Panthers dominate Russell Wilson, Seahawks in first half

Panthers DB Cortland Finnegan intercepts Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the second quarter of a lopsided first half. John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers played a nearly perfect first half with the defense suffocating Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

The Panthers intercepted Wilson twice, including a 14-yarder returned for a touchdown by linebacker Luke Kuechly on Seattle’s second play, to build a 31-0 halftime lead against the two-time defending NFC champions.

Meanwhile, the Carolina offense had its way against Seattle's defense. It began on the first play with running back Jonathan Stewart going up the middle for 59 yards.

It was Stewart’s first carry after missing the last four regular-season games with a sprained foot. Stewart capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run, giving Carolina 75 yards rushing in one drive against a Seattle defense that had surrendered only 85 in the past two games combined.

Newton looked like the league MVP, completing 8 of 11 pass attempts for 102 yards and a touchdown. Fans began chanting “MVP, MVP" after the touchdown, a 19-yard pass to tight end Greg Olsen in the second quarter.

This was utter domination on both sides of the ball.

Barring a major collapse in the second half, the Panthers are in position to host the NFC Championship Game next Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

The biggest blown lead in franchise history was a 21-point advantage in Week 4 of the 1999 season versus the Washington Redskins.

This was Seattle’s largest deficit of the season by far. The previous was 19 versus Arizona. The Cardinals won 39-32.

The deficit also is by far the largest in the Wilson era, surpassing a 21-point margin against Tampa Bay in Week 9 of 2013.