The Carolina Panthers defeated the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Wild Card game on Saturday afternoon 27-16 to advance to the second round of the NFL Playoffs.
Carolina will move on to the divisional round to face either the Seattle Seahawks or the Green Bay Packers depending on the outcome of tomorrow’s Cowboys/Lions game.
The Panthers jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter after a pair of three-and-outs by the lackadaisical Cardinals offense. Jonathan Williams found the end zone from 13 yards out for the first touchdown of the game. Williams had 123 yards on the ground on the day.
There was a change in the wind however when Brenton Bersin muffed an Arizona punt deep in his own territory. Arizona was able to cash in on the fumble with a one-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Lindley to Darren Fells to cut the lead to 10-7.
Antonio Cromartie intercepted a Cam Newton pass on the Panthers’ next possession and returned it inside Carolina’s red zone. Former Arizona State Sun Devil Marion Grice was able to find the end zone from a yard out to notch the lead for the Cardinals.
Grice’s collegiate teammate D.J. Foster chimed in with his thoughts of the touchdown on Twitter.
The Cardinals’ lead would be cut to 14-13 as Graham Gano kicked his second field goal of the game with 15 seconds remaining in the first half.
Carolina and Arizona traded punts to start the second half, but the Panthers were able to score the first points of the second half with a 39-yard screen play to former-Cardinal Fozzy Whittaker.
Ted Ginn Jr. fumbled the ensuing kick-off and the Panthers recovered inside the Cardinals’ three-yard line. Following a controversial pass-interference call, would have been 4th-and-goal, but instead gave Carolina a 1st-and-goal from the one-yard line, Newton found Mike Tolbert in the flat for a touchdown to extend the lead to 27-14.
Arizona received life after a fumble recovery in the Panthers’ red zone early in the 4th quarter, but Lindley was picked off on the very next play by Luke Kuechly.
The Panthers out gained the Cardinals 394-77 in the contest as the Carolina defense allowed just one first down the entire second half. Arizona had just four positive plays in the second half before their last garbage-time drive in which they picked up 26 yards on the first two plays, but Lindley was picked off for the second time on a throw into the end zone.
Arizona’s only two points of the second half was on a safety with three seconds remaining in the game in which the Carolina punter ran around in the end zone to take time off the clock before stepping out of the back of the end zone.
The Cardinals’ 77 yards on offense was the lowest mark in NFL history with the 1958 Browns who posted just 86 yards being the second lowest.
Lindley played dismally, finishing 16-28 for just 81 yards and a touchdown. He was also sacked four times resulting in a loss of 31 yards. The running game didn’t help Lindley much either as Kerwynn Williams led the backfield with 10 carries and 23 yards.
It may have been Larry Fitzgerald’s final game as an Arizona Cardinal as he is a free agent this year. He brought in a team-high three receptions and 31 yards.