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Sports

Super Bowl Bound!

The Carolina Panthers are headed to the Super Bowl. They beat the Arizona Cardinals 49-15 Sunday night in the NFC championship game at Bank of America Stadium.

There were big plays throughout the night that led to the final countdown by 74,000 fans.

But it’s teamwork that’s ultimately responsible for the Panthers heading to Super Bowl 50, said tight end Greg Olsen.

"We’re the epitome, we’re an example of what it takes," Olsen said. "Check your ego at the door. Guys just play, fit in their role. They do everything that they’re asked to do. They care for each other, they play for each other. and this is the result. Offense, defense, all around. This is what it should be about."

The game was billed as a battle of the NFL’s two highest-scoring offenses, led by two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks. But it wasn’t close. The Panthers scored early and often. Quarterback Cam Newton threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more.

The Panthers defense, meanwhile, made Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer miserable all night. He was responsible for six turnovers.

The Panthers scored first with a 45-yard field goal.

Five minutes later, receiver Ted Ginn took the ball on an end around, sprinting down the left sideline, then cutting back across midfield and into the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown. He probably ran twice that with all the zig-zagging across the field.

The Panthers scored one more time in the first quarter, when receiver Corey Brown caught a pass deep down the left side and ran it in for the score. It was an 86-yard play – the longest in the team’s postseason history. The Panthers were up 17-0 after the first quarter.

The stadium roared for most of the game, as fans pounded on their seats and broke into a call and response from one side of the stadium to the other, with the phrase that has symbolized this Panthers’ season -

“Keep pounding … Keep pounding.”

The chant honors the late Panthers player and assistant coach Sam Mills, who once used it to inspire the team.

And fans chanted “MVP” for Cam Newton.

Linebacker Luke Kuechly added a final touchdown with just over 5 minutes left when he intercepted a Carson Palmer pass and returned it 22 yards.   

Newton said he hopes the win silences the “broken record” of questions about the team’s shortcomings.

"For people to not pull in your favor, say that it’s only a matter of time the Carolina Panthers this, that and the third. For a turnout for this, it just makes it all worthwhile. But yet, we keep saying it, we’re not finished, we’re not finished," Newton said.

The Panthers face the Denver Broncos in two weeks in Santa Clara, Calif. The Panthers only other Super Bowl  was 12 years ago, 32-29 loss to the New England Patriots.

This time, the Panthers enter the game with the NFL’s best record at 17-1 and the league’s likely MVP.