By Danny Cox
It was one of the best and most successful seasons ever for the Arizona Cardinals, but unless you get to the Super Bowl, it ends up being all for naught. In the NFC Championship Game, the Carolina Panthers came out with more fire and just dominated from start to finish as they eliminated the Cardinals 49-15.
The defense of the Carolina Panthers simply dominated this game and stopped Carson Palmer and the Cardinals from doing anything. Palmer was sacked three times, but the four interceptions are what did Arizona in. Every single time Arizona would get some momentum going, another interception would take every bit of wind out of their sails.
David Johnson ran strong at first, but the huge deficit made the Cardinals abandon the run game and he ended up with just 60 yards on the ground. However, Johnson did end up as the Cardinals leading receiver, with 68 yards on nine receptions.
The turnovers were just far too much and it's almost impossible for any team to overcome that many in a single game.
A usually strong Cardinals defense could do nothing to stop Carolina, especially Cam Newton. He just did as he pleased while completing 19-of-28 for 335 yards and two touchdowns. He threw one pick and was sacked once, but it didn't hurt the Panthers at all.
Allowing 100 yards receiving to both Corey Brown and Greg Olsen was just too much for anyone to come back from. No matter where Newton placed the ball, he had a receiver. Adding onto the onslaught was a Panthers running game that racked up 152 yards - it was almost as if Arizona wasn't even on the field.
Special Teams: C-
There really wasn't much that came from special teams against the Panthers. Patrick Peterson muffed a punt early in the game that was another costly turnover. J.J. Nelson had a couple decent kickoff returns, but that's about it.
Chandler Catanzaro had one extra point and not a single field goal attempt. Drew Butler had a decent night punting the ball.
It's hard to say that Bruce Arians did a bad job, but whatever the game plan was in this game, it didn't work. The Panthers appeared to read every single offensive play that the Cardinals ran and then proceeded to run all over Arizona's defense.
This was by far the worst performance of the season for the Arizona Cardinals. Every single team has one, but this one could not have come at a worse time than the NFC Championship Game. A lot of good pieces are already in place for next season, but it just is a shame that this one ended one game too early and on such a sour note.
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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