All week the national media wondered if the Carolina Panthers could provide a complete game. They wondered if the Panthers' knack for letting leads get away from them would continue. The Panthers made a statement.
The Panthers stopped the Cardinals on the opening drive, setting the tone for the entire game on defense. They received the punt and drove it down the field, settling for a field goal on their opening drive. The Panthers never lost the lead after this. After another stop, Ted Ginn took the punt to midfield. That set the offense up in good field position, as Ginn struck again on a wide receiver reverse, where he magically found his way into the endzone for a 22 yard rushing touchdown. After yet another Panthers stop, Cam Newton found Philly Brown for an 86 yard touchdown. The Cardinals tried to fight back in by driving into scoring position, only to have the ball taken away once again, this time due to a sack by Kawann Short on 3rd down that forced a fumble. The Panthers didn't find points on the ensuing drive, and the Cardinals struck back with a long drive capped off by a David Johnson rushing touchdown. The Cardinals had life again, until the special teams took the ball back on a punt that was fumbled by an ambitious Patrick Peterson. Cam Newton ran in his first touchdown of the game, putting the Panthers up 24-7. The lead became near insurmountable, as the Panthers continued to be aggressive on offense and defense in the second half, with a field goal and another rushing touchdown by Newton to secure a 34-7 lead. The Cardinals tried to fight back in the second half, but the defense came up with multiple turnovers and Cam found Devin Funchess in the fourth quarter to put the nail in the coffin. The Panthers are going to the Super Bowl.
This might have been the most complete win by the Panthers all year, and it came against the second best team in the NFC. The offense continued to score points by putting up 40+ against one of the best defenses in the NFL, the defense came through with 7 total turnovers and brutalized Carson Palmer all game, and even the special teams shined with solid returns by Ted Ginn and a forced turnover. All around great performance. Even in the event of injuries, the next man up thrived.
- Tre Boston had himself a DAY on defense, consistently flying around with Kurt Coleman and even picking one off and recovering a fumble after Roman Harper left the field.
- Kony Ealy provided a nice burst and consistent pressure on Palmer filling in for Jared Allen.
- After an explosive first half by Thomas Davis, Shaq Thompson came in with little to no drop off. Thompson appears to be an absolute steal at the back end of the first round, and may round out what could be the best linebacking core in the NFL right now.
- Philly Brown and Ted Ginn. I can't even.
- I really can't even with Cam Newton. He exploded in this game with 2 passing TDs and 2 rushing TDs. That's an otherworldly performance in the playoffs.
Get healthy Roman Harper and Thomas Davis. You have two weeks. Also, the running game struggled at times on both sides of the ball.
That's two whole complaints in three sentences. Unbelievable game. They didn't let off the gas for four straight quarters.
The Panthers face Peyton Manning and the top ranked defense in the Super Bowl. If you're a fan of ugly offensive games and hard nosed, smash mouthed football this is your dream.
What a way to cap off a dominant season. The Panthers fired on all cylinders against a team that dominated all year. Cam Newton proved once again that he is THE MVP. We've laughed, cried, and dabbed right alongside this team for a chance at immortalizing this season. Keep Dabbing, Keep Grinding, Keep Pounding.