Steelers lead 7-6 early in 2nd quarter

The latest from NFL divisional games on Sunday (all times EST):
5:16 p.m.
Fitzgerald Toussaint plowed in from 1-yard out to help Pittsburgh take a 7-6 lead over Denver late in the first quarter in an AFC divisional playoff game.
Set up twice with good field position, the Broncos had to settle for a pair of field goals by Brandon McManus.
The first one came after a 42-yard punt return by Omar Bolden. The second came after Jordan Berry’s 27-yard punt set them up in good field position. After Denver’s second field goal, Ben Roethlisberger hit Martavis Bryant for 23 yards to start a TD drive that went 80 yards in five plays.
Peyton Manning has hit on 6 of 9 passes for 57 yards.

4:37 p.m.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took the field about an hour before an AFC divisional playoff game and tossed soft passes as he warmed up his sprained right shoulder.
Big Ben was banged up last weekend after a hit by Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Roethlisberger was limited at practice early in the week, but was a full participant Friday as he prepared for Denver’s top-ranked defense.
Roethlisberger needs 121 yards passing to overtake Terry Bradshaw for most in franchise history during the postseason.
But here’s the record he’s probably far more interested in: With a win, the Steelers can move past the Dallas Cowboys for most postseason victories in NFL history.
– Pat Graham reporting from Denver

3:45 p.m.
Both coaches have faith in their quarterbacks in the Pittsburgh-Denver game.
The Steelers and Broncos activated just two QBs.
Ben Roethlisberger has an injured throwing shoulder and Landry Jones will back him up. Michael Vick is deactivated.
Peyton Manning is making his first start since Nov. 15 after recovering from a left foot injury. His backup is Brock Osweiler, who started the last seven games but has been dealing with a sprained right knee.
Broncos rookie quarterback Trevor Siemian is not active.
Osweiler missed six practices after giving way to Manning in the regular season finale on Jan. 3. He returned to practice Friday.
-Arnie Stapleton reporting from Denver.
4:19 p.m.
The two best teams in the NFC will play for a spot in the Super Bowl.
Cam Newton, with the help of Jonathan Stewart, led the Carolina Panthers to a huge halftime lead, then hung on for 31-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
The win puts the Panthers (16-1) into the NFC championship game against the Arizona Cardinals (14-3) next Sunday night in Charlotte. (FOX, 6:40 p.m.). The Cardinals beat the Packers 26-20 in overtime on Saturday night.
Newton threw for a touchdown and Stewart ran for two scores as the Panthers raced to a 31-0 lead at the half. But the Seahawks staged a sensational comeback behind Russell Wilson, but Carolina recovered an on-side kick with 1:11 left.
The teams are meeting for the first time the Panthers beat the Cardinals 27-16 in a 2014 wild card game.
Carolina is in the NFC title game for the first time since 2005.
This will be the third time since 2008 the Cardinals have visited the Panthers in a playoff game. In 2008, the Cardinals upset the No. 2-seeded Panthers 33-13 in the divisional playoffs en route to their only Super Bowl appearance.
– Steve Reed reporting from Charlotte, North Carolina

3:50 p.m.
Things are getting tight in Carolina.
Russell Wilson has thrown three TD passes – two to Jermaine Kearse – and the Seahawks have outgained the Panthers 210-63 to cut Carolina’s lead to 31-21 with 5:59 left in the game.
The Panthers have just five first downs and no points in the second half.

3:28 p.m.
The Seahawks have announced that defensive end Cliff Avril will miss the remainder of the game with a neck injury. Avril had 47 tackles and nine sacks this season for the Seahawks.
– Steve Reed reporting from Charlotte, North Carolina

3:20 p.m.
The Panthers have registered five sacks against the Seahawks, a franchise postseason record.
– Steve Reed reporting from Charlotte, North Carolina

3:07 p.m.
The Seahawks are showing signs of life, going to a hurry-up, no-huddle offense and opening the third quarter with a pair of Russell Wilson touchdown passes – 16 yards to Jermaine Kearse and 33 yards to Tyler Lockett to trim the Carolina lead to 31-14.
The Panthers have surrendered some big leads already this season against Indianapolis, Green Bay and the New York Giants. They held on to win all of those games.
The biggest blown lead was against the Giants when they gave up a 35-7 lead in the third quarter after surrendering four touchdowns. It took Graham Gano’s field goal in the closing seconds to seal the 38-35 win.
– Steve Reed reporting from Charlotte, North Carolina

2:48 p.m.
The Seahawks are in big trouble in their NFC divisional playoff game against the Carolina Panthers, trailing 31-0 at the half.
None of the eight teams with a halftime deficit of 30 or more points in a playoff game has ever come back to win, according to STATS. The Bills came back from a 32-point, third quarter deficit to beat the Oilers 41-38 in a 1992 AFC first-round game.
The Seahawks are the ninth playoff team with a chance to overcome a 30-or-more-point margin.
The biggest halftime lead is 38 points – Bills 41, Raiders 3 in the 1990 AFC title game. The final score was Bills 51, Raiders 3.
Next up is 35 points, with the Raiders up 35-0 en route to a 56-7 win over the Oilers in the 1969 playoffs.
Carolina has outgained the two-time defending NFC champions 220-123 and has 13 first downs to Seattle’s seven.
The Panthers intercepted Russell Wilson twice – including one that was returned by Luke Kuechly for a touchdown – and scored on their first five possessions.

2:09 p.m.
The Seahawks have overcome some huge deficits over the years, but nothing quite like this.
The Seahawks trail the Panthers 31-0 midway through the second quarter. The largest lead the Seahawks have ever overcome was 21 points against Tampa Bay in a regular season game in 2013.
Greg Olsen added a 19-yard TD to put the Panthers up 31-0.

2:05 p.m.
The Panthers have 31 points. The Seahawks have 17 yards.
– Steve Reed reporting from Charlotte, North Carolina

1:52 p.m.
The Panthers have been dominant so far in the NFC divisional playoff, jumping to a 24-0 lead over the Seahawks.
Running back Jonathan Stewart, back from a foot injury, is approaching 100 yards rushing and has two touchdowns, becoming the first Carolina player to run for multiple touchdowns in a postseason game.
The Panthers outgained Seattle 155-25 in the first quarter and had eight first downs to Seattle’s one.
– Steve Reed reporting from Charlotte, North Carolina

1:50 p.m.
Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung was injured in the second quarter and the team has listed his return as doubtful. He has been replaced by Alvin Bailey.
– Steve Reed reporting from Charlotte, North Carolina

1:24 p.m.
Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart appears to be just fine after a three-game layoff.
Stewart started and took the opening handoff and rambled 59 yards and then scored on a 4-yard touchdown run three plays later to give Carolina an early 7-0 lead against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional playoffs.
Stewart had missed the final three games with a foot injury but appears just fine.
A few minutes later, Luke Kuechly picked off a Russell Wilson pass and returned it 14 yards to put Carolina ahead 14-0.
Marshawn Lynch started for Seattle but he lost 3 yards on his first carry and then didn’t turn around in time for a Russell Wilson pass and Luke Kuechly intercepted the ball and returned it for a TD to give the Panthers a 14-0 lead.
– Steve Reed reporting from Charlotte, North Carolina

12:20 p.m.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick doesn’t see what was wrong with Danny Amendola’s block that was flagged for unnecessary roughness in New England’s 27-20 victory over Kansas City.
Amendola was back as the return man when Kansas City’s Jamell Fleming circled under a kick in an attempt to down it inside the 5 yard-line. Amendola lowered his head and took the Chiefs’ coverage man out with a hit to the shoulder and head.
Belichick said in a conference call on Sunday that ”it was a legal play. We’re allowed to block him.”
Kansas City’s Dezman Moses took exception to the hit and grabbed Amendola by the facemask. Belichick didn’t like that, either.
After starting at their own 2 after the penalty, the Patriots drove 98 yards for a touchdown that made it 14-3.
– Jimmy Golen reporting from Foxborough, Massachusetts

12 p.m.
This time, Marshawn Lynch is ready to go.
The Seahawks running back is active for Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game against the Carolina Panthers and is expected to start.
It will be Lynch’s first game in more than two months.
The Seahawks thought he would be active against Minnesota last week in the wild card playoffs, but he never made the trip.
He was injured in Seattle’s 39-32 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 15. The Seahawks have gone 7-1 without him.
Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., running back Jonathan Stewart and safety Kurt Coleman are active for Carolina. Ginn had been listed as questionable with a knee injury.
Stewart has missed the last three games with a foot injury, while Ginn and Coleman both sat out Week 17.
Carolina’s inactives include running backs Fozzy Whittaker and Brendan Wegher, wide receiver Brenton Bersin and Kevin Norwood, cornerback Lou Young, safety Dean Marlowe and defensive end Ryan Delaire.
Cornerback Tye Smith, running back Bryce Brown, fullback Will Tukuafu, linebacker Eric Pinkins, guards Mark Glowinski and Kristjan Sokoli and defensive tackle A.J. Francis are inactive for Seattle.
– Steve Reed reporting from Charlotte, North Carolina

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