It will be Carolina vs. Denver in Super Bowl 50 two weeks from now, and the teams got there in very different ways. In the night game, Cam Newton and the Panthers routed the Arizona Cardinals, 49-15, to take the NFC championship. Carolina got out to a 17-0 lead early, and it was never really close after that. Newton threw for two touchdowns and ran for two others, and Carolina's big-play defense stifled Arizona's top-ranked offense. It will be the first Super Bowl for Newton and the second for the Panthers (17-1), who lost to New England 12 years ago. Denver, of course, has made a habit of going to Super Bowls, reaching it for a record-tying eighth time.
The Broncos' game came down to a missed 2-point conversion. It also featured the odd sight of Peyton Manning lumbering his way down the field for a 12-yard gain and a first down. And thanks largely to his team's defense, it will be Manning—the 39-year-old quarterback who was supposed to be on his way to a retirement party—and not Tom Brady playing in the big game. Ol' No. 18 engineered the 20-18 victory over the Patriots—not settled until Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby picked off Brady's pass on a 2-point attempt that would have tied it with 12 seconds left. The Patriots had to go for 2 after Brady hit Rob Gronkowski in the back of the end zone because Stephen Gostkowski missed his first extra point in 524 tries in the first quarter.