Cam Newton’s two third-quarter touchdown passes and a smothering defensive display kept the Carolina Panthers rolling with a 27-16 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in an NFC Wild Card Playoff.
Newton delivered scoring strikes to Fozzy Whittaker and Mike Tolbert that erased a 14-13 halftime deficit, and the Panthers’ defense made the lead stand by limiting a weaponless Arizona attack to a mere 13 yards and two first downs over the final two quarters.
With third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley at the controls, the Cardinals mustered a paltry 78 total yards overall — the fewest by one team in a playoff game in NFL history. Both of Arizona’s touchdowns came on short fields caused by a pair of Carolina turnovers.
Lindley did throw a TD pass to Darren Fells in the second quarter, but was intercepted twice — once near the goal line — and finished with just 81 yards on a 16-of-28 completion rate.
Jonathan Stewart added 123 rushing yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in the fifth straight win for the Panthers, whose late-season surge was good enough to capture the soft NFC South with a 7-8-1 record. Newton hit on 18-of-32 throws for 198 yards with one interception.
Carolina will next visit either reigning Super Bowl champ Seattle or Green Bay in the Divisional round, depending on the outcome of Sunday’s Detroit-Dallas clash.
ohn Harbaugh and Joe Flacco added another notch to their playoff road resume as the Baltimore Ravens went into Heinz Field and came away with a 30-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Saturday’s AFC Wild Card clash rung familiar in this longstanding rivalry, with defense and opportunistic play deciding which team survived the slugfest.
The Ravens, who needed help in Week 17 to even reach the postseason, provided most of the punishing blows, as they sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times and forced two interceptions in the fourth quarter.
Flacco threw a pair of touchdown passes, including one to Crockett Gillmore that gave the Ravens a 30-15 lead with under eight minutes remaining.
A holding penalty negated a Steelers touchdown on the ensuing drive, and Roethlisberger was picked off in the end zone to seal the outcome.
Harbaugh and Flacco have teamed together for seven playoff victories on the road, and they will need another against the top-seeded Patriots in next week’s Divisional Round on Saturday.
The Steelers had won four straight home playoff games but had no running attack with All-Pro Le’Veon Bell sidelined with a knee injury.