SEATTLE — This time Russell Wilson did it with his arm, passing the Seattle Seahawks into the NFC championship game for the second straight year with a big assist from Kam Chancellor.

The Seahawks are one step closer to defending their Super Bowl title.

Wilson threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns, Chancellor returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, and the Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers 31-17 on Saturday night in an NFC divisional playoff game.

Wilson was nearly flawless. He took shots downfield and was hard to stop on third downs.

Wilson threw a 16-yard touchdown to Doug Baldwin in the first quarter, found Jermaine Kearse for a 63-yard score in the second quarter and capped his night with a 25-yard strike to Luke Willson with 10:26 left that gave Seattle a 24-10 lead.

But the capper was still to come, from the most impressive athlete on the field.

Chancellor had wowed everyone by twice jumping over the Carolina offensive line on a pair of Graham Gano field goal attempts late in the first half. And he showed that he’s a pretty good safety in coverage, too.

With Carolina driving and trying to cut Seattle’s 14-point lead in half, Chancellor anticipated Newton’s throw. He jumped in front of Ed Dickson and returned his third career postseason interception for a touchdown.

It was the longest touchdown in Seattle’s postseason history, topping Percy Harvin’s 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in last season’s Super Bowl.

The Seahawks (13-4) never trailed and became the first defending Super Bowl champion to win a playoff game the following season since New England in January 2006.

Since that Patriots victory, three defending champions have earned byes only to lose in the divisional round, the last being Green Bay in 2011.

Seattle will host either Green Bay or Dallas next Sunday for a trip to the Super Bowl.

Cam Newton threw a pair of touchdowns to Kelvin Benjamin, but Carolina (8-9-1) couldn’t overcome three turnovers, two of which the Seahawks turned into touchdowns.

After knocking off Arizona in the wild-card round last week, Carolina was trying to be the first team to reach a conference title game after having a losing record in the regular season.

Carolina made it difficult on Seattle. The best running team in the NFL this season was held to 100 yards rushing by the Panthers defense.

Marshawn Lynch was mostly a non-factor aside from a 25-yard run in the third quarter that helped set up Steven Hauschka’s 37-yard field goal.

But Wilson was outstanding. All three of his touchdown throws came on third-and-long situations. Baldwin beat safety Tre Boston on a double move on third-and-9 on his touchdown catch in the first quarter.

Kearse got free on his touchdown reception on a third-and-7. And Willson’s catch-and-run touchdown came on a third-and-10.

And for good measure, Wilson hit Kearse for 33 yards to the Carolina 14 with 2 minutes left, took three knees and moved on to the NFC title game. He finished with a passer rating of 149.2, the second-highest for any game in his career.