On to the NFC Championship: Edge of Your Seat Surprises
by Amy Lignor
Unlike the AFC, which many believed was a forgone conclusion when it came to the two teams that would play in the Championship, the NFC was harder to call. The four teams vying for the top spot were varied: one team that had constantly strived to see the big stage
again; a team that wanted to prove they could continue to “dance” in the post-season; a team working up from their Wild Card spot determined to make up for the horrific ending of last year’s Super Bowl; and a team led by one of the best QB’s in the business who wanted to show that he could continue to win games, even if it came to a Hail Mary thrown as the game clock ran out.
Yes, the Green Bay Packers were beat by the Arizona Cardinals not too long ago. A humiliating defeat, in fact, that caused many fans to wonder how on earth the amazing QB Aaron Rodgers let his team lose 38-8. But coming back to Arizona to play for a chance to head to the NFC Championship Game, Rodgers looked strong, versatile and sound. His ability to scramble was perfect. The only one that outshone his ability was the other QB, Carson Palmer. Arizona wanted this one and played a good, hard game. But when Aaron Rodgers threw that Hail Mary and made it (again!) you could almost feel the entire state of Arizona crumble. For a moment, just a moment, they believed that their team would once again be shut out in the post-season.
The Cardinals have not shown their faces in the NFC Championship since 2008. But in OT, with a strange coin “non-flip” that had to be re-flipped, Arizona won the toss, marched down the field, and because of a heroic show of scrambling and evading by Palmer, won the game and sent Green Bay “Packing.”
Then came the time for them to sit back and see who they would be facing in the NFC Championship. Most fans and football experts will tell you that Arizona did not wish to meet up with either the Seattle Seahawks or the Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton, QB of Carolina, is basically the winner of the NFL’s MVP for the season. He and his team had a week off coming into this. They were playing at home in Carolina. And with all these positives, they were clearly set up to win the game.
But…the Seattle Seahawks were not about to go down easily. Although the Wild Card team, some point spreads had them winning over Carolina. Most thought this would be the best game of the post-season considering the volatility of these two teams. Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks returned; apparently he assumed they’d gotten close enough to the NFC Championship that he wouldn’t bother sitting at home claiming to have abdominal pains anymore. The RB was all pumped up, along with the entire “Legion of Boom” that has been more wary than “booming” this season.
So, would it end up being an air battle? A shootout between Cam and Seattle’s QB Russell Wilson? Or would Lynch’s return mean the return of his ego as well as his ability to give Seattle a ground game which they do not seem to have.
Stewart of the Panthers has missed the last three games. First play? He breaks through and runs more than half the field. Yes, old Richard Sherman chased him down, but that was one heck of a homecoming for Stewart. Then…a fumble that turns into a 7-yard gain for Carolina, Cam takes it to inside the five and, in two and half minutes, four plays total, Stewart races it in for a TD and the Carolina Panthers are on the board, announcing to the Seahawks that they will NOT get back to the Super Bowl this year. Marshawn Lynch’s return was not so lovely. First time back, he loses yardage. Perhaps he should have cried abdominal pains once again so fans could keep their fantasy of how wonderful the guy actually is.
Then… Interception and another Carolina TD. What was not supposed to be a blowout soon looked like it would be just that. 14-0. Beginning of the second quarter, in a matter of a minute, they scored another TD to make it 21-0. Then… Interception and another Carolina score. (See a pattern here?) 24-0 with only 3:00 minutes gone in the 2nd quarter. Before halftime, they scored again. 31-0. Could Seattle come back? Well, they certainly tried. The Legion of Boom woke up in the third quarter, and QB Russell Wilson seemed to be resurrected, scoring two TD’s in the third quarter. Carolina, on the other hand, came out after halftime and looked as if they had already chalked up the game as a win and didn’t need to play all that hard. Bad idea.
It seemed like out of nowhere Carolina’s lead had sunk to only ten points…then seven…
Arizona may be biting their nails right now, considering they must meet up and somehow beat the monumental show of force that Cam Newton and his own “Avengers” showed against the Seahawks (at least in the first half). But, no matter what occurs now, football fans have already won.
We will NOT have to put up with another Seahawks Super Bowl.