Super Bowl champions Seattle moved a step closer to a return to the NFL’s title game with a 31-17 playoff win over the Carolina Panthers.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes and defender Kam Chancellor returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter as the Seahawks pulled away.
With the victory, the Seahawks advance to the National Football Conference title game.
They’re the first reigning Super Bowl champions to win a playoff game the next season since the 2005 New England Patriots.
They will host the winner of Sunday’s NFC second-round clash between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers.
Wilson completed 15 of 22 passing attempts for 268 yards and added 22 yards on the ground.
Jermaine Kearse caught three passes for 129 yards and a touchdown and Luke Willson had four receptions for 68 yards and a TD for the Seahawks, who have won eight straight post-season games in front of their frenzied fans in Seattle.
Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch carried the ball 14 times for 59 yards.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton completed 23 of 36 passes for 246 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Chancellor was the star of another dominant defensive display by the Seahawks.
His determination was evident in the first half when he twice leapt over his own defensive line in what ultimately proved a futile bid to thwart a Carolina field goal.
But he was a game-changer in the final periodWith the Panthers trying to whittle down a 21-10 deficit, Chancellor stepped in front of a Newton pass intended for tight end Ed Dickson and rumbled 90 yards for a Seahawks touchdown.
Newton had first looked for receiver Brenton Bersin, and by the time he opted to throw to Dickson, Chancellor had read the play and made his move.
“It felt awesome,” Chancellor said. “It felt like preparation, it felt like everything I worked all week for.
“That was my first return for my career, and it felt good,” added Chancellor, who also had 10 tackles.
“I don’t know if a strong safety can have a stronger game than Kam Chancellor did tonight,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
Newton’s 15-yard touchdown throw to Kelvin Benjamin with just over two minutes left in the game was notable only as the first fourth-quarter points allowed by the Seahawks in their last seven games.
Benjamin hauled in seven passes for 75 yards and two scores, while Greg Olsen caught four balls for 58 yards in defeat.
“We made some mistakes, we missed some opportunities,” said Carolina coach Ron Rivera, whose team won their final four games of the regular season to win the NFC South division and book an unlikely playoff berth.