NFL play-offs: Carolina Panthers survive Seattle Seahawks fightback as Denver Broncos see off Pittsburgh Steelers

Carolina Panthers will face the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship game while the Denver Broncos meet the New England Patriots

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The Independent Online

The Carolina Panthers secured their place in the NFC championship game and a shot at the Super Bowl with a thrilling 31-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, while Denver Broncos booked a date with New England Patriots in the AFC after beating Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Panthers opened up an early lead at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte when running back Jonathan Stewart went over from four yards - having set up the score with a 59-yard run on the first play from scrimmage - and it was soon 14-0 after Luke Kuechly's interception touchdown.

By half-time, the advantage had been extended to 31-0 when Stewart dived in for another touchdown from one yard, before quarterback Cam Newton hit Greg Olsen for a 19-yard score.

The Seahawks mounted a comeback as Russell Wilson finally found his range in the third quarter with touchdown throws to wide receivers Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett.

Kearse then collected an outstanding off-balance throw from Wilson for another score and Steven Hauschka landed a 36-yard field goal but with under two minutes left and after a failed onside kick, the Panthers were able to run down the clock to secure victory.

Carolina, who were 15-1 during the regular season, will tackle Arizona in the NFC Championship game after the Cardinals' 26-20 win over the Green Bay Packers.

The Broncos will host the Patriots next weekend after Peyton Manning rescued Denver with a late touchdown drive to secure a 23-16 victory over the Steelers.

Denver Broncos had Peyton Manning to thank after a late touchdown saw off the Pittsburgh Steelers

Denver were trailing 13-12 with 10 minutes to go when Manning went to work, driving the Broncos to their only touchdown of the game.

C.J. Anderson ran it in from one yard out and Demaryius Thomas then caught the two-point conversion for a 20-13 lead with three minutes remaining.

Brandon McManus kicked his fifth field goal, tying the NFL play-off record, to stretch the advantage before Chris Boswell made a 47-yarder for the Steelers but it is Denver who advance.