The top two seeds will battle for the championship of the National Football Conference next weekend. The Arizona Cardinals beat the Green Bay Packers to earn their spot and the Carolina Panthers defeated the Seattle Seahawks to punch their ticket for the right to see who will represent the conference in Super Bowl 50.
The Panthers-Seahawks game was a tale of two halves. It looked as though the Panthers would easily overcome the Seahawks when they jumped into a 31-0 lead at halftime. But the Seahawks held the Panthers scoreless and rallied to score 24 points, but fell short of an amazing comeback.
The Panthers scored on their first four possessions. The first was a four-play drive that started off with Jonathan Stewart dashing 59-yards to the Seahawks 16 on the first play of the game. Stewart scored on a 1-yard plunge.
The Panthers second score came suddenly during the Seahawks first possession when linebacker Luke Kuechly intercepted a Russell Wilson pass at the Seahawks’ 14-yard line and scampered into the end zone.
On their next possession the Panthers consumed 86-yards as well as about eight minutes of the clock on a 14-play drive for a score. The biggest play was a Newton to Greg Olsen 27-yard pass that put the ball on the Seahawks’ 30-yard line. Stewart finished with a 1-yard plunge.
In the first play of the Seahawks’ subsequent possession, Cortland Finnegan intercepted a Wilson pass at Seattle’s 29-yard line that resulted in a Graham Gano 48-yard field goal.
After a Seattle three-and-out, the Panthers mounted a nine-play drive that culminated with a Newton to Greg Olsen 19-yard touchdown pass. The biggest play was a Newton to Corey Brown 17-yard pass to the Seahawks’ 37-yard line. It was the last time the Panthers scored in the game.
Seattle started their comeback early in the third quarter. Tyler Lockett returned the opening kickoff of the second half to the 50-yard line. An unnecessary roughness penalty put the ball on the Carolina 35. Wilson led a four-play drive from there that ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse.
After forcing Carolina to punt, Seattle engineered a seven-play drive that ended with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Lockett. A 14-yard run by Wilson converted a third down and a 16-yard pass on first down to Kearse helped set up the score.
The Seahawks scored again with 6:04 remaining. Wilson completed a 27-yard pass to Lockett that was originally called incomplete, but was reversed after a challenge. Seven plays later Wilson hit Kearse with a three-yard touchdown pass. The play made the score 31-21.
Steven Hauschka kicked a 36-yard field goal with 1:12 remaining and the onside kick failed.
Newton finished with 16 completions on 22 throws for 161 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked once. Leading rusher for Carolina was Stewart, who gained 106 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns. Leading receiver was Olsen, who caught six passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Wilson finished with 31 completions on 48 attempts for 366 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions and he rushed for 32 yards on three carries. He was sacked five times. Leading receiver for Seattle was Kearse, who caught 11 passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Doug Baldwin caught eight passes for 82 yards and Lockett caught three passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. PANTHERS 31 SEAHAWKS 24
Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw a 41-yard hail Mary pass into the end zone with five seconds remaining in regulation that substitute wide receiver Jeff Janis caught for a touchdown that forced the Packers – Arizona Cardinals playoff game into overtime. A 60-yard hail Mary pass from Rodgers’ to Janis that converted a fourth down and 20 set up the desperation throw.
On the first play of overtime, Cardinals’ quarterback Carson Palmer threw a pass to a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald, who then raced to the Packers’ five. On the next play, Palmer threw a shovel pass to Fitzgerald, who ran it in for the winning score as the Cardinals defeated the Packers.
Janis was on the field due to the absence of Davonte Adams, who didn’t play because an injury, and Randall Cobb, who was lost in the first quarter due to a chest injury. Cardinals’ defensive back Patrick Peterson successfully neutralized Packers’ wide receiver James Jones.
The Cardinals took the lead with 3:44 remaining when Damarious Randall, who had earlier intercepted a pass in the end zone, deflected a pass intended for Fitzgerald inside the five-yard line causing the ball to bounce into the end zone and Michael Floyd caught it for the touchdown. Floyd had caught a touchdown pass in the first quarter.
The Cardinals started the scoring after the Packers’ were forced to punt with 13:09 in the first quarter. Palmer engineered an 11-play drive that finished with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Floyd.
After trading punts, the Packers were next to score when Mason Crosby booted a 28-yard field goal at 11:22 of the second quarter. The 17-play, 85-yard drive included a 19-yard scramble by Rodgers to the Green Bay 41.
Crosby kicked a 34-yard field goal with 57 seconds remaining in the half after a 17-play drive that consumed 71 yards.
Packers’ safety Clinton-Dix intercepted a Palmer pass intended for Floyd at the Green Bay 19 that set up a six-play, 81-yard drive that culminated in a Rodgers to Janis 8-yard touchdown pass. The big play of the drive was an Eddie Lacy 61-yard romp to the Cardinals’ eight.
The Cardinals marched 74-yards on 10-plays finishing with a Chandler Catanzaro 28-yard field goal. Highlights of the drive included a 32-yard pass from Palmer to Fitzgerald, an unnecessary roughness penalty against B. J. Raji, and a 19-yard pass to Fitzgerald that put the ball on the Green Bay seven.
The Cardinals scored again with 3:44 remaining on a nine-yard pass from Palmer to Floyd. The 14-play, 80-yard drive included a 21-yard pass to John Brown and a 13-yard pass to Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals followed with a Catanzaro 36-yard field goal with 1:55 remaining.
Rodgers finished with 24 completions on 44 attempts for 261 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked once. Lacy led the rushers with 89 yards on 12 carries. The leading receiver for the Packers was Janis, who caught seven passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Jared Abbrederis caught four passes for 55 yards, and Richard Rodgers caught five passes for 45 yards.
Palmer completed 25 passes on 41 attempts for 349 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He was sacked three times. Leading rusher for the Cardinals was David Johnson, who gained 35 yards on 15 carries. Fitzgerald led the receivers with eight catches for 176 yards and a touchdown. John Brown caught five passes for 82 yards, David Johnson caught six passes for 43 yards, and Floyd caught three passes for 26-yards and two touchdowns. CARDINALS 26 PACKERS 20
CARDINALS @ PANTHERS SUNDAY, JANUARY 24, 2016 6:40 P.M.
Courtesy of ESPN