ReFo: Panthers @ Seahawks, Divisional Round
For the second straight season the Carolina Panthers fell in the divisional round to an NFC West opponent. After disposing of the Cardinals a week ago the Panthers were just a little short of the defending champions who put up an imposing display, becoming the first defending champions to win a playoff game in nine years.
The Seahawks edged close wins over the Panthers in Carolina each of the last two regular seasons but at home they were able to ease away late in the game after the Panthers had once again held the game close to halftime. This was not one of the Seahawks’ overwhelming annihilations but they showed that they are ready for the challenges to come next week against either the Packers or the Cowboys with key contributors on both side of the ball showing their readiness to defend their crown.
Carolina Panthers – Performances of Note
Kelvin Benjamin, WR: +2.3
Breakdown: This performance was the realization of the potential Benjamin has shown this season when you wipe away the drops and some of the indecision and lack of accuracy in his route running. Strategically put in a matchup against Tharold Simon that he should win, the Panthers’ first-round pick did so emphatically, snagging all seven of his targets thrown into Simon’s coverage in a lopsided matchup. The potential is there if he can work away the negatives that dogged some of his performances this season, for Benjamin to become one of the league’s most physically dominant receiving threats.
Signature Play: Benjamin brought the game back level midway through the second quarter on a slant to the goal line; he beat Simon off the line and Earl Thomas was simply too deep in the end zone to be able to affect the play.
Charles Johnson, DE: +0.3
Breakdown: Johnson kept alive his streak of positively graded games as a pass rusher (extending it to 11 games) but on his own, and particularly in the face of a quick-release Seattle passing attack, he couldn’t do enough to upset the rhythm of Russell Wilson. When given the opportunity he had the beating of Seattle’s rookie right tackle Justin Britt, but the genuine opportunities to get after him were too few and far between.
Signature Stat: Johnson has been a driving force in the Panthers’ surge to the divisional playoff and is our highest-graded defensive end since Week 11.
Mike Remmers, RT: -6.9
Breakdown: The former undrafted free agent put in some strong early showings for the Panthers in their run to the division title but was found out in the last four games, in particular last night by the Seahawks’ trio of edge rushers. Remmers seemingly couldn’t get to grips with the speed of Cliff Avril in particular, surrendering pressure inside and out to the Seahawks’ defensive ends in almost equal measure.
Signature Stat: The seven pressures Remmers surrendered last night (2 Ht, 5 Hu) were as many as he had surrendered in his first five starts for the Panthers.
Seattle Seahawks – Performances of Note
O’Brien Schofield, DE: +4.7
Breakdown: Another player to have the measure of Remmers was O’Brien Schofield, who carried over the form he showed against the Rams in Week 17. Only rushing the passer 19 times, Schofield got pressure on nearly a third of those pass rushes, splitting his work between Remmers and Byron Bell on the left side.
Signature Play: Schofield also added a forced fumble from Cam Newton with 1:53 remaining in the second quarter, working back upfield from his pass rush to knock the ball out of Newton’s hands short of the markers on third down.
Luke Willson, TE: +1.6
Breakdown: Willson might be starting to develop a knack for making big plays in big games down this stretch run. Willson showed that ability once more last night with catches of 29 and 25 yards in the space of four plays to extend the Seahawks’ lead to two scores in the fourth quarter, breaking four tackles after having forced only five in the regular season.
Signature Play: His touchdown catch came courtesy of Russell Wilson reading the blitz and finding him between Mario Addison and Melvin White; that got him the first down and from there Willson rumbled through three Panthers to put the Seahawks into an ultimately unassailable lead.
Kam Chancellor, S: +3.0
Breakdown: Three quarters of the Seahawks’ starting secondary played lights-out football last night with Chancellor re-discovering his spectacular form from last year’s playoff run. On top of supplying the Seahawks’ final score, Chancellor racked up a career high seven stops, surrendering only a little more than six yards per completion.
Signature Play: Two of Chancellor’s stops came on screens, the first of those at 4:47 in the second, getting in unattended to knock down DeAngelo Williams for no gain as he looked to turn upfield.
PFF Game Ball
The Seahawks’ trio of Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas were all in terrific form last night and if they maintain that they’re going to make it very difficult for anyone to beat Seattle this postseason.
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