WHAT IT MEANS
Five months after they were left for dead, the Carolina Panthers are going to the Super Bowl.
In a battle of the conference's best teams, the Panthers thoroughly dominated Arizona in the NFC Championship Sunday night. With its 49-15 win, Carolina punched a trip to Santa Clara in two weeks. That's where they'll face Denver in Super Bowl 50.
Not many outside the building believed the Panthers had a shot to make the playoffs when receiver Kelvin Benjamin was lost for the year in training camp. All his teammates did from there was go 15-1 in the regular season while smashing all sorts of franchise records.
While many continued to doubt just how good the Panthers are, they left no doubt from the start Sunday night. A 17-0 lead after the first quarter ballooned to a 34-7 advantage by the end of the third.
Seven years after the Panthers had six turnovers in a Divisional Round loss to the Cardinals, Arizona coughed it up seven times, including four interceptions by quarterback Carson Palmer.
Now the Panthers head to their second Super Bowl, looking to win their first. The Broncos held off the Patriots in Sunday's AFC Championship, 20-18. Carolina and Denver have meet four times, with the Broncos leading the series, 3-1.
–Whatever happened to that Corey Brown guy? He was a nice young man
–Thomas Davis, in happier times
–The Panthers smashed the record for most points scored (49) in the NFC Championship. The previous mark was 41 by the 1991 Redskins and 2000 Giants.
–The Panthers have now outscored their past six opponents 135-17 in the first half.
–The Panthers are looking to become the first time to go undefeated at home, earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and win the Super Bowl since the 2003 Patriots.
–LB Thomas Davis injured his right arm in the second quarter and did not return. Davis watched the second half with his arm in a sling. It's tough to see him sitting out the Super Bowl. He'll likely find a way to play.
–S Roman Harper was poked in the eye while trying to make a tackle in the first half. Harper immediately came off and was replaced the rest of the way by Tre Boston.
–C Ryan Kalil missed the Panthers' final few minutes of the first half after he went into the locker room early with a knee injury. He went back in at the start of the third quarter.