The Panthers held up their end of the bargain. Carson Palmer didn’t.
Carolina advanced to a Super Bowl 50 date with the Broncos thanks to a 49-15 win over the Cardinals, in an NFC Championship Game that hardly looked like a game between the league’s top two scoring offenses.
The Panthers rolled from start to finish, avoiding the kind of second-half letdowns that nearly derailed them a week ago against the Seahawks and so many times during the regular season.
Mostly, that was because Cam Newton continued to show why he was the likely MVP, carrying his team to a dominant performance.
Newton threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for two more scores to pace an offense that never stalled.
Meanwhile, the Panthers harassed Palmer throughout the day, never allowing him to take advantage of a secondary that was strapped by injuries, with a pair of cornerbacks who were out of the league in October.
But instead of taking advantage, Palmer was the one who looked out of his depth, turning it over six times (four interceptions, two fumbles).
The Cardinals made mistakes from start to finish, but this was something actively taken away by the Panthers rather than gifted. For all the plays as large as Newton’s touchdown, there were many smaller ones along the way which shined a light on the way this Panthers team has played all year.
When Newton threw an interception, Ted Ginn spotted Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson a 10-yard head start, but prevented a pick-six by chasing him down from behind. That play allowed Palmer to throw a momentum-killing interception.
Other than that late-season speed bump against the Falcons, nothing has stopped the Panthers momentum this season. And now only Peyton Manning and the Broncos defense stands in their way now.