Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton came out for pregame warm-ups with specially-designed cleats that had all of his teammates’ names written on them.
The Panthers used almost every one of those names to advance to Super Bowl 50 against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
Carolina showed why it was the best and most complete — and maybe even deepest — team in the NFL during the regular season with a completely dominating 49-15 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Not even the loss of outside linebacker Thomas Davis (arm) and safety Roman Harper (eye) in the first half could keep the Panthers from cruising in the NFC Championship Game.
Players stepped up everywhere.
Not all were household names.
There was wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr.’s amazing 22-yard touchdown run on a reverse against the Arizona team that released him after last season.
There was wide receiver Corey Brown’s 86-yard touchdown catch on which he showed the deep speed for which the Arizona receivers are known.
There was safety Kurt Coleman’s acrobatic interception in the end zone late in the first half. He added another in the second half.
There was middle linebacker Luke Kuechly returning an interception for a touchdown for the second time in the playoffs.
There was safety Tre Boston, who replaced Harper, collecting Carolina’s fourth interception.
And there was Newton, launching his 6-foot-5, 260-pound body the final three yards to complete a 12-yard third-quarter touchdown run like he really was the “Superman” character he likes to imitate.
As they have all season, the Panthers (17-1) attacked from the get-go.
And they didn’t let off the gas or play with “tight butts,” as they were accused of doing a week earlier when they let a 31-0 halftime lead against Seattle turn into a seven-point win.
Newton made sure of that.
And although the voting has been over for weeks, he showed why he, and not Arizona’s Carson Palmer, deserved to be the league MVP.
Newton became the first player in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to pass for 300 yards and rush for multiple touchdowns in a postseason game.
Even the fans began chanting MVP in the third quarter after Newton took flight for his second rushing touchdown.
Newton showed his appreciation as he has done all season, flying around Bank of America Stadium with his arms spread wide and high-fiving as many fans as possible.
Next stop: Santa Clara, California, for the Super Bowl.
Ouch: The first half was costly as the Panthers lost starting safety Roman Harper to an eye injury and outside linebacker Thomas Davis to a right arm injury. Their availability for the Super Bowl remains to be seen. Davis was wearing a sling on the arm in the second half. That the injury is below the elbow could make it possible for him to play in two weeks. No player wanted to reach the Super Bowl more than Davis, who has been with the team longer than anybody (since 2005).
Game ball: A lot of people made big plays, but “Super Cam” gets the game ball. The energy and superb play he showed all season carried Carolina to the Super Bowl. Newton completed 19 of 26 pass attempts for 335 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 47 yards and two touchdowns.
Wide receiver hype: The Arizona wide receivers, led by Larry Fitzgerald, were supposed to be the best in the NFL. Turns out the no-name receivers from Carolina stole their thunder. Philly Brown had four catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. Ted Ginn Jr. had two catches for 52 yards, and rushed 22 yards for a touchdown.
Unsung hero: Kurt Coleman doesn’t get a lot of publicity in a secondary that includes Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman. He had a team-high seven interceptions during the regular season and added two more in this one. He should have been named to the Pro Bowl, but he’ll probably settle for the Super Bowl.
source: espn.go.com by David Newton