SEATTLE, Wash. - On a night that saw CenturyLink Field feature a new food item in his name and a fellow bone-rattling strong safety raise the 12 flag prior to kickoff, Seattle's Kam Chancellor had himself a day.
The 6-foot-3, 232-pound fifth-year pro finished the Seahawks' 31-17 divisional-round playoff win over the Carolina Panthers with 10 total tackles - one off the game-high set by safety-mate Earl Thomas (11).
Chancellor, who earned Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors for his efforts during the regular season, was active in the run game, solid in his defense of the screen pass, and nearly had himself a field goal block after leap-frogging the line of scrimmage twice at the end of the first half.
Oh, and he returned a pick of Carolina quarterback Cam Newton 90 yards for a score, the first touchdown of his career, longest touchdown in Seahawks postseason history, and fifth-longest score ever in the NFL playoffs.
"I don't know that a strong safety can have a better game than Kam had tonight," head coach Pete Carroll said after his team's win that secured the club a place in its second consecutive NFC Championship game. "He was all over the place.
"All the big hits that he made and all the things that he did tonight, it was just an amazing football game he was able to get done."
Chancellor's fourth-quarter takeaway marked his third straight postseason game with a pick dating back to last year's Super Bowl XLVIII championship run.
This one came with the Seahawks leading 24-10 with just over six minutes to play in the game. Chancellor got the jump on a ball intended for Carolina tight end Ed Dickson, thwarting a Panthers drive that had reached Seattle's 13-yard-line. What could have become a one-score game was instead pushed to a three-score contest, with Chancellor's pick-six delivering the final blow to the visiting NFC South champions.
"It's a credit to the defensive line, man." a humble Chancellor deflected to his teammates that had hurried Newton on the play. "The defensive line did a great job on that interception play. I look back and I see Cam [Newton] just under pressure and looked as if he was going to get tackled and he threw the ball right to me.
"I read the play, I saw the defensive line get pressure on Cam. Credit goes to them, and I just finished the play."
Chancellor supplied the finish, but how he started the night didn't go unnoticed by his teammates. In his first year as defensive captain, Chancellor has set the tone as a physical enforcer through several of Seattle's matchups this season. Just ask Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, who said Chancellor "damages people's souls."
"He plays in a dark place," said Sherman, who snagged a first-quarter interception of Newton. "We feed off of him all game long. He's an intimidator, aggressive ball player, and he plays by the rules.
"I couldn't imagine him playing in the '70s," Sherman added in reference to the League's recent emphasis on improving player safety. "Some people wouldn't be here today if he was able to play in the '70s."
And when asked about his expertise in offsetting Newton's "Superman" skill set, Chancellor countered with a champion of his own.
"They call me Batman," said Chancellor. "So he can have the Superman. I'm the Dark Knight."
With Saturday's win, the Seahawks await the victor of Sunday's NFC divisional-round playoff between the No. 2-seeded Packers and No. 3-seeded Dallas Cowboys in Green Bay. The winner will travel to the Emerald City for the conference championship game at 12:05 p.m. PT on Sunday, Jan. 18 - a scenario that will surely showcase more of Chancellor's selfless play in front of another sold-out crowd.
"We appreciate him because he sacrifices his body week-in and week-out for the team," said Sherman. "And he enjoys it, somehow, someway."
By Tony Drovetto | Seahawks.com | January 11, 2015