Newton, powerful Panthers destroy Cardinals

Barry Wilner
Associated Press

Charlotte, N.C. — For all his daring and dabbing and Superman persona, Cam Newton quickly reminds everyone that football is all about team.

And his Carolina Panthers are headed for the big game.

"For everyone who wears the blue and black, it has been a long time coming," Newton said after another virtuoso performance Sunday with two touchdown passes and another two TD leaps — minus the Superman cape —in a 49-15 destruction of the Arizona Cardinals for the NFC championship. "It's a question you got to ask: Why not us?

"We've been dreaming about this moment since Day 1. Our pen has a lot more ink left."

The Panthers (17-1) have written quite a story so far. They manhandled two prominent defenses in the playoffs, Seattle (at least for a half) and then Arizona (14-4). They led the league in points (500) during the regular season, and against the Cardinals' top-ranked offense they forced six turnovers by Carson Palmer.

So now it's on to the Bay Area to face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (14-4) in Super Bowl 50. Manning, a five-time league MVP, will play in his fourth Super Bowl and Denver in a record-tying eighth. Carolina, a loser 12 years ago to New England, gets its second trip.

"When I was growing up," said All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly, who had a 22-yard interception return touchdown to give Carolina the most points in an NFC championship, "it was Peyton Manning and the Colts putting up big numbers. He was the guy and still is the guy that everyone looks at. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Newton's superhero image was enhanced by yet another fabulous performance. On both of his TD runs, he laid out the ball or himself to get into the end zone.

And one of his TD passes was an 86-yard catch-and-run by Philly Brown, helped by Rashad Johnson's botched tackle.

Newton set an NFL mark with 45 touchdowns: 35 passes and 10 runs. On Sunday, all of those talents were on display.

"We knew from the get-go when he first got here," said center Ryan Kalil, like Newton an All-Pro, "we had something special. Watching him grow each and every year, it's been incredible, and this has been a big year for him?"

You think?

But it's not enough, the fifth-year quarterback admitted.

"Yeah, we are going to the Super Bowl. We are not going just to take pictures," Newton said."We are trying to finish this thing off."