Sure, Our Arizona Cardinals Sucked in the NFC Championship, but We Still Hate the Carolina Panthers

Cardinals quaterback Carson Palmer, one of many goats during Arizona's blowout loss to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game.
Cardinals quaterback Carson Palmer, one of many goats during Arizona's blowout loss to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game.
Jim Louvau

Okay, we're late getting this story out because we spent Monday sleeping off our hangover from drinking ourselves numb after the Arizona Cardinals stunk up the Deep South Sunday night.

Damn, we don't know what football team played against the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship in Charlotte, because it certainly wasn't the Arizona Cardinals we'd come to know and love. It couldn't have been the team we cheered on during a 13-3 dream regular season or during an epic playoff win over the Green Bay Packers January 17.

We're saying, there's no doubt that the Cardinals we saw Sunday sucked — but let's make one thing clear: Sweet Caroline-thieving Carolina fans, we still hate your team. Even more now (is Cam Newton even an Earthling?); in fact, we pray that Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning takes the Panthers apart in Super Bowl 50.

Many think the NFC Championship blowout is the fault of Arizona QB Carson Palmer, who looked like a goat in headlights from the start of the game to its finish, but there's plenty of blame to go around: 

To be sure, Palmer had six turnovers and failed to land a slew of passes, but Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians made scads of awful calls, cornerback Patrick Peterson screwed up a punt return and derailed a comeback attempt by his team, saintly Larry Fitzgerald dropped the ball twice...

And Arizona’s defensive line, the fifth-best in the NFL during the regular season, didn't show up.

Don't even get us started on the offensive line, which allowed Palmer to spend much of the game on his back.

The Panthers took full advantage of every bonehead mistake. They're damn good, but they're not that good.

There were glimmers of hope, of course, like after Arizona scored its first touchdown in the second quarter to cut Carolina’s lead to 17-7 or when Peterson intercepted a Newton pass shortly thereafter. But for every step forward, the team took three steps back. Here are the Cardinals' self-inflicted wounds that killed our Super Bowl dreams: 

6. Justin Bethel’s weak tackle attempt.

Revenge, as they say, can be sweet. Just ask Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., who got plenty of payback against Arizona, making the Cardinals front office look like fools for cutting him last spring. And during one of his many highlights during the championship game, Ginn scored the Panthers’ first touchdown after a zig-zagging 22-yard rush around the field and tossing aside a weak tackle attempt by Justin Bethel.

Who knows? Had the cornerback successfully brought Ginn down, it might’ve slowed Carolina’s momentum in the early going. 

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians.
Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians.

5. Bruce Arians' weird wildcat call.

It seemed as though Coach Arians tried to throw everything at the Panthers in an attempt to get past their stifling defense. Case in point: when Arians pulled out a wildcat play in the first quarter (in this case, the center snapped to a running back), something rarely used by the team this season, followed by a reversal to Larry Fitzgerald with the option of having the wide receiver toss it down field. The result? An incomplete pass from Fitz to John Brown. Ugh! 

Sorry, Bruce. We know you’re in love with the whole “no risk it, no biscuit” philosophy (cute), but trick plays weren’t going to cut it against the Carolina defense.

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