Sports

NFL: They've beaten New Orleans. Now, can Seattle shut up San Fran/Carolina, too?

After 38 seasons of the Seattle football – 37 completed – the Seahawks have one Super Bowl appearance to show for it.

They've appeared in just two conference championships, losing to the Raiders way back in 1983 and beating the Carolina Panthers, 34-14, in 2006. Patterns repeat themselves, don't they? The only time Carolina and Seattle have both won a playoff bye was seven years ago, and they both saw each other in the conference championship. Seattle won, putting themselves into their only Super Bowl championship and ultimately losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the first sixth seed to ever hoist the Lombardi trophy.

The calls didn't go Seattle's way that day in Detroit. But they won't have to worry about that next week, not with the 12th man in the room and not with either the 49ers or these annoying Panthers flying over to the Pac Northwest.

But it's not the referees Seattle needs to worry about.

It will take an agnostic digestion of today's events. Panthers or Niners, it doesn't matter. The Hawks have that two-year-old rivalry with Kaepernick and Harbaugh just hitting a fever pitch this season, and certainly that game would grab some eyeballs, especially if Denver ends up meeting New England next weekend, too.

Imagine? Brady vs Manning and Wilson vs Kaepernick. Two dream matchups for the NFL's front office, and the perfect set-up for one of Jim Nantz's poetic, clumsy monologues.

Well, it could happen. Or, the Panthers could win. And Seattle's legion of booming boosters will overlook them. Cam Newton's not Colin Kaepernick. Whoever coaches Carolina is not Jim Harbaugh. Who does Carolina have running the ball? What about at receiver? Steve Smith is still there, right? And is it DeAngelo Williams? How do you keep track of a team that's a) only interesting every six years and b) still wears mid-90's style uniforms. There's absolutely nothing drawing you to Carolina if you don't live in the bluegrass area of the United States, right?

Yeah, but it hasn't mattered. It hasn't stopped Carolina and it shouldn't impede them on Sunday. No matter who Seattle plays, it will be a race to the final whistle, a constant battle between going for it and calling the other team's next sequence.

It wasn't easy against New Orleans, but Seattle survived, feasting on a combination of timely wind gusts and 16 first-half points. Marshawn Lynch was pretty good, too. Final score? 23-15 Seattle, with a potentially wild fourth quarter inflating that point total to a mediocre level.

And there's Russell Wilson, who is no doubt taking some unfair flack for his performance in this weekend, and it was pretty darn non-existant. But the playoffs require a different kind of warrior. They take a quarterback who will leave his stats on the bench, who can enter every drive like his slate has been wiped clean.

Wilson, struggles and all, has that quality. Drew Brees has it, too, and he and his Saints almost cashed in on it yesterday.

Kaepernick? Newton? The jury's still out, and that has always been the knock on Peyton Manning, especially when he was known (before 2007) as the greatest guy of all time to have never won a Super Bowl. Although Gandhi deserves some credit in that conversation, too.

It always seemed like it took Manning a whole half to wake up, like he need to go down by 14, 18, or 21 before he could click into robotic mode and bring the (then) Colts back from the dead, ultimately falling shot but never with all the blame on his own shoulders.

Tom Brady was different. And, ironically, so is Peyton's brother Eli, the baby with two Super Bowls to big brother's one.

There's a quality in quarterbacks like Brady, Eli, Wilson, and Brees. An ability to refresh your trust with every new set of downs, like it's Halo and they can just hit the respawn button whenever stuff goes south.

If that happens – if Wilson can play like he did against Washington and Atlanta in last year's playoffs – then it won't matter who Seattle plays. San Fran, Carolina? Bring it on.

But that still has to happen, and Seattle has been anything but convincing since they all but wrapped up the NFC's top seed in, oh, October.

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