Carolina quarterback Cam Newton secured his date with destiny at Super Bowl 50 with a dominant display for the Panthers, as they swept past Arizona Cardinals 49-15 in Sunday’s NFC championship game.
Cam Newton threw for two touchdowns and ran for two others to set up a meeting with Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos on February 7th.
While Newton inevitably made the headlines, the Panthers’ defense played a big part too, forcing the Cardinals’ quarterback Carson Palmer into four interceptions and two fumbles to provide the platform for the victory.
Newton commented: “We won as a team. We came out here and fought our tails off and we did what a lot of people said we couldn’t do.”
“We wanted to be efficient, we wanted to start fast, wanted to keep the pressure on and wanted to finish, most of all.”
“It’s not over yet. We’ll be ready to go in two weeks.”
Corey Brown, Ted Ginn Jr and Greg Olsen all made big catches as Newton completed 19 of 28 passes for 335 yards. He also added 47 yards on 10 rushes, with his ‘Superman’ leap for a touchdown during the second quarter a stand-out moment.
The victory was particularly sweet for Ginn Jr, after he was released by the Cardinals at the end of last season. His 78-yard sprint to prevent Patrick Peterson scoring was testament to Panthers’ never-say-die attitude.
“When you’re in a dogfight, every play counts,” he said. “When you’re on the track, you hear somebody say, ‘move’, that means somebody’s coming. I always try my hardest and don’t stop on a play. I think with me running (Peterson) down, it helped turn the game around.”
Panthers will be appearing in their second Super Bowl, having previously lost 32-29 against New England Patriots in 2003.
Lying in wait for the Panthers will be the Denver Broncos, after Manning reminded everyone why he’s a five-time MVP winner against New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
Manning found Owen Daniels twice during the first-half for a pair of touchdowns and with their famed defense in belligerent mood once again, the Broncos held off a late rally by the Patriots to seal a 20-18 victory.
Tom Brady’s four-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski with 12 seconds left set up a nervy finish, but he failed to complete a two-point pass attempt to force overtime to hand the Broncos a record-equalling eighth Super Bowl.
Manning said: “There’s no question this is a sweet day – this was a sweet victory. To me this victory is a great example of what this entire season has been like. It hasn’t been easy – it’s been a lot of different people stepping up doing their parts at different times.”
The 39-year-old completed 17 out of 32 passes, for 176 yards and two touchdowns to set up the February clash against Newton and the Panthers.
Broncos’ run to the Super Bowl has been built on firm foundations, with their defense giving up 4530 yards during the regular season to top the NFL rankings, but Panthers’ strong offensive showing against the Cardinals shows they are a force to reckoned with too.
Panthers’ average of 31.3 points per game topped the regular season rankings and despite the Broncos winning three of their previous four matches, Newton’s quest to be this year’s MVP could well be capped by victory in the Super Bowl.
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