Top Seeds Meet in NFC Championship as Panthers, Cardinals Advance

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Source: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports/Charlotte Observer

Source: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports/Charlotte Observer

On Sunday, the NFC’s top-ranked teams will meet to decide who will represent the conference in Super Bowl 50, as the top-seeded Carolina Panthers and second-ranked Arizona Cardinals advanced after Divisional Round wins.

On Saturday, the Arizona Cardinals overcame a miracle hail mary at the end of regulation to put away the Green Bay Packers in overtime 26-20.

With the Packers down a touchdown and just five seconds on the clock, quarterback Aaron Rodgers rolled left out of the pocket and heaved the ball toward the end zone where wide receiver Jeff Janis brought down the catch as time expired off the clock. With the extra point, the Packers notched it at 20 to send the game into overtime.

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But it was there that the Cardinals’ 12-year veteran receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, took over.

On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Carson Palmer spun out of a sack and found Fitzgerald wide open on the left-hand side. Number 11 did the rest. Racing downfield and breaking numerous tackles, Fitzgerald gained 75 yards and brought the Cardinals to the five yard line. A quick pitch play on the next down caught the Green Bay defense off-guard and Fitzgerald ran into the end zone to secure the win.

The Cardinals will travel to Carolina to battle the number-one seed Panthers, who after a fast start, outlasted a furious Seattle Seahawks comeback 31-24 to move on to their first NFC Championship since 2005.

The Panthers were fueled by a 100-yard rushing day from Jonathan Stewart, who on the first Carolina possession broke through the Seahawks’ defense for 59 yards to set up a go-ahead touchdown in the first three minutes of play.

Then, on Seattle’s ensuing drive, the Carolina defense pressured quarterback Russell Wilson and forced a pick-six interception to put the Panthers up 14-0 early.

Carolina didn’t let up and piled on 31 first-half points.

But the defending NFC champs were not done.

Seattle came out after halftime and put up 14 third-quarter points and suddenly found themselves within striking distance. After their defense shutout Carolina in the second half, the Seahawks pulled within one touchdown with a late field goal. But history would not repeat itself (see last year’s NFC Championship). An onside kick attempt by Seattle landed in the arms of Carolina’s Thomas Davis to secure the win and set up a championship game at home.

The NFC Championship will be played Sunday, January 24, at 6:40 p.m.

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