Seattle Seahawks

Luke Willson’s big plays help Seahawks beat Panthers — again

You won’t have to twist Luke Willson’s arm to get him to chill and lay low Sunday.

When the Seattle Seahawks’ second-year tight end is not locked up with NFL pass rushers, he can usually be seen shoving aside defensive backs on his way to making huge catches.

Carolina is tired of seeing him. After catching the game-winning touchdown in the final minute in the team’s late-October 13-9 victory in Charlotte, he was at it again Saturday night in the NFC divisional round rematch — a 31-17 Seahawks’ victory at CenturyLink Field.

Most of his good work came in the fourth quarter — and on the scoring drive that essentially ended the Panthers’ season

After hauling in a 29-yard pass on third down that set up the Seahawks offense at the Panthers’ 25, he finished it off, too — catching Russell Wilson’s 25-yard strike for a touchdown.

The Wilson-to-Willson scoring combination gave the Seahawks a 24-10 lead with 10:26 to go.

“His playmaking is really coming alive,” said Cooper Helfet, Willson’s backup at tight end. “He is a big, fast, strong dude. He has wheels.”

And he has a little “Beast Mode” in him, too — a physical style that the Panthers were helpless to defend much of Saturday.

Which is why he won’t be doing much Sunday. The 6-foot-5, 252-pounder from Rice University said he likes to “disengage” on off days. He was adamant that he won’t watch any of the other NFL playoff games.

“That is kind of my thing (to relax),” Willson said. “When I have time off … I will take care of my body. I’ll get in a cold tub, a hot tub and see a couple of doctors to get my body and mind right.”

He was pretty right-on Saturday. Consider:

On that fourth-quarter drive, Wilson found him on third-and-6. He beat cornerback Bené Benwikere to the spot and not only ripped the football out of the air for a completion, he left the rookie injured in his wake en route to a 29-yard completion.

“It all happened so fast,” Willson said. “I saw (Benwikere) was down. … There was a little physicality at the end of that play.”

And on the score, it appeared Wilson was going to running back Marshawn Lynch, then changed his mind in a split second — firing to the tight end, who rumbled into the end zone for the 25-yard touchdown.

Willson finished with four receptions for 68 yards. He now has three touchdown receptions in his past three games — and his first in the playoffs.

“Luke is really coming alive,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “They are creating a chemistry that makes a difference. … And it’s getting better as we’re finishing up this season.”

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