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Big Plays Go The Wrong Way For Panthers

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Sunday headlines: It was a game of big plays Saturday night in Seattle, but they didn’t go the right way for the Carolina Panthers. The Seahawks pulled away in the fourth quarter to win their NFC playoff, 31 to 17.  Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes to lead the victory, but Seattle’s Kam Chancellor had the night’s biggest play, with 5:55 left in the game. He anticipated Cam Newton’s pass, stepped in front of receiver Ed Dickson, and returned the interception 90 yards for a touchdown.

Newton later took the blame for the loss.   “The difference was, uh, just missed opportunities … did a bad job with protecting the football,” he said during a post-game press conference. “When you’re playing a great defense, you’ve gotta take what they give you… A lot of times, it’s kind of overlooking the play that needs to be made and instead trying to make the bigger play.”

The Seahawks are the first defending Super Bowl champion to win a playoff game the following year since New England in 2006.  Depending on Sunday’s result, they’ll host either Green Bay or Dallas next Sunday for the NFC championship.

SC PAYS FAMILY $1.2M AFTER INMATE'S DEATH

South Carolina is paying $1.2 million to the family of an inmate with mental retardation who died after being kept 11 days in solitary confinement. The Greenville News reports the estate of Jerome Laudman reached a settlement with the state last year. Laudman was serving a 10-year sentence for robbery when he was put in isolation in 2008. He appeared sick and stopped eating, but guards didn't report it for 11 days before he died from a heart attack and hypothermia.

SUIT SHOWS MEDICAL EXAMINER SHORTCOMINGS

Witnesses in a lawsuit filed by a former manager at the North Carolina medical examiner's office say the agency didn't have written policies on how to conduct autopsies or handle evidence.   The Charlotte Observer reports that Kevin Gerity sued the agency, saying he was forced to reign in 2013 after cooperating with a state investigation into whether the office mishandled evidence in a murder case.

But witnesses testifying for the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner say Gerity was difficult to work with and violated the agency's rules.  A three-day hearing in Gerity's case ended Friday without a decision. He wants his job reinstated, back pay and other compensation.

STALLINGS BOY DIES AFTER BEING HIT BY CAR

A 13-year-old boy in Stallings, east of Charlotte, died Friday after he was struck and killed by a car in front of his house. Chance Johnson was playing in a driveway around 7:30 Friday night when he somehow ended up in the road and was struck.   Authorities say he died a short time later at the hospital.  Police said the driver won't be charged in the collision.

NEW INTERCHANGE DRAWS ATTENTION IN CORNELIUS

Drivers on I-77 in Cornelius are seeing something new this weekend. Our news partner CorneliusNews.net reports that after months of traffic backups and road closings, the last major piece is now in place in the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s reconstruction project at Exit 28. The overpass connecting the two sides of town was closed Saturday, but reopened Saturday night after workers installed a decorative mast-and-cable structure. Cornelius officials say it’s designed as a landmark to promote the town’s status as the gateway to Lake Norman. The interchange is one of four around the Charlotte region that are being rebuilt in a crossover pattern called a diverging diamond. The new configuration is designed to smooth the flow of traffic on and off the highway.  Others are at Poplar Tent Road off I-85, at NC 73 off N.C. 73 in Concord, and on I-485 at Mallard Creek Road in Charlotte.