The Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks are set to meet in the playoffs for the second time in two years (Sun., 1:05 p.m ET, FOX), but it was 10 years ago that they faced off in the NFC championship game when they were at much different points as franchises. Though the Panthers are a much younger organization than the Seahawks -- by almost 20 years -- they were far more successful. Carolina was trying to get to the Super Bowl for the second time in three seasons, while Seattle had only once in their history even come close. And that was 22 years earlier.
But these Seahawks were an offensive juggernaut with the league MVP and favored to win by 5.5 points. The 11-5 Panthers had their best regular season under John Fox and a quarterback with a postseason record of 5-1, so they weren't cat food.
Carolina was a team that expected to be taken seriously -- for good reason -- but it was no match for Seattle that day. The Seahawks won easily, 34-14, and advanced to Super Bowl XL.
Seattle's second drive of the game, including a 28-yard pass to Seneca Wallace -- a quarterback -- seemed to set the tone for the rest of the evening: We are better than you and we are so sure about it that we're throwing to our quarterbacks.
The Seahawks and Panthers of this decade have suddenly become great rivals, but it was their first playoff matchup 10 years ago that set the stage for what was to come for both franchises. What happened to the key figures from that game?
Seahawks: Mike Holmgren
Panthers: John Fox
Holmgren left the Packers in 1999 so he could try to lead a second franchise to the Super Bowl, and he nearly pulled it off. But they ultimately ended up losing to the Steelers, and the downward spiral began. The Seahawks won a terrible NFC West over the next two years, but couldn't do much else. Holmgren left after a 4-12 finish in 2008, by far the worst record of his career.
He spent three years in the front office for the Cleveland Browns, and has recently expressed interest in returning to coaching to no avail.
Fox spent five more years in Carolina, only to be fired after a 2-14 season in 2010. He never won another playoff game for the Panthers after that loss to Seattle, but he quickly joined the Broncos, leading them to the Super Bowl in 2013 where they lost to … the Seahawks. Fox was fired a year later and just led the Bears to a 6-10 record.
Will he find himself in a playoff game against again Seattle soon?
Seahawks: Matt Hasselbeck
Panthers: Jake Delhomme
Both came from relative obscurity, both were named to the Pro Bowl in 2005, but what could be weirder than this: Hasselbeck and Delhomme are the same age. Normally that would not be weird at all, but considering that Delhomme's last start came in 2010 and Hasselbeck is still playing, it's downright preposterous.
Delhomme went into the game with a 5-1 playoff record, plus 10 touchdowns and only two picks in those starts, but Seattle intercepted him three times and tainted his playoff legacy to the point that he never recovered. In his only playoff game after that, he had five interceptions against the Cardinals in 2008.
Hasselbeck hung on for dear life in the next five years with the Seahawks before Pete Carroll let him go in 2011. It seemed like his career was just about over, but he spent two years with the Titans and the last three with the Colts. At age 40, he's one of the best backups in the league.
The skill-player superstars
Seahawks: Shaun Alexander
Panthers: Steve Smith
What could have been more fitting than the league leader in rushing yards and touchdowns playing against the league leader in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns? The winner of the day, however, was Alexander, the 2005 MVP who rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Smith didn't do much on offense that day, but he scored the Panthers' only meaningful touchdown of the game, a 59-yard punt return in the second quarter that closed the gap to 17-7.
He's another player who seems to defy age. Smith averaged 95.7 yards per game with the Ravens this year before tearing his ACL. He vows to return next season, while Alexander is long gone. He averaged just 3.5 yards per carry over the rest of his career.
The one other guy who's still around
Panthers: Thomas Davis
Unbelievably, there's still one player from that game who hasn't left the league. Davis was a 22-year-old rookie in 2005, making the transition from being a safety at Georgia to an outside linebacker in Carolina. He played only a minor role that season, and in the NFC Championship (two tackles), but after missing almost three full seasons from 2009-2011, Davis is still kicking around for the Panthers.
Davis, now 32, just made his first Pro Bowl and was named a first team All-Pro this season. That's even more impressive when you consider where some of the other players from that game are today: Davis's linebacker teammate, Dan Morgan, is now in the front office for the Seahawks. Receiver Ricky Proehl, who played for both Seattle and Carolina, is the Panthers' wide receivers coach. And Seattle's star rookie linebacker from that game, Lofa Tatupu, is now an assistant linebackers coach for Carroll.
Where are they now: the franchises
Well, 10 years ago, both teams were good but certainly not rivals. Now, with Cam Newton and Russell Wilson vying for MVP consideration and each team possessing one of the best defenses in the league, it's certainly starting to look like an annual matchup to keep an eye on. The Seahawks and Panthers will face each other for the sixth time in four years on Sunday, with the winner advancing to the NFC championship game.
How will the winners and losers this week respond over the next 10 years?