line. But instead of having workhorse running back Marshawn Lynch carry the football, Seattle opted to pass the ball, which cornerback Malcolm Butler picked off to secure the Patriots’€™ fourth Super Bowl win in 14 years with a 28-24 victory.

Though people lamented the call and pinned the blame for the loss on coach Pete Carroll, quarterback Russell Wilson said he had no problem with the decision to pass.

“I had no doubt in the play call,” Wilson said. “I still don’t to this day.”

Wilson added that he thought the play “looked open enough.”

“When I threw it,” he said, “it was, ‘Touchdown. Second Super Bowl ring. Here we go.'”

After watching the replay 12 or so times, Wilson said he wouldn’t have done anything differently. However, he would like to put the play and the loss behind him.

“Let’s keep the focus on the future, not what’s behind,” he said. “The part that I hate is I have to wait seven months to play another game. I can use this for something else. I can use this for life.”

Read More: Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks,
Pete Carroll explains goal-line sequence: ‘No second thoughts and no hesitations at all’ 02.01.15 at 11:51 pm ET
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GLENDALE, Ariz. — In what was one of the most questionable play calls in Super Bowl history — down by four on the two-yard line with 26 seconds remaining and the best running back in the game in Marshawn LynchPete Carroll and the Seattle offense called a passing play and it was picked off by Malcolm Butler to steal the game for the Patriots, 28-24.

Carroll tried to explain what happened.

“Let me tell you what happened. All of the things that happened before are meaningless to you now, it’s really what happened on this one sequence, said Carroll. “We were going to win the game. We had everything in mind with how we were going to do it. We were going to leave them no time. We had our plays to do it. We had sent in our personnel, they sent in goal line. It’s not the right matchup for us to run the football. On second down we’d throw the ball — really to kind of waste that play. If we score we do. If we don’t we’ll run it in on third and fourth down. Really with no second thoughts and no hesitations at all.

“Unfortunately with the play that we tried to execute the guy makes a great play and jumps in front of the route and makes an incredible play that no one thinks he could do. Unfortunately that changes the whole outcome.”

He was peppered with questions on the play and here is how he answered again.

“I’ll tell you again if you want to hear it again,” he said. “Here’s the deal, we sent our guys on the field, wide receivers on the field, spread them out, they ran on their goal line,  they had all their big guys out there. At that moment I didn’t want to waste a run play against their goal line guys. Throw the ball, we’ll come in on third and fourth down and we can match up. It’s a real clear thought, it wasn’t something that happened, it was a clear thought, but it didn’t work out. We happened to throw them the ball and they make a big play.”

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Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Malcolm Butler, Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson
Devin McCourty after facing Russell Wilson in college: ‘I always thought he was a really, really good quarterback’ 01.26.15 at 11:06 pm ET
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Devin McCourty is no stranger to facing Russell WIlson. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Devin McCourty is no stranger to facing Russell Wilson. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Sunday’s Super Bowl won’t be the first time Patriots safety Devin McCourty will be in a secondary opposing Russell Wilson at quarterback.

Besides when the two faced each other in 2012 in the NFL, the pair faced off when they were in college in the 2008 Papa John’s.com bowl — a game in which McCourty’s Rutgers’ Scarlet Knights team got the best of Wilson’s NC State Wolfpack, 29-23. Wilson was injured in the second half of the game and would later transfer to Wisconsin.

Having weeks to prepare for the game, McCourty watched a lot of film on Wilson and liked what we saw even then.

“I played him in college, so I always thought he was a really, really good quarterback,” McCourty said. “He kind of ate us up in college, so watching him, to me the amazing part is to see, you know, what we saw in college, him being able to still do it at a high level in the NFL. With staying in the pocket and throwing some balls deep down the field in spots that only the receiver can get it, and then also having the ability when a play breaks down to make three guys miss and then find a wide open guy.

“Usually when you do that in college the first thing they tell you is when you get to the NFL, everyone’€™s bigger, stronger, faster, you won’€™t be able to do that, and he still is able to do that. Watching him, I still see some of the great things he did in college, he does in the NFL.’€

Wilson threw for 3,475 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, while also running for 849 yards and six touchdowns, making him a tough quarterback to prepare for.

“A lot of things he does I don’€™t think any team in this league has a guy that can show you that in practice,” said McCourty. “You don’€™t have Russell Wilson in your locker room to practice against. I don’€™t care what quarterback you have on your roster. You can’€™t practice against it. So, a little bit of it is once you get out there in the game, realizing how fast he is or how deep he can throw the ball, all those things you won’€™t see until you get out there and you play against him. So I don’€™t know if it’€™s as much in the right place at the right time, but I think it’€™s more just his playmaking ability.”

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Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Devin McCourty, Russell Wilson, Super Bowl XLIX
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