It didn't rain.

That was the only positive for the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. In a city known for its wet weather and abundance of Starbucks coffee houses, the Panthers got creamed with no sugar in the NFC Championship game.

With a loud crowd of 67,837 frantically waving tiny white towels at Qwest Field, the Panthers looked like they could have used one for the traditional white flag of surrender early in a 34-14 spanking by Seattle in the NFC Championship game. The Seahawks won by dominating Carolina with a multi-dimensional offense and a punishing defense.

No doubt the Seahawks are a good team that plays great at home, but no way are they are as good as Carolina's total ineptness made them look.

It's hard to describe, and nearly impossible to explain, how the Panthers could look like the NFL's best team in road wins at New York and Chicago the previous two weeks and then lay an egg the size of the Space Needle in its biggest game of the season.

Quarterback Jake Delhomme, who entered the game with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions while posting a 5-1 record in playoff games, set the tone early with two horrible passes that helped set Seattle up with a 17-0 lead less than 10 seconds into the second period.

After not throwing to game-breaking wide receiver Steve Smith on Carolina's first eight plays, Delhomme tried to force a pass to him midway through the first quarter.

With cornerback Marcus Trufant sliding back from the line of scrimmage and linebacker Kevin Bentley moving over to bump Smith at the snap, Delhomme threw an interception to middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu that could have been grabbed by any of the four Seahawks closer to the ball than Smith.

That set up a field goal for a 10-0 lead, and Delhomme threw an even worse duck on Carolina's next possession that was gobbled up by safety Marquand Manuel and returned 32 yards to set up another short scoring drive.

Once tailback Nick Goings went down with an injury in the second period, Carolina was exposed as a one-trick pony on offense and the Seahawks rode Smith right out of the game.

Running back Shaun Alexander exorcised his playoff demons by rushing for two touchdowns and 132 yards, a franchise playoff high.

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was brutally efficient, completing 20 of 28 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns.

The Seahawks are one win away from forever losing their moniker as a titleless football town, as they'll play Pittsburgh - winner over the Denver Broncos on Sunday - in Super Bowl XL on Feb. 5 in Detroit. Seattle has never played in a Super Bowl, and before Sunday, only one conference championship game.

Roethlisberger belongs among elite quarterbacksPrior to boarding a team bus bound for Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium on Sunday, Ben Roethlisberger was shown on ESPN walking by himself near the team's hotel, getting his mind ready to face the challenge that awaited him a few hours later.

Whatever Roethlisberger thought about must have worked. Roethlisberger went out and had the game of his life, leading the Steelers to the AFC Championship that has so often eluded Bill Cowher-coached teams.

Then again, Cowher didn't always have a quarterback as poised and confident as Roethlisberger.

Under Cowher, the Steelers have been like a television actor who plays the same role for many years. Although the Steelers have a new way of doing things, they're still typecast in that old role of a running football team.

That couldn't be more wrong.

This isn't a running team. This is Roethlisberger's team.

It will win and lose on the right arm of Roethlisberger. And it will win a lot more often than it loses.

The Steelers opened Sunday's game at Denver by gaining only 23 yards on their first 12 rushing attempts. Yet the Steelers took a 24-3 lead into the half because Roethlisberger completed 13 of 17 first-half passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

He finished the game completing 21 of 29 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a score.

Roethlisberger could have thrown for 500 yards if the Steelers would have been inclined to do so.

This is a special quarterback, the kind that aren't often seen.

What has to be scary for opponents is Roethlisberger is still getting better. He's not a finished product.

At the tender football age of 23, Roethlisberger is leading a team to the Super Bowl. Only Hall of Famer Dan Marino, who was 213 days younger than Roethlisberger when he led Miami to his first, and only, Super Bowl, was younger.

Playing in the Steelers' offense, Roethlisberger will never put up the kind of numbers that will get him recognized as one of the NFL's best quarterbacks. But Roethlisberger already has something on his resume no other quarterback has. He's the first to lead his team to a conference championship game in each of his first two seasons. And I bet that he'll be back many more times.

Other quarterbacks will throw for more yards and touchdowns. All Roethlisberger does is win.

The Steelers became the first No. 6 seed to reach the Super Bowl, winning all three playoff games on the road - at Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver.

The Super Bowl will be a homecoming for Pittsburgh's future hall-of-fame running back Jerome Bettis, a Detroit native. It likely will be the last of Bettis' career as he is expected to retire after this season.

The Super Bowl is the first for the Steelers since Super Bowl XXX, when they lost 27-17 to the Dallas Cowboys in Tempe, Ariz.

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