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Carolina Panthers beat Arizona Cardinals 49-15 in NFC Championship

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Cam Newton’s four touchdowns – two passing and two rushing – combined with seven Arizona turnovers to give the Carolina Panthers a 49-15 win over the Cardinals in the NFC Championship game.

The Panthers will join the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, who beat the New England Patriots 20-18 in the AFC Championship game.

This is the second Super Bowl appearance for Carolina’s franchise since establishment in 1993.  The 49 points scored were the most by one team in an NFC Championship in the Super Bowl era.

In addition to his four touchdowns, Netwon finished 19 for 28, with 335 passing yards and 47 rushing yards on 10 carries. Jonathan Stewart led the way on the ground with 19 carries for 83 yards and Greg Olsen and Corey Brown each had 113 receiving yards.

By only turning the ball over once and totaling close to 200 total yards more than the Cardinals, the Panthers controlled every facet of the game despite how evenly matched both teams ranked statistically in the regular season.

Not only was the matchup between the top two seeds in the NFC, but Carolina and Arizona finished with the top records in the NFL. In addition, both offensives ranked first and second in the NFL in points per game and both defenses ranked in the top 10 in total yards and points allowed.

The Panthers started quick on a Graham Gano 45-yard field goal on their opening drive. Newton started strong by completing passes to four different receivers.

On the Panthers next possession, with 4:45 left in the first quarter, Ted Ginn Jr. took a short pitch from Newton and scored a 22-yard touchdown. On the end around, Ginn broke a tackle at the 20, began running down the left sideline and then cut the opposite way weaving through defenders and finally walked into the end zone.

In the final minute of the first quarter, the Panthers took a 17-0 lead on an 88-yard passing touchdown from Newton to Corey Brown.  On a third and long, Newton dropped back and tossed the ball downfield to Brown on a deep cross. Brown was able to avoid Cardinals’ safety Rashad Johnson and then sprinted down the sideline untouched.

The Cardinals answered with 5:44 left in the second quarter as David Johnson leapt into the end zone from one yard away capping a 10 play, 79-yard drive.

A Patrick Peterson muffed punt gave Carolina the ball back around midfield with just under five minutes remaining in the half. Jonathan Stewart’s consecutive runs of 17 and 23-yards put the Panthers at the one-yard line and Netwon did the rest. The quarterback took a direct snap and jumped over his blockers, stretching the ball just across the goal line.

Peterson did intercept Newton on the following drive and returned the ball 72 yards, putting the Cardinals just outside the red zone. However, Kurt Coleman promptly intercepted Palmer on the next play, leaping in front of the targeted John Brown in the middle of the end zone.

The Panthers finished the first half with a 24-7 lead and limited the Cardinals explosive passing game to only 86 yards.

Newton scored his second rushing touchdown of the game with 2:24 remaining in the third quarter. From the Arizona 12-yard line, the MVP candidate rolled to the right and easily scampered into the end zone, finishing off the run by flipping over one of his blockers and some of the Cardinals’ defenders.

In addition to another Gano field goal earlier in the quarter, the score padded the Panthers big lead.

Luke Kuechly’s 21-yard interception return for a touchdown at the 5:20 mark in the fourth quarter finalized the rout.

Palmer’s successful season ended poorly, as the veteran passed for 235 yards on 23 completions with one touchdown and four interceptions. Larry Fitzgerald also had a quiet game only catching four passes for 30 yards.

Super Bowl 50 will be played on Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, California.

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