The Panthers started fast on Sunday afternoon, but the second half found them giving back all but seven points of their lead before Thomas Davis recovered an onside kick to seal the 31-24 win.
Carolina picked up 75 yards of offense over the final 30 minutes while the Seahawks were churning up 280 to go with their 24 straight points. The Panthers were back on their heels, which wasn’t what coach Ron Rivera had planned.
“The biggest disappointment I really didn’t want to play the game the way we did in the second half,” Rivera said. “I wanted to be more aggressive and try to attack but for whatever reason we got into protect mode and I’m a little disappointed in that.”
Rivera said that the team has to “learn to not relax” if they’re playing from in front, although quarterback Cam Newton’s description of what happened after halftime suggests the team was too tense.
“There were a lot of guys playing with their butts tight,” Newton said. “Coaches with their butts tight. At one point fans and myself were butt tight too, but you just have to find ways to get your groove back going and we need a little bit more of that next Sunday.”
Figuring out how to hold onto a 31-point lead is a problem the Panthers would surely sign up for in a heartbeat against the Cardinals. It seems unlikely that things will play out that way, but the benefits of staying aggressive in a playoff game is a lesson well learned all the same.