Seahawks’ comeback salvages their dignity but not their Super Bowl hopes

CHARLOTTE – The Seattle Seahawks left Sunday’s conference semifinal at Bank of America Stadium with their dignity intact but with their reign as the NFC’s top team over.

“We didn’t win the Super Bowl,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “I’m sure some teams would define this as a success. We had a chance to be special again. We didn’t get it done. So obviously we’re disappointed. We also understand how much adversity we went through and the kind of fight that our team has and the kind of resolve that our team has. We’re proud of ourselves. We’re proud of our teammates. Obviously we didn’t get it done. But we’ve got our heads high.”

The sixth-seeded Seahawks lost to the top-seeded Carolina Panthers, 31-24. The Seahawks made things interesting after trailing by 31 points at halftime but failed in their bid to make a third Super Bowl appearance in a row.

“Any time you don’t win it and you don’t win it all, it’s a disappointment,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “I don’t think it’s a useless year. I think you can use it for positive growth for the next opportunity, the next experience. . .. We are going to come back stronger.”

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Wilson threw a trio of second-half touchdown passes after throwing a pair of first-half interceptions.

“You just respect them,” Carolina defensive tackle Kawann Short said. “We knew they were going to go out with a bang. They weren’t going to give up at all. That’s a good quarterback. They’ve got good people up front. Just their whole team was good. [But] we feel that we were a better team and that’s what we showed.”

The Panthers had a propensity to come close to surrendering significant leads even while going 15-1 during the regular season. As they did all season, they regrouped in time to win Sunday.

“That happens,” Panthers Coach Ron Rivera said. “That’s part of the nature of the game when you get a good kind of lead against a good offense. You look at who all those came against, those came against a very good quarterback who was able to do some things against us.”

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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.

“We messed it up early,” Coach Pete Carroll said. “And then we had to come back, and it just wasn’t quite enough time.”

But Carroll, like his players, vowed to rebound next season.

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“These guys are coming back strong,” Carroll said. “They already know. They are already talking about coming back next time around. That’s all they know.”