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Originally published January 10, 2015 at 9:09 PM | Page modified January 11, 2015 at 2:11 PM

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Kam Chancellor’s eye-catching leaps symbolize Seahawks’ desire

Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, in a desperate effort to thwart a Carolina field-goal attempt in the waning moments of the first half, leapt over Seattle’s defensive line and the Panthers’ offensive line – not once, but twice.

Kam Chancellor

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Kam Chancellor (31) blocks Carolina Panthers' Graham Gano (9) but gets called for roughing the kicker.


Seattle Times columnist

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his desire, hunger leadership reminds of me kenny easley in the 80s. MORE
@Marinersfan04 I agree with you. I could see the NFL outlawing it. The NFL takes away anything that is fun, creative... MORE
Chancellor's leap will definitely get into the heads of kickers throughout the NFL, and he won't be the only player to... MORE

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In the big picture, it was a play that meant little. As a snapshot of desire writ large, it spoke a thousand words — many of them expletives by the Panthers, no doubt.

Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, in a desperate effort to thwart a Carolina field-goal attempt in the waning moments of the first half, leapt over Seattle’s defensive line and the Panthers’ offensive line – not once, but twice.

It was an astounding athletic feat, and it scarcely mattered that on the first effort Carolina had a false start, or that the second resulted in a penalty for running into the kicker, allowing Carolina’s Graham Gano to nail a 35-yard field goal on the third try.

That sort of relentless pressure, even in service of a cause that was close to hopeless, is what you get when you get the Seahawks in the postseason.

And it was vintage Chancellor, who for all the flashy names and showy personalities on Seattle’s defense, sets the tone for it all with his fierceness and force of will.

“He plays in a dark place,” Richard Sherman said. “We feed off him all game long. He’s an intimidator, he’s an aggressive ballplayer, and he plays by the rules.

“I couldn’t imagine him playing in the ’70s. Some people wouldn’t be here if he was able to play in the ’70s. He might not be here. We appreciate him, because he sacrifices his body for the team week in and week out. He enjoys it somehow, some way.”

Though Russell Wilson put his indelible stamp on this 31-17 Seattle victory with three touchdown passes — one of them, a 63-yard strike to Jermaine Kearse, standing as the longest postseason pass play in club history — Chancellor provided the flourishes that will burn in the memory bank.

Not just the flashy leaps — though those will be popular on the highlight shows — but a 90-yard interception return for a dagger late in the fourth quarter.

That Chancellor score came when he stepped in front of a Carolina receiver, snared the Cam Newton pass, and sprinted to the end zone for the longest touchdown play in Seahawks postseason history (goodbye, Percy Harvin and your 87-yard kickoff return in the Super Bowl last year).

“All I seen was green, and green means go,” Chancellor said, smiling.

Chancellor playfully alluded to Newton’s nickname – “Superman” – when it was noted that his jump on the field-goal attempts were like, well, leaping over a tall building in a single bound.

“He can have Superman,’’ Chancellor said. “They call me Batman – Dark Knight.”

All night, Chancellor seemed to be all over the field, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, leaving damage in his wake. He had 10 tackles, one behind Earl Thomas, and played with a verve that was elevated even by his standards.

“Kam’s always extra fired up,’’ said cornerback Tharold Simon. “Today, he was all over the field hitting everything that crossed his way.”

This is a Seattle team that has learned how to amp up its already prodigious intensity in the playoffs. Combine that with the Seahawks’ uncanny knack for finding a way to navigate a victory, even in games that in the midst of them seem for all the world to be toss-ups, and you’ve got a championship formula.

The Seahawks climbed one step closer to another title by holding off the Panthers, who provided every bit of the challenge that their late-season surge pre-saged.

Until they didn’t.

For three quarters, these two teams provided a reasonable facsimile of their three previous games over a three-year span. Each of those was a hard-fought defensive win for Seattle in Charlotte, neither producing more than 16 points for Seattle.

The Panthers came in riding all sorts of momentum and had a few intangibles on their side as well.

A quarterback in Newton who broke his back in a December car accident. A coach, Ron Rivera, who was forced out of his home by a house fire last Monday.

Teams tend to rally around events like that, particularly when they’re big underdogs and can forge an “us-against-the-world” dynamic.

But then the Seahawks poured it on, as they always seem to do in the fourth quarter. They came into the game outscoring opponents 45-0 in the final period over a six-game winning streak, and added two touchdowns to that total on Saturday to turn a tense struggle into a fait accompli.

That fourth-quarter scoreless streak for the Seahawks ended on a Newton-to-Kelvin Benjamin touchdown with 2:34 left that meant little but saving face for Carolina.

By that time, the CenturyLink crowd was roaring, Seahawks players were dancing on the sideline, and Wilson was kneeling down to commemorate another trademark playoff win for Seattle. And another leap forward for the Dark Knight.

“He’s a freakin’ monster,’’ Sherman said of Chancellor. “He damages people’s souls.”

Jinx, what jinx?
Seahawks became the first defending Super Bowl champion to win a playoff game the next season since the Patriots won after the 2004 season.
SeasonTeamResultRound
2004PatriotsBeat Eagles 24-21Super Bowl
2005PatriotsLost to Denver 27-13AFC divisional
2006SteelersMissed playoffs
2007ColtsLost to Chargers 28-24AFC divisional
2008GiantsLost to Eagles 23-11NFC divisional
2009SteelersMissed playoffs
2010SaintsLost to Seahawks 41-36NFC wild card
2011PackersLost to Giants 37-20NFC divisional
2012GiantsMissed playoffs
2013RavensMissed playoffs
2014SeahawksBeat Panthers 31-17NFC divisional

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @StoneLarry



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About Larry Stone

Larry Stone gives his take on the local and national sports scene.
lstone@seattletimes.com

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