Carolina Panthers defeat the Arizona Cardinals in NFC Championship rematch

The nightmare from the 2015 NFC Championship game would continue for the Arizona Cardinals, losing on the road against the Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers defeat the Arizona Cardinals in NFC Championship rematch
Jonathan Stewart  carries the ball against Arizona Cardinals defense [Source: Streeter Lecka/GettyImages North America]
Panthers 30
Cardinals 20

The Carolina Panthers, fresh off their bye week, defeat the Arizona Cardinals 30-20 in the 2015 NFC Championship Game rematch.

For Carolina, this is just their second win of the season (2-5); with the loss Arizona is now 3-4-1.

Carolina continues where they left off

Thomas Davis returned a fumble for a touchdown in the opening drive of the game against the Arizona Cardinals [Source: Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America]
Thomas Davis returned a fumble for a touchdown in the opening drive of the game against the Arizona Cardinals | Source: Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America|

The last time these two teams played against one another, Carolina was victorious in what was the biggest blonder of Arizona’s season in the 2015 NFC Championship Game.

On Arizona’s first drive of the game, a Carson Palmer fumble would be returned by Thomas Davis for a touchdown. It appeared, though, that Palmer was attempting a shovel pass to David Johnson causing a bit of a stir. The play was not reviewed, and head coach Bruce Arians did not challenge the play.

On Carolina’s second offensive drive of the game, they would go 75-yards down the field and score off a Jonathan Stewart 2-yard run touchdown. Stewart would score again from the goal line early in the second quarter giving the Panthers a 21-0 lead. Stewart would finish the game with 95-yards rushing and a fumble.

Cam Newton continued his dominance over Arizona’s defense, throwing for 212 passing yards and rushing for 43 yards. This makes it three consecutive weeks now that the Cardinals defense has not surrendered a passing touchdown.

Graham Gano would hit three field goals; one from 43-yards, another from 52-yards, and from 21-yards.

Arizona offense could not get anything going

David Johnson hurtles over Robert McClain trying to get a first down against the Carolina Panthers [Source: Source: Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America]
David Johnson hurtles over Robert McClain trying to get a first down against the Carolina Panthers | Source: Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America

Much like their meeting in the NFC Championship Game, Palmer and the Cardinals offensive could not get anything going against the Panthers defense. Carolina’s defense sacked Palmer eight times, and forced the Cardinals to punt three out of their first four drives.

Palmers woes would continue, throwing an interception and losing a fumble. That would over shadow his 363 passing yards and three touchdowns.

Carolina’s defense continued to be a nightmare for Arizona, breaking the pocket almost every play. David Johnson was a non-factor in this game due to Carolina swarming him in the backfield. Johnson would rush for a career low 24 yards on 10 carries. He would be a little more effective in the passing game, catching seven passes for 84-yards.

The Cardinals would get their first score just before halftime, with Palmer throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to J.J. Nelson. It would be the same score of the NFC Championship Game at halftime. Nelson would score another touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

John Brown would be active for the game, catching four passes for 49-yards and a touchdown

Injuries to key players

Both teams lost key players in this psychical matchup. For the Panthers their biggest losses of the game were center Ryan Kalil and linebacker Shaq Thompson. Both are key players with Kalil being the leader of the Panther offensive line and Thompson being the new prototype player that can play corner, safety and linebacker. They did not return.

For Arizona, their biggest loss of the game was losing Tyrann Mathieu in the first half with a shoulder injury. Mathieu was returning to form after recovering from his ACL tear from a season ago. He was listed as probable to return but remained on the sideline for the rest of the game. Jared Veldheer left the game with an arm injury. He did not return.

Looking ahead

The Arizona Cardinals will be on their bye week during week nine of the season. Afterwards they will play five of their remaining eight games on the road, with big matchups against the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, and Seattle Seahawks. This loss does hurt their playoff aspirations and will need a lot of help getting back into the playoff picture.

As for the Carolina Panthers, they will be going up against the Los Angeles Rams. At this point if the season, Carolina is considered to be a long shot to get into the playoffs. If they pull off what the Kansas City Chiefs were able to do last season, they will have to win the remainder of their schedule. The have game against the Chiefs, Seahawks, Falcons and Oakland Raiders