Everyone continues to doubt the Carolina Panthers, and they just keep making skeptics (myself included) look bad in the process. Facing the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game, the 16-1 Panthers did what they have done all season – win and embarrass their opponent in the process.
Unlike last week’s win over the Seattle Seahawks, Carolina made sure the dismantling of the Cardinals lasted all four quarters. The Panthers pounced on Arizona early, jumping out to a 17-0 first quarter lead, and never looked back.
The Cardinals were unable to overcome the deficit, as frequent miscues cost them any chance of getting back in the game. After scoring a touchdown to make it 17-7, Arizona forced Carolina into a three-and-out, but star cornerback Patrick Peterson fumbled the subsequent punt.
Working with a short field, quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers offense only needed six plays to get in the end zone and make it 24-7. This proved to be the theme of the game – the Cardinals turning the ball over, and the Panthers turning Arizona’s mistakes into points.
Carson Palmer threw four interceptions in a single game for the first time since 2013, at times looking unsure of which jersey his teammates were wearing. Arizona was completely out of sorts, and chose a terrible time to play their worst game of the season.
But for as bad as Arizona played, Ron Rivera’s squad still deserves much of the credit. The Panthers proved worthy of being the NFC’s No. 1 seed, as their offense and defense were both clicking on all cylinders.
There’s a reason Carolina enters Super Bowl 50 as 4-point favorites over the Denver Broncos – even the skeptics finally understand that the Panthers are 17-1 for a reason.