A sampling of national-media reaction after the Seahawks' comeback attempt fell short in a 31-24 loss to the Panthers in an NFC divisional playoff game.

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It was a hell of a half after a half from hell for the Seahawks.

But in the end, Seattle couldn’t quite make it all the way back from a 31-point halftime deficit, falling to Carolina, 31-24, in an NFC divisional-round playoff game on Sunday. The top-seeded Panthers move on to host the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC championship game next weekend.

The Seahawks certainly made the score respectable, but some wondered if that only magnifies how poorly the first half went. Marshawn Lynch ended up not being a factor on Sunday as the offseason speculation about him and others officially began. As Bob Condotta pointed out, the Seahawks could have at least 17 unrestricted free agents, including nine players who are starters or regulars.

In the meantime, the national media had plenty to chew on in the wake of Seattle’s loss. A sampling below:

PANTHERS 31, SEAHAWKS 24


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Peter King of Monday Morning Quarterback said it’s time for the Seahawks to part ways with Lynch:

“Even the most ardent Marshawn Lynch fan has to see it’s over for him, with the Seahawks needing cap space to sign cornerstone players. They’d save $6.5 million if they cut him, and Thomas Rawls, if he rehabs well, is a good and cheap candidate to replace him … GM John Schneider has bigger problems than the public outcry when he lets Lynch walk. No longer can Seattle have the attitude that Tom Cable can fix everything on the offensive line. It was too consistently a sieve, and Schneider needs to spend multiple draft picks fixing it this spring”

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke celebrated the Panthers’ breakthrough to the NFC title game, but also had praise for the Seahawks:

“Call ’em zombies, call ’em vampires, call Carroll the Night King after the ‘Game of Thrones’ character who can revive the dead simply by raising his arms. Both teams knew it wouldn’t be a casual walk to the finish, even with Carolina enjoying a massive halftime lead.”

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com, in his NFL Playoff Musings, praised the Seahawks for coming back:

“When you fall behind 31-0 in a playoff game, it would be easy to pack up and go home. But Seattle showed its toughness by rallying back in the second half against Carolina. That’s impressive for a team that has won a Super Bowl and been to another in the past two years. They fought. And quarterback Russell Wilson bounced back from a slow start to play well in the second half. Seattle and Wilson deserve praise for that. The worst thing to happen to Seattle: Marshawn Lynch was back. That meant they got away from what made them so good in the second half of the season, which was Wilson playing fast and spreading out the defense. That was a mistake.”

CBSSports.com’s Will Brinson listed several takeaways from the game, and had a strong response for the 10 a.m. starts the Seahawks had in the playoffs:

“The Seahawks kicked off at 10 a.m. PT for the second-straight week and more than a few people questioned whether they were getting a raw deal from the NFL for having to travel and play early, with other East Coast teams available for the 1 p.m. Sunday slot. Give it a rest. No one on Seattle would ever make that excuse and it’s part of the whole ‘reward the higher seed’ idea in the NFL. Carolina gets to play at its “normal” time because it won its division and secured the No. 1 overall seed. The Broncos and Panthers were the tops in their respective conferences and got an extra day of rest before the divisional round. They lose a day on the conference championship week but they also don’t have to travel. If Seattle doesn’t want to play at 10 a.m., it can win its division. The Seahawks would tell you the same thing.”

ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini wrote about Lynch’s future with the Seahawks:

“Lynch’s mercurial personality makes him a high-maintenance player, a headache Pete Carroll probably can do without. He has been a terrific player for the Seahawks — six seasons, more than 6,000 yards and 57 rushing touchdowns. But it’s time to move on. This isn’t Lynch’s offense anymore. It belongs to Russell Wilson, who proved over the last two months he’s capable of carrying the team. They went 7-1 without Lynch, including last week’s gift win against the Minnesota Vikings.”

Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com pinned the first-half issues on the offensive line:

“What went wrong? How could a team that had won seven of its last eight struggle so badly out of the gate? As is often the case, it started up front. When the Seahawks got off to a 2-4 start this season, many of the issues they had were on the offensive line. On the second play Sunday, left guard Justin Britt got beaten by Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short. Russell Wilson was under pressure, tried to get rid of the ball and was picked off by linebacker Luke Kuechly, who took it 14 yards to the end zone.”

ESPN.com’s Sharon Katz, in her list of 10 most impactful plays of the divisional round, listed Jonathan Stewart’s big run on the first play and also punctured a hole in the quality of Seattle’s comeback attempt:

“It is fitting that the biggest play of this game occurred on the first play from scrimmage. Despite ultimately winning by only seven points, the Panthers had an average win probability of about 96 percent across all of their plays. This single play increased Carolina’s chance to win to 68 percent, and only a few plays later the Panthers had an 85 percent chance to win. Carolina would never have less than a 95 percent chance to win for the entire second half.”

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com said the game underlined many of the issues the Seahawks had throughout the season:

“Although Seattle still finished the season as the league’s top scoring defense, they fell short in many big spots, like the end of regular-season games against Cincinnati and Carolina. Cliff Avril‘s injury did not help the team’s pass rush Sunday, and they were pushed around up front for 213 yards and 31 points in the first half.”

NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling listed seven takeaways, including an observation of Russell Wilson’s play:

“For the second time in the past month, the Seahawks never held a lead at any point in the game. Prior to December, Wilson had enjoyed a lead in every one of his 70 career starts. Wilson missed several throws and held the ball too long in this one. The story of the season, though, was his maturation as one of the NFL’s most efficient pocket passers. Seattle’s aerial attack is in better shape going forward than at any point since Wilson was drafted.”

Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post said the Seahawks’ run of dominance could be over after Sunday’s game:

“The Seahawks’ ‘dynasty’ is going backwards. A franchise that looked built for the long haul just two years ago after its Super Bowl mauling of the Broncos at the Meadowlands couldn’t even get past the division round of the NFC playoffs this season after a 31-24 loss Sunday afternoon to the Panthers. While Seattle showed incredible resiliency by rallying from a 31-0 halftime deficit, the fact remains that Pete Carroll’s team was a sixth seed that needed the miraculous miss of a chip-shot field goal in Minneapolis the week before just to get here.”

The Sporting News’ Cory Collins talked about the possible end of the Lynch era in Seattle:

“They say a beast is at its most dangerous when hurt, when cornered — when staring into the face of mortality and refusing to blink. But on Sunday, Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch wasn’t dangerous. He disappeared. And somehow, that seemed more ominous. It seemed, all at once, like the end of an era and a continuation of a recurring character. A character who doesn’t have to speak to make a statement. As it did during the season, Lynch’s body betrayed the truth Sunday. This one hurt. And the comeback, it likely isn’t coming.”

Michael Powell of The New York Times marveled at how the Seahawks carried themselves after the game:

“For Wilson and the Seahawks, the talk was that curious mix of desolation and pride that attends when a season simply ends. It is the virtue of this Seahawks team that in this most savage and bottom-line game — in which players can be cut more or less at a whim of management — they exude something like a genuine joy. ‘It’s been a lot of fun,’ Wilson said afterward. ‘A joy ride.’ Now he and his Houdini team recede into the distance. Alpha dog Newton and his Panthers are a game away from the Super Bowl.”

The Washington Post’s Mark Maske said the Seahawks salvaged some dignity in the second half:

“It was a season for the Seahawks in which Wilson developed into a prolific pocket passer to complement his improvisational skills. But it is also a season in which they will be in the unfamiliar position of Super Bowl spectator, not Super Bowl participant.”

Frank Schwab of Yahoo Sports’ Shutdown Corner blog listed the Seahawks as one of his winners of the week:

“Their season is over before the Super Bowl for the first time in three years, but let’s take a moment to appreciate what they’ve done. Seattle is 48-16 the past four regular seasons. Their 2012 playoff run ended on a great last-minute drive and clutch kick by the Atlanta Falcons. Then they won a Super Bowl. They almost won two titles in a row but Malcolm Butler made the biggest defensive play in NFL history with Seattle one yard away. This year, Seattle didn’t go quietly. There will be some tough decisions in the offseason and there will be some big challenges to continue on as one of the NFL’s elite teams. But we were reminded in the second half on Sunday how much heart this great championship team has. Don’t be surprised if they’re back in this spot again next season.”

In USA Today’s weekly “50 things we learned” from this weekend’s games, items 9-11 spelled out the first half in stark terms:

“Jonathan Stewart’s first run for Panthers: 59 yards. Marshawn Lynch’s first run for Seahawks: minus-3 yards. And that, folks, tells you all you need to know about the first half of the Seahawks-Panthers game on Sunday.”

Bob Raissman, a sports TV-radio columnist for the New York Daily News, took note of Terry Bradshaw’s declaration during the halftime show regarding the Seahawks:

“With Carolina up 31-0, the Hall of Famer, who is paid for his expertise and opinions, threw in the towel on Seattle. ‘Total dominance (by Carolina),’ Bradshaw said. ‘There’s nothing Seattle can do to get back in this football game.’ ‘So, everyone should turn their TV off?’ asked host Cutrt Menefee. ‘Yeah,’ Bradshaw said. Thinking quickly, and perhaps anticipating a call from the suits (from Fox or the NFL), Menefee went into damage-control mode. ‘My gosh,’ he said, ‘there’s another half of football to play.’ ‘I don’t care,’ Bradshaw shot back. ‘It (a Seattle comeback) is not going to happen.'”

For the Charlotte Observer’s Jonathan Jones, Sunday was a time to celebrate the Panthers:

“The Carolina Panthers are in the NFC Championship Game for the first time since the 2005 season, and that in itself is sweet. But to get there by beating Seattle? … The Panthers had no doubt they were better than the two-time defending NFC champion Seahawks. They proved it with a 31-24 victory Sunday in the divisional round of the playoffs in what would have been convincing fashion had the home team not, for the fourth time this season, let a big lead slip away. … This is the team the Panthers have been built to defeat. General manager Dave Gettleman told me two years ago at the Senior Bowl that he wanted to build his team to beat the best team they’d play.”