Seattle, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - Kam Chancellor bobbed his head in celebration as he crossed the goal line on his game-clinching 90-yard interception return.
The Seattle Seahawks' resurgent defense has them thinking repeat.
Another dominating second half performance has them one step closer.
Russell Wilson tossed three touchdown passes and the Seahawks punched their ticket into the NFC Championship Game with a 31-17 NFC Divisional Playoff victory over the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night.
Seattle will play the winner of Sunday's NFC Divisional Playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys in next Sunday's conference title game at CenturyLink Field.
Chancellor's pick-six came with the Panthers marching down the field looking to cut a 24-10 deficit to a one-possession game. Faced with a 2nd-and-4 at the Seattle 13 with a little over six minutes left, Cam Newton was looking to hit Ed Dickson on the right side of the field near the numbers. The ball-hawking Chancellor read Newton's eyes and cut in front of Dickson before strolling down the left sideline for the easy score.
Chancellor had 10 tackles to go with that interception and showcased his athleticism by hurdling over the Carolina offensive line twice on a pair of Graham Gano field goal attempts at the end of the first half.
"I don't know if a strong safety can have a stronger game than Kam Chancellor did tonight," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
Kelvin Benjamin's 15-yard touchdown catch with 2:34 left was the first fourth- quarter points allowed by the Seahawks in the last seven games. Their top- ranked defense has given up just 56 points during that stretch, including just 20 in the second half.
Wilson, who was 8-of-8 on third down for 199 yards, finished 15-of-22 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 score for the Seahawks, who have won eight straight postseason games in Seattle.
"We really clicked on all cylinders," Wilson said. "It's exciting, but the job's not done."
Marshawn Lynch carried the ball 14 times for 59 yards.
Newton completed 23-of-36 passes for 246 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 37 yards for Carolina, which won its final four games of the regular season to win the NFC South and qualify for the postseason. The Panthers beat the Cardinals last Saturday in the NFC Wild Card round.
Benjamin hauled in seven passes for 75 yards and two scores, while Greg Olsen caught four balls for 58 yards in defeat.
The Panthers have lost five consecutive meetings against Seattle.
"We made some mistakes, we missed some opportunities," Carolina coach Ron Rivera said.
Steven Hauschka's 37-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth staked Seattle to a 17-10 advantage, and its defense forced a three-and-out on Carolina's ensuing possession.
Wilson hit Willson, who broke free from two defenders to pick up 29 yards on a 3rd-and-6, then found him again on the next third down. Willson hauled in a 25-yard score along the right seam on a 3rd-and-10 to extend Seattle's advantage to 24-10 with 10:26 remaining.
Both defenses came out strong in the early going as neither offense recorded a first down on their opening five series combined.
The Panthers were faced with a 3rd-and-5 on their third touch. Newton lofted a pass along the right sideline intended for Philly Brown, but Richard Sherman leapt up and made an interception.
Wilson rolled right and hit Kearse for a 33-yard completion on a 3rd-and-12, but a Ricardo Lockette taunting penalty on an ensuing 3rd-and-12 took Seattle out of field-goal range.
Seattle's defense, however, forced another Carolina giveaway when Tony McDaniel pounced on a loose ball at the Carolina 28 following a fumbled exchange between Newton and Jonathan Stewart. The miscue led to a 16-yard Doug Baldwin TD reception for the game's first points with 56 seconds to play in the first.
Carolina answered on its next sequence when Newton fired a 7-yard TD pass to Benjamin in between two Seattle defenders on a quick slant.
The Seahawks counter punched, though, as Wilson floated a perfectly-thrown pass for Kearse along the left seam on a 3rd-and-7. Kearse made a one-handed catch in stride, dove near the goal line and was able to touch the top of the left pylon with the ball for a 63-yard score and a 14-7 cushion late in the second.
Gano nailed a 35-yard field goal on the final play of the half to trim the margin to 14-10 entering the break.
The Seahawks are the first reigning Super Bowl champion to win a playoff game since the 2005 New England Patriots ... Seattle has outscored opponents 62-7 in the fourth quarter during its last seven games ... Seattle was 7-of-13 on third down, while Carolina finished 9-of-16.