Panthers pulverize Cardinals, to meet Broncos in Super Bowl

Mon Jan 25, 2016 12:05am EST
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By Larry Fine

(Reuters) - The Carolina Panthers, led by all-around quarterback Cam Newton and a defense that forced seven turnovers, mauled the Arizona Cardinals 49-15 in Charlotte on Sunday to set up a Super Bowl 50 clash against the Denver Broncos.

Newton ran for two scores, soaring above defenders at the goal line, and threw for two others to set off a victory party at Bank of America Stadium by reaching the Feb. 7 National Football League championship game outside San Francisco.

Earlier, Denver and veteran quarterback Peyton Manning edged last year's champion New England Patriots and their signal caller Tom Brady 20-18 for the AFC title.

Carolina scored the first three times they touched the ball in seizing a 17-0 lead and led 24-7 at halftime, taking advantage of four turnovers by a shaky Arizona attack.

Last week the fast-starting Panthers raced to a 31-0 lead by intermission against the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round before holding on for a 31-24 victory.

Three more interceptions of beleaguered quarterback Carson Palmer, including one returned 21 yards for a touchdown by Luke Kuechly, and cool execution by Newton in the second half expanded the rout.

"We wanted to be efficient, we wanted to start fast, wanted to keep the pressure on and wanted to finish, most of all," Newton said after the game.

Newton, who led the team to an NFL-best 15-1 record and is the favorite to claim league Most Valuable Player award, spoke to the team at halftime about playing hard to the end.   Continued...

Jan 24, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers team members pose for a photo during the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports