The Carolina Panthers blasted the Arizona Cardinals, 49-15, in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, and quarterback Carson Palmer's poor play was a big reason why.
|Carson Palmer: NFC Championship Stats|
Per Marc Berman of the New York Post, Palmer took the blame after a one-touchdown, four-interception performance that also included two lost fumbles:
I kept digging us in a hole. I was definitely forcing it. Coming out in the second half, down multiple touchdowns, you’ve got to make something happen and I didn’t make it happen. ... There’s nothing like adversity to fuel the fire. Staring over at that sidelines, that’s going to stick with me for probably the rest of my life.
"Carson didn't lose the damn game. Nothing wrong with his damn finger," Arians said. "You can keep all them questions. We just didn't play well enough. Our best players especially didn't play well enough."
Arians' fiery personality and loyalty to his players were on full display during the press conference, but there is no denying that Palmer's play cost the team a shot at winning the game. The fact that the 15-1 Panthers had the best regular-season record in the NFL and were playing at home had a lot to do with it, but you aren't going to win often when your quarterback commits six turnovers.
The most crucial turnover came with less than a minute left in the first half. The Cardinals had just intercepted Cam Newton and were driving to try to cut into a 24-7 deficit. Palmer forced a pass through traffic in the end zone—resulting in an interception—and momentum was back in the Panthers' favor.
Arians realized it was a backbreaker, per Hanzus:
Trying to make too much happen too soon on that play. Just take the short one and we keep playing with two timeouts. Then we did not come out of the locker room with the effort defensively that we needed to stop them. We needed to change the tide in the first five minutes of the third quarter and we did not get it done.
Palmer bounced back from a torn ACL last season to throw for 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2015. There's no doubt the Cardinals advanced as far as they did because of him, but the biggest takeaway for Arizona on Sunday was Palmer's poor performance.
Arizona has plenty of young talent in David Johnson, Michael Floyd, John Brown, Patrick Peterson and others, but the championship window is closing for the 36-year-old Palmer.
However, this wasn't the first setback of Palmer's career, and if anyone can shake it off and bounce back, it's him.