Carolina Panthers

Former NC State star Russell Wilson dominates Panthers with three third-and-long touchdown passes

So just how well did Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson play Saturday?

“He played all right average,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin deadpanned before breaking into a smirk that said, “Tremendous exceptional dominant.”

Former N.C. State star Wilson had three touchdown passes and no interceptions in the Seahawks’ 31-17 playoff victory over the Carolina Panthers at CenturyLink Field. He completed 15 of 22 passes for 268 yards. His quarterback rating was 149.2, compared to 79.2 for Panthers counterpart Cam Newton.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Wilson’s performance was that all three of his touchdown passes came in third-and-long situations: third-and-9, third-and-7 and third-and-10.

He found three different receivers – Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Luke Willson – for touchdowns completions of 16, 63 and 25 yards.

“I’m really fired-up for how Russell played,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, whose team advanced to host the NFC Championship game next Sunday, against either the Green Bay Packers or Dallas Cowboys. “Three third-down touchdowns, which is just about unheard of.”

Carroll was referring to third-and-longs, such obvious passing downs that the defense shouldn’t be unprepared for what’s coming.

Baldwin said the Seahawks had a wrinkle that led to his first-quarter touchdown. The Panthers showed a blitz coverage the Seahawks studied closely in their preparation for this game.

“A coverage we knew they would be in,” Baldwin said. “Russ saw it and so we changed the play at the line of scrimmage. We saw that one coming.”

The Seahawks’ offense traditionally leans toward the run in Carroll’s tenure there, but on Saturday Seattle had nearly as many pass attempts (22) as rushes (28). That spoke to Wilson’s accuracy, decision-making in the pocket and scrambling ability to extend plays.

Wilson completed all eight of his attempts in third-down situations and made numerous “explosive plays” – completions of 16 or more yards – which Carroll considers crucial to controlling games.

“That’s something we really cherish – explosive plays,” Carroll said. “It makes us so hard to defend.

“We did a fantastic job with the game plan and the line gave him time to throw. This is not a one-man thing, but (Wilson) played a big role.”

Wilson was happy to have back his veteran center, Max Unger, who has been out much of the season with injury.

“I think it all starts with the offensive line – they did a great job of blocking it up for me. And so many guys making plays. Max Unger did a phenomenal job,” Wilson said.

“Last time we played them (a 13-9 Seahawks victory in Charlotte Oct. 26), I didn’t have my best game. This time we really connected,” Wilson said. “We’re on one mission. The game is not any different (in the playoffs); it’s still 100 yards long.”

Wilson was asked who he’d rather play, the Packers or the Cowboys.

“Whoever we play, they’ve got two phenomenal quarterbacks.” Wilson replied, referring to Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo.

And like Baldwin joked, the Seahawks have a pretty average one in that Wilson guy.

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