On Sunday night, Jan. 24, 2016 the Carolina Panthers raced out to an early 17-0 lead over the Arizona Cardinals and then cruised to a 49-15 victory in the NFC Championship game. By virtue of the win, the Panthers advanced to the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history. The outcome of the game was never truly in doubt.
Playing in front of their home crowd for the second straight week, the Panthers played inspired football and for the second straight week, jumped out to a big lead. Against the Seattle Seahawks last week, they led 14-0 after the first quarter. This week they held a 17-0 lead over Arizona after the first quarter.
As has become the norm, the Panthers defense dominated, and Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was nearly unstoppable. A front-runner in the race for NFL MVP this season, Newton rushed for 47 yards and two touchdowns, while throwing for 335 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, the swarming Carolina defense forced the Cardinals offense into seven turnovers.
Earlier in the day, the Denver Broncos punched their ticket to what will be the eighth Super Bowl appearance in franchise history when they defeated the New England Patriots by a score of 20-18 in the AFC Championship game. Super Bowl 50 will take place on Feb. 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA and will feature a matchup of the top-seeded teams from both Conferences.
It has often been said that defense wins championships. This season, the Denver Broncos defense allowed the fewest yards of any defense in the NFL. The Carolina Panthers defense ranked sixth overall in yards allowed and led the NFL in total interceptions. It all points to an interesting matchup two weeks from now. Las Vegas Oddsmakers have Carolina as an early four-point favorite to win Super Bowl 50. Here is a look at the Broncos victory over New England.
Broncos 20, Patriots 18: @ Denver – Much like he did in last week’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning played efficient football. The combination of Manning’s game management and a dominant performance by the Broncos defense, were enough to squeak out a win over a very game New England Patriots team which was quarterbacked by Manning’s chief rival, Tom Brady. This was the 17th time the two have met, with Brady now holding an 11-6 edge, but the only game which really matters, is the most recent game. This was a closely contested affair, and as is usually the case, it came down to just a couple of plays. The two most critical plays, were a missed extra point by Pats kicker Stephen Gostkowski, and a big defensive stop by the Broncos defense on a two-point conversion attempt by the Patriots, with less than a minute left in regulation time. Had the Pats’ two-point conversion been successful, the game would have been tied and likely would have gone into overtime. Of course, the two-point conversion attempt would not even have been necessary, had Gostkowski not missed the extra point in the first quarter. It is not hard to figure out what the Patriots kicker will be thinking about during the offseason. He and Minnesota kicker Blair Walsh may need to form a support group. Total offensive yards: NE 336, DEN 244. Total net rushing yards: DEN 99, NE 44. First down efficiency: DEN 6/17, NE 2/15. Turnovers: NE 2, DEN 1. Quarterback sacks: Manning – Sacked three times, Brady – Sacked four times.