We Made It: 2016 Super Bowl 50 Preview: Broncos at Panthers

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Photo Credit: nfl.com

By Jason Sharpe

After their blowout NFC Championship victory the NFC top-seeded Panthers host the top-seeded AFC Championship-winning Broncos on Sunday at 6:30 P.M. in Santa Clara, C.A. for Super Bowl 50 – the “Golden Anniversary” – with the Lombardi Trophy on the line.

SANTA CLARA, C.A. – We made it. The Carolina Panthers are now “the worst” 17-1 team in NFL history to make it to the Super Bowl. Coming off a blowout victory in the NFC Championship game, the NFC top-seeded Panthers host the top-seeded AFC Championship-winning Denver Broncos Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, C.A. for Super Bowl 50 – the “Golden Anniversary” of the Super Bowl. This way things are predicted to shape up on-the-field make this Super Bowl matchup out to be an instant classic.

Last week’s victory over the Arizona Cardinals for the NFC Championship was nothing like I have ever seen before. Everything was clicking for the Panthers, and the Cardinals just didn’t show up to play. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer was rattled from the start, and couldn’t recover, only leading to him playing increasingly horrendously over the course of the game, with the Panthers’ defense taking full and complete advantage of it. With so much going the Panthers’ way on both sides of the football, I kept asking myself, “Is this real life?” I honestly thought I was dreaming. I think I speak for the Panthers and all fans when I say that the NFC Championship game was absolutely glorious.

However, I expect things to be a very different this week. Both teams will be running out onto the field with something to prove. The Panthers will take the field still trying to prove themselves, as many people still doubt them. It just absolutely baffles me why there is still doubt and disdain among many NFL analysts and fans, given their historic season and their current position in this year’s postseason – the Panthers are playing for the Lombardi Trophy today. Where is your team? Each player will be sitting on their couch on Sunday, watching the Super Bowl on TV…not running out on the field at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, C.A. And yet, as I have still heard this week, “The Panthers haven’t really played anyone this year.” Coming off a wild, blowout NFC Championship victory, the Panthers cannot be overconfident with that game at the back of their minds. Hopefully they left the NFC Championship victory back in Charlotte, N.C. This is a completely different opposing team, on a completely different stage, with their entire season, their reputation and credibility – the doubt from every NFL analyst and fan, and the Lombardi Trophy on the line.

The Broncos will come onto the field looking to prove they are better than they have been given credit for all season, but in a very different way from the Panthers. They’ve had a lot of close wins, including their AFC Championship victory to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl. They are trying to prove that their second half of the regular season and path to the Super Bowl wasn’t a fluke, given their quarterback situation and correlating offensive struggles each game. The Broncos also have another task at hand – to send future first-ballot Hall of Famer Peyton “The Sheriff” Manning out on top with a Super Bowl victory. Manning holds so many NFL records, and has nothing else to prove to anyone, however, with heavy speculation that his retirement is pending and this being his last game, everyone wants to go out on top, and the Broncos will leave everything on the field to help sendoff their legendary quarterback riding off into the sunset, with the Lombardi Trophy in hand. This game is important to both teams, for very obvious reasons, it’s the Super Bowl. It will be an all-out defensive fight to the death.

The Broncos and Panthers are both led by and rely on their defenses, but the Panthers pack more punch on offense. With the Broncos having the top defense this season and the Panthers having the top offense this season, this should be a defensive matchup, and a close game. To sum up what to look for in this matchup, be ready for a defensive game. A Super Bowl 50 victory for both teams are their defenses being able to get the job done, and their quarterbacks – whether or not Newton or Manning can handle the pressure of the opposing defense. Pressure being both when forced out of the pocket – having to read the field while scrambling and make a good decision on the fly – and the pressure of time, remaining cool, calm and collective until the clock hits 0:00 in the fourth quarter. The difference in this game will come down to matching opponents’ scoring drives and clock management while putting together scoring drives. I wouldn’t be surprised if Super Bowl 50 is decided by the last offensive drive, either by a touchdown or a field goal, or a defensive stand by the opposing team, stopping an potential game-winning drive, to get the Lombardi Trophy.

Keys To The Game

Panthers:

  1. Limit turnovers. No turnovers would be nice. Any opportunity gifted to Peyton Manning often ends up with points on the scoreboard.
  2. Set the offensive tone early. Mix up offensive play calling from the get-go to establish the ground game. Very simple, the Panthers must be able to pick up yards by grinding it out in the trenches. Look for the Panthers to try and established the run game via read option plays, which has constantly kept opposing defenses guessing, which Jonathan Stewart and company have taken advantage of when Cam Newton lets them keep the ball and find the hole for the medium to long gain on the ground. With the Broncos’ defense expected to bring heavy pass rush on most plays to put pressure on Newton, the Panthers can take advantage of this via read option plays, keeping the Broncos’ defense guessing.
  3. Expanding on the aforementioned pass rush, the Panthers must hand the ball off to Jonathan Stewart often. The Broncos will be looking to pass rush on most downs, and nothing leads to big gains on the ground like finding the perfect hole in the pass rush to create an open running lane. If Stewart can establish the ground game early, it will put the Broncos in a quagmire when calling defensive plays. This will give the Panthers more offensive freedom in play calling, being able to keep the Broncos’ defense from predicting Panthers’ offensive plays and establishing a defensive rhythm.
  4. Pick up the pass rush. If the Panthers’ offensive line can pick up the pass rush on passing plays, it will allow Newton time to establish himself in the pocket – even just giving him a few more seconds before taking a hit after releasing the ball – to find opportunities downfield for big plays downfield with the Panthers’ speedy, skilled route-running WR targets and TE Greg Olsen.
  5. Don’t let Peyton Manning get into a rhythm. The defense must break through the offensive line, on every play. The Panthers’ defense must use their pass-rushing prowess to break through Broncos’ offensive line, wearing them down over the course of the game. This will lead to being able to rattle Manning more and more throughout the game.
  6. The “X Factor” – The Broncos’ defensive is the best in the NFL this year, with their anchor on the defensive line being DeMarcus Ware. The Panthers’ offensive line will face a tough challenge in stabilizing the pass rush to give Newton time in the pocket. The key matchup today will be Michael Oher versus Ware, in protecting Newton’s “blind side.” Oher turned his lackluster career around in his first year with the Panthers, so let’s hope he continues playing in the form we’ve become accustom to this season.

Broncos:

  1. Generate turnovers. Specifically, force Cam Newton out of the pocket for him to make a split-second decision when throwing on the run. Newton has used better judgment this season when the pocket collapses on pass plays and he is forced to scramble and/or throw on the run. However, there is still the chance that Newton will try to force a big play in a tightly covered area, which has historically led to interceptions. This could be an even bigger factor given the pressure and expectations being placed on him since it is the Super Bowl.
  2. Stop the Panthers on third down, specifically on third and long pass plays when Newton sees nothing down field, and decides to tuck it and run. During these situations, Newton has been a huge factor this season for the Panthers to continue drives in close games.
  3. Be able to contain Newton when the pocket collapses and he makes the decision to tuck and run. The Broncos must utilize their loaded and experienced defense to recognize the collapsing pocket a few seconds in advance and adjust to bring Newton down by quickly.
  4. Be able to quickly sniff out and adjust to the read option plays, and shut them down. Newton and Jonathan Stewart and company have become extremely synchronized in running the read option. When they establish the ground game early through Newton handing the ball of to the running backs in the read option, it normally leads to medium to long yards gained on the ground. Essentially, be cautious on while relying on the pass rush.
  5. Set the tone defensively. Go all-out on defense. Put heavy pressure on Newton via the pass rush, and spread the field in the secondary. The Broncos have the best defense in the NFL this season for a reason. They must utilize this advantage, and set the defensive tone early to take away the Panthers’ offensive confidence from its first drive. The Broncos’ must have full confidence in their the defense and rely on it from the get go to prevent the Panthers’ offense getting into the groove early.
  6. The “X Factor” – The offensive line must give Manning time in the pocket to utilize his accuracy and football IQ. With the many talented receivers the Broncos possess, Manning must have the time to look down field. Manning must have the extra few seconds to establish his presence in the pocket, set his feet, and read the defense to find the open receiver downfield or be able to create a play through the air for one of the Broncos’ wide receivers to adjust and go up and snare it. If the offensive line can achieve this, Manning will be able to establish his rhythm, and when this happens, he is able to pick apart the opposing secondary all day.

BBTB Super Bowl 50 Drinking Game

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Photo Credit: wbtw.com

By Jason Sharpe

Disclaimer: Prior to reading, Bring Back the Buzz encourages you to please drink responsibly.

Let’s face it: You’re going to be drinking during Super Bowl 50, so you might as well make a game of it to do your part for the Panthers off-the-field as the players take care of business on-the-field. All the tackles, touchdowns, commentator banter, and spicy food you will eat while watching Super Bowl 50 are surefire ways to make you thirsty. Without further ado, here are some rules and mentions to abide by during Super Bowl 50 to make the unofficial holiest national holiday even more enjoyable with a drink in your hand.

  1. The Golden Rule: No talking during commercials. If you speak during a commercial, you must chug your beverage for the duration of the following commercial. It’s probably best to keep an “on deck” beer just incase you run out during penance.
  2. Whenever you hear Peyton Manning say “Omaha” in a snap count, take one sip per “Omaha,” per down.
  3. In the original Super Bowl in 1967, the Green Bay Packers were coach to victory by Vince Lombardi. Any time the legendary coach’s name is mentioned (including the championship trophy named for him), take one sip.
  4. Whenever the “Golden Anniversary” of the Super Bowl is mentioned, take one sip.
  5. Whenever “Old” vs. “New” school quarterbacks regarding Peyton Manning and Cam Newton is mentioned, take one sip.
  6. Whenever you are reminded, “This the first Super Bowl where both starting QBs are No. 1 overall draft picks,” take one sip.
  7. Whenever you hear, “Remember: There has to be indisputable video evidence to overturn the call on the field,” take one sip.
  8. Anytime Cam Newton signals a first-down by his signature “point downfield,” take a three-second sip.
  9. If Cam Newton leaves his feat to literally “Superman” into the end zone, finish your drink and then take a shot.
  10. Anytime Cam Newton enters the end zone for six points, finish your drink.
  11. Anytime any Panthers player enacts the routine “Sunday Giveaway” with a football from a recently scored touchdown, take a ten-second sip. Because, the Panthers just scored a touched, and because you wish you were that kid that just received a Super Bowl touchdown football.
  12. Anytime Mike Tolbert does a ridiculous dance, take a five-second sip. If he does this after scoring a touchdown, skip the sip and proceed to taking one shot.
  13. Anytime Kelvin Benjamin’s season-ending injury is mentioned and/or he is shown on the sidelines, take one sip.
  14. Anytime Devin Funchess’ contributions as a rookie to make up for the lack of Kelvin Benjamin’s presence on-the-field is mentioned, take one sip.
  15. If Ted Ginn Jr. catches a touchdown, take one shot.
  16. Anytime Panthers’ offensive tackle Michael Oher is mentioned regarding “The Blind Side” or how his lackluster career turned around with the Panthers, take one sip.
  17. Anytime Panthers’ offensive tackle Michael Oher’s adopted parents are shown, take one sip.
  18. Anytime you see Greg Olsen referenced as “Third Leg Greg” on Twitter, take one sip.
  19. Whenever Luke Kuechly makes a play and the inevitable “Luuuuuuuuuuke” cheer echoes across Levi’s Stadium, drink for the duration of the cheer.
  20. If Luke Kuechly returns an interception for a touchdown, finish your drink.
  21. Whenever you are reminded that Thomas Davis recovered from three ACL tears over the course of his career to get to this point, take one sip.
  22. Whenever you are reminded that Thomas Davis is playing with a broken arm, take one sip.
  23. Whenever Josh Norman’s matchup with Odell Beckham Jr. is mentioned, take one sip.
  24. Anytime a Panthers’ defensive player intercepts Peyton Manning, take a ten-second sip.
  25. Anytime the Panthers’ defense sacks Peyton Manning, take a three-second sip.
  26. If Ted Ginn Jr. returns a kick for a touchdown, take a shot.
  27. Whenever “Ohio State” or “The Buckeyes” are mentioned, take one sip. (Ohio State University is the most represented college in Super Bowl 50, with Bradley Roby suited up for the Broncos and Ted Ginn Jr., Kurt Coleman, Philly Brown and Andrew Norwell suited up for the Panthers).
  28. Whenever Cam Newton’s recent fatherhood is mentioned, take one sip.
  29. Whenever Peyton Manning’s HGH scandal is referenced, take one shot. The figurative shot you take represents the literal shot.
  30. Whenever Von Miller’s previous suspensions are mentioned, take one sip.
  31. Whenever Broncos punter Britton Colquitt steps onto the field, take a four-second sip. (Britton Colquitt comes from a long line of NFL punters. His father Craig won two Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers. His uncle Jimmy punted for Seattle. His brother Dustin is the current punter for the Kansas City Chiefs). The four-second sip is one second for each Colquitt punter.
  32. Whenever you see either teams’ mascots, take one sip. (Denver has two mascots: Thunder, a purebred Arabian horse, and Miles, the plush horse, while Carolina has Sir Purr.
    *You must “heehaw” if it is the Broncos’ mascots or “meow” if it is the Panthers’).
  33. “The Dab”
    • Anytime any Panthers’ player dabs, take one sip.
    • If the dabber is Cam Newton, take a three-second sip.
    • If owner Jerry Richardson hits the dab, take a five-second sip
    • If a Broncos’ player dabs, pour a sip out for the haters.
  34. “Take a sip” whenever you hear the following references in regards to Peyton Manning:
    • “Legacy”
    • “Football IQ”
    • “Neck surgery”
    • “Last rodeo”
    • “The Sheriff”
    • Any reference to possible retirement.
  35. “Take a sip” whenever you hear the following references in regards to Cam Newton:
    • “Dabbing”
    • “Controversial or any other synonym”
    • “Plays with a chip on his shoulder”
    • “Fueled by the critics”
    • “Silence the critics”
    • “New face of the league”
    • “Redefining the quarterback position”
  36. “Take a sip” whenever CBS shows footage of:
    • The Golden Gate Bridge
    • Alcatraz
    • “The Painted Ladies” houses
    • Lombard Street, descending Russian Hill
    • Transamerica Pyramid building, including cityscape shots
    • Demaryius Thomas’ mom
    • Archie Manning and Eli Manning in their luxury box
    • Gary Kubiak as a Broncos player
    • Ron Rivera in Super Bowl 20 with the Bears or anytime with the ’85 Bears
    • Panthers owner Jerry Richardson
  37. Take a sip every time you yawn during Coldplay’s halftime performance.
  38. If the Panthers win Super Bowl 50, Bring Back the Buzz encourages you to start playing by your own rules.

Zo is Returning to Charlotte

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This Friday should be a pretty big night for the history of the Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats franchise. When the Miami Heat come to Charlotte, the Hornets will be honoring Alonzo Mourning as one of the legends of this franchise for his achievements both on and off the court. This will be the second time this season the Hornets have chosen to honor an important player from the past and give them a night of their own. The first one, Dell Curry, was a bit of an easy one for the Hornets to make happen considering he works for them….Zo not so much.

Zo is currently the Vice President of Player Programs for the Miami Heat and hasn’t been seen much around these parts since his departure from the city in 1995. As some of you may recall the terms under which Mourning departed were not exactly ideal. George Shinn informed Zo he was not worthy of the money he requested, even though, according to Zo….he wanted to stay in Buzz City. Pat Riley decided Mourning was worth the cash and made the trade for him. The Hornets received Glen Rice, Matt Geiger, and the 6th overall pick in the 1996 Draft (Kobe Bryant or Vlade Divac depending on how you want to look at it) in exchange for Zo in and a few reserves.

Mourning was drafted 2nd overall behind Shaq in the 1992 draft. While Zo was in his rookie season in 1993 he was elected to the all-rookie team and with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks ….he was just 7 blocks shy of averaging a triple double! He is also responsible for the single greatest shot in the history of the Hornets franchise. On May 5th, 1993 against the Boston Celtics in game 4 of the first round of the playoffs Zo jacked up a 20-foot buzzer beater in Charlotte Coliseum that would win the series for the Hornets and send them to the second round to face the Knicks.

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In Zo’s final season as a member of the Hornets in 1994-1995 he lead the team in points, rebounds, blocked shots, field goal percentage and made his first ever appearance in the NBA All-Star Game. Alonzo still currently holds the Hornets franchise records for most blocks with a grand total of 684. Zo was inducted into Naismith the Hall of Fame on August 8th of 2014, where he elected to wear a teal shirt and purple tie….coincidence? We think not.

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pic via miamisports.org

I am glad to see Zo receiving the recognition he deserves. Now if we could just get this franchise to recognize a few more greats like *cough* *cough* Muggsy, Grandmama, Baron and Glen Rice to name a few!

 

Hornets - Alonzo Mourning, Mugsy Bogues, Dell Curry and , Larry Johnson 1995

2 down…4 to go!

 

The Return of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

By Trace Walker ()

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(hornets.com)

On October 3, Gilchrist suffered a separated right shoulder during a preseason game against the Orlando Magic. Doctors said that the Hornet forward would not make it back to play in the 15-16 season, but Gilchrist recovered much faster, and is back before the all-star game.

In his first game back, Gilchrist had a solid debut, finishing with 13 points and 7 rebounds. Although, the Hornets didn’t have enough fire power to take down the Blazers.

In his second game back, Michael really found his shot. His new shot. The biggest limiting  factor in his success in the NBA, has been his shot, which has been ridiculed for it’s poor form. CUwdWILU8AASkUyBut Gilchrist has worked to completely rebuild his shot. In 2013, the Hornets hired NBA great, Mark Price, as a full-time assistant. Known as one of the best shooters in league history, Price’s job was to build Gilchrist a jump shot. You can read the full story of Gilchrist’s shot in a fantastic article by Lee Jenkins, found here:  http://www.si.com/nba/2015/02/05/michael-kidd-gilchrist-hornets-kentucky-shot-voice

In Sunday nights win against the Lakers, Gilchrist displayed this new shot. Michael finished the game with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and three assist. The most impressive part of the night was that he also hit two three pointers. Two three pointers. This may not seem very significant as we are in an era where Stephen Curry averages five a game. But for Gilchrist, this is a huge stepping stone.

Previously to Sunday night, Kidd-Gilchrist had played in 196 NBA games. In those 196 games, he made 3 three pointers. That’s right, three.

In the matchup against the Lakers, Gilchrist nearly matched his career total in three pointers. His new and improved shot should make Hornet fans very excited. Gilchrist is already one of the best defenders in the NBA, an excellent rebounder, and extremely athletic. If you add a jump shot in there, he may be on his way to NBA stardom. After being selected second in the draft, Gilchrist hasn’t quite found his niche in the NBA. Especially in comparison to the number one pick and former Kentucky teammate, Anthony Davis. Now with a new shot, Michael may finally find his place in the league.

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What Cam Newton Taught the Carolinas About White Privilege

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As told by some white boys from the Carolinas lol

Why do people hate Cam Newton?

  1. He is not on your team– I will admit that if this man was not on the Carolina Panthers and was on the Atlanta Falcons I would find no greater joy than in stopping him (because he is unstoppable).
  2. He does it differently– This is for the football purists and non-millennials that love a simple drop back QB that is a “game manager”. They want a quarterback that is the silent leader, a general leading his troops who supplants his own personality for that of the team. (Even though they would more than likely have loved Joe Namath or Dandy Don) They don’t want to see Cam come in and change the game and win because that goes against everything in “the book”. Fair enough. We are about to witness Super Bowl 50 and possibly the changing of the guards. Times are changing in the NFL, as are the styles of play. The future will probably hold more quarterbacks like Cam Newton and fewer like Peyton Manning.
  3. Race– Okay. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. This is certainly not the only piece of the puzzle, but we believe this is the part that white people (we are two white guys) want to sweep under the rug and ignore or we believe that it is not our place to talk about it. Being able to ignore white privilege and not talk about white privilege is…well… white privilege.

The time has come to ask ourselves why is it when a white player celebrates in a sport people laugh it off and call him confident, BUT when a black player does they are labeled cocky, and people shake their heads in disapproval and call it “showboating”? Just maybe, Cam Newton is helping shine a light on this double standard for a lot of white people in the Carolinas. We love him and we are seeking to understand why it’s not universal.
We see this man every week doing things like hosting dinners for underprivileged youth in Charlotte. We see him visit and connect with children with cancer. We see him donate thousands of dollars to schools. We see him visit the families of the victims in Charleston. We see a “ man that has never been convicted of a crime while playing for Carolina, a man that has never abused or beat up his girlfriend, a man never convicted of a drug charge or DUI, a man never arrested.”(Marlon Jones) and we turn around to the world with pride only to hear him called “classless”. We are left incredulous and we want to know why this is happening!

Do they hate him because of a smile and a dance or is seeing a successful man of color in a position of power subconsciously scaring them? It’s a question worth asking, not just of others, but of ourselves.

Are we witnessing a watershed moment? White people on social media, on the radio and at the bars in Charlotte are having open discussions about how race is playing a role in how a man we adore is perceived outside this community. We are having to confront the fact that it is unfair and that if he were white this would likely not be happening. We are asking ourselves about our own feelings in past situations. White men (and women) are talking about white privilege, and in a southern town no the less!

“BUT He stole a laptop in college!” Yea and Peyton Manning was sued for pulling down his pants and sitting on a trainer’s face when she was working on his foot ( I’m sure all of us are proud of everything we did when we were 19 and 20. Right?) We won’t even go into the HGH investigation . You probably won’t see people mention these things on facebook, but you will see how “Cam should pay attention this week because Peyton can teach him a thing or two about class.” Why? Because he is an older white man and you are more comfortable with that?

Cam was viewed as a “thug” from the beginning of his career and he was put in the position of having to disprove prejudices and stereotypes. Once again, he’s guilty until he proves himself innocent. Though the perception of him may slowly be changing, the people of the Carolinas are left wondering why it seems to have taken him longer to win the favor of the public.

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P.S. Maybe Ryan Clark can put into perspective for you….

It is not as much his black skin but his culture. The fact he has not adhered to the typical white Quarterback culture and has remained himself.

“For so many years black qbs didn’t have to conform to a way of playing quarterback. They had to conform to a way of behavior”- Ryan Clark

Hornets Survive Double OT

By Trace Walker ()

After a slow stretch, the Hornets are starting to build momentum, winning four of their last five games. The team has managed to do so even with injuries to Cody Zeller, Nic Batum, Al Jefferson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Jeremy Lamb.

Charlotte’s first stop on their four game Western road trip was to Sacramento to visit the Kings. The last meeting between the Kings was November 23 in Charlotte, a game which the Hornets took in overtime.CZlukVyWkAAel0P.jpg

The game didn’t look too promising as the Hornets found themselves down by 15 at the end of the first. But the team found their way back, led in scoring by Troy Daniels, Kemba Walker, Marvin Williams, and Jeremy Lin, all of whom had over 20 points. It was also an impressive night for Spencer Hawes, who has stepped up lately, he had 18 while going 4-5 from three.

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(http://goo.gl/BvWfmm)

The end of the game was interesting for the Hornets because of the mass foul trouble DeMarcus Cousins had gotten the Charlotte big men in. Marvin Williams, Spencer Hawes, and Tyler Hansbrough  all fouled out. In overtime and double OT, the Hornets had to run one of the smallest lineups I’ve ever seen them run. The five on the floor featured Kemba, Jeremy Lin, Troy Daniels, P.J. Hairston, and Frank Kaminsky.

At the end of the fourth, the Hornets took a five point lead on Kemba free throws that was quickly washed away by a DeMarcus Cousins dunk and a Rudy Gay layup. With five seconds left, Cousins made two free-throws to put the Kings up by one. The Hornets got the ball back with a chance to win, Kemba drove to the basket, and draws a foul with .06 seconds left.

Two free throws. Kemba makes both, and it’s game over. Previously to those free throws, Walker had made his last 32 of 35 FTs. He made the first, but unfortunately could not convert the second, which sent the game to overtime.

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(https://goo.gl/DOXdB1)

At the end of the first overtime, the Hornets had another chance to put the game away. Kemba drove to the basketball, but was blocked by Cauley-Stein with one second left. The Kings inbounded the ball, but turned it over, giving the Hornets yet another change, but Kemba was unable to get off a good shot.

In the second overtime, Rudy Gay was fouled while shooting a three. He then missed two of his three free throws due to his eye barely being open. Untitled

After fouling out three Hornets, Cousins finally fouled out in the second overtime. This was big for Charlotte as their biggest player on the floor was Frank Kaminsky.

With 12 seconds left, the Hornets were down by two with the ball. On the inbounds play, Troy Daniels catches the pass and immediately throws up a shot. At first I was wondering why he would shoot that early in the possession, but then he drained it!

The Kings didn’t have an answer for the ice cold Daniels. So Hornets win!

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(http://goo.gl/MOsOXB)

Although I’m thrilled the Hornets pulled off the win, you have to pay respect to Boogie for his monster game. The man just could not be stopped by anything, other than 6 fouls. Cousins finished the game with 56 points and 12 rebounds. DeMarcus has 104 points in his last two games. Also, Rajon Rondo finished the game with 20 assist.

Kemba Walker was named Eastern player of the week, while DeMarcus was named Western player of the week. On this night Kemba struggled though, shooting a mere 5-25 from the field. Luckily for the Hornets, another guard stepped up in his place, Troy Daniels. Daniels was on fire, having a career high 28 points.

Coming up, the Hornets have three more games on their west coast trip. Wednesday night the team will travel to Utah to take on the Jazz. The Hornets need a win to get back to .500.

High Stakes Offensive Shootout: NFC Championship Preview: Cardinals at Panthers

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Photo Credit: CalvinAyre.com

By Jason Sharpe

After their nail-bitter NFC Division Round victory – the closest embodiment of the “Cardiac Cats” nickname I’ve ever witnessed – the NFC top-seeded Panthers host the second-seeded NFC Division Round-winning Cardinals on Sunday at 6:40 P.M. with the NFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl on the line

CHARLOTTE N.C. – The Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals have not met on the field since the NFC Wildcard Round of the playoffs last season. The Panthers were able to eek out a victory over the Cardinals with a dominant second half, riding a third quarter comeback and a fourth quarter defensive stand to grind out a 27-16 win in and all-around sloppy game by both teams. Thinking back on the game, it was more like watching a preseason game than a postseason game. Yes, both teams played that bad. However, the postseason matchup between the Panthers and the Cardinals is different. The NFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl are on the line.

Coming off a nail-bitter victory in the NFC Division Round, the NFC top-seeded Panthers host the second-seeded NFC Division Round-winning Cardinals at The Bank for the NFC Championship. Last week’s victory over the Seattle Seahawks was the most nerve-racking and unprecedented 31-0 lead at halftime football game ever I’ve ever seen. But the “Cardiac Cats” pulled it out, and that’s all that matters. According to Yahoo! Sports writer @jaybusbee, Cam Newton summed up the second half of the game, saying, “There were lots of players with their butts tight. Coaches with their butts tight. Fans with their butts tight. But we kept playing.” One of my good friends from college, @jamberg_,whom I spent many hours talking sports whilst working on the editorial board to churn out two copies of “The Appalachian” per week, offered his own take on Newton’s quote, saying, “My butt could’ve produced diamonds from coal.” Myself, and probably most Panthers fans, can identify with Jake’s commentary.

The “Cardiac Cats” can’t show up to The Bank on Sunday like they did last week. If the offense is held to scoring no second half points, the Cardinals will win the NFC Championship and punch their ticket to the Super Bowl. However, I expect things to be a very different this week. Both teams will be running out onto the field with a chip on their shoulder. The Panthers are still trying to prove themselves, as many people still doubt them, including the Cardinals and their fans. It just absolutely baffles me why there is still doubt and disdain among many NFL analysts and fans, given their historic season and their current position in this year’s postseason. The Cardinals will come onto the field with a different chip on their shoulder, looking to avenge their loss and dismissal from last year’s postseason at the hands of the Panthers in the NFC Wildcard Round. This game is important to both teams, for very obvious reasons, and it will be an all-out offensive dogfight through the air.

To sum up what to look for in this matchup, be ready for an offensive shootout. The Panthers and Cardinals are the two top-scoring teams in the NFL this season, and both set franchise scoring records. The difference in this game will come down to matching opponents’ scoring drives and clock management while putting together scoring drives. The key to an NFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl for both teams are their quarterbacks – whether or not Newton or Carson Palmer can handle the pressure. Pressure being both when forced out of the pocket – having to read the field while scrambling and make a good decision on the fly – and the pressure of time, remaining cool, calm and collective until the clock hits 0:00 in the fourth quarter.

Keys To The Game

Panthers:
1. Limit turnovers. No turnovers would be nice. Any opportunity gifted to the Cardinals’ offense often ends up with points on the scoreboard.
2. Set the offensive tone early. Mix up offensive play calling from the get-go to establish the ground game. Very simple, the Panthers must be able to pick up yards by grinding it out in the trenches. Look for the Panthers to try and established the run game via read option plays, which has constantly kept opposing defenses guessing, which Jonathan Stewart and company have taken advantage of when Cam Newton lets them keep the ball and find the hole for the medium to long gain on the ground. With the Cardinals’ defense expected to blitz on most plays to put pressure on Newton, the Panthers can take advantage of this via read option plays, keeping the Cardinals’ defense guessing.
3. The Panthers must hand the ball off to Jonathan Stewart often – specifically on the opening offensive drive – to establish his confidence. We saw the result of that after his 59-yard pickup on the first snap of the NFC Division Round last week, as he made the Seahawks’ defense look silly throughout the first half.
4. Pick up the blitz. The Cardinals blitz more than any team in the NFL. They are confident in their man-to-man coverage. I argue they are overconfident. The Cardinals can either live or dye by blitzing on Sunday. If the Panthers’ offensive line can pick up the blitz, they can create opportunities for big plays downfield.
5. The defense must break through the offensive line, on every play. The Panthers’ defense must use their pass-rushing prowess to break through Cardinals’ offensive line, wearing them down over the course of the game, which will lead to less protection and force Palmer to make off-balanced pass attempts.
6. The “X Factor” – force Palmer out of the pocket. Palmer is not a scrambling quarterback. Also, get to Palmer quickly in the pocket. He is surprisingly mobile while under pressure in the pocket, and is good at creating more time for himself. He can be very dangerous if he can find ways to create a few extra seconds to look downfield to find one of many talented receivers the Cardinals possess to come back, adjust to the ball and make the catch. If he has the extra second to step into his throws, the Panthers’ secondary will have their hands full.

Cardinals
1. Generate turnovers. Specifically, force Cam Newton out of the pocket for him to make a split-second decision when throwing on the run. Newton has used better judgment this season when the pocket collapses on pass plays and he is forced to scramble and/or throw on the run. However, there is still the chance that Newton will try to force a big play in a tightly covered area, which has historically led to interceptions.
2. Stop the Panthers on third down, specifically on third and long pass plays when Newton sees nothing down field, and decides to tuck it and run. During these situations, Newton has been a huge factor this season for the Panthers to continue drives in close games.
3. Be able to contain Newton on when the pocket collapses and he makes the decision to tuck and run. The Cardinals must be able to bring Newton down, and at 6’5” and 245 lbs, he is larger than a majority of players on the Cardinals’ roster. The Cardinals’ defense must be able to quickly wrap up and tackle him.
4.Blitz, but be able to quickly sniff out and adjust to the read option plays, and shut them down. Newton and Jonathan Stewart and company have become extremely synchronized in running the read option. When they establish the ground game early through Newton handing the ball of to the running backs in the read option, it normally leads to medium to long yards gained on the ground. A “QB/RB Spy” must be incorporated in most defensive plays to achieve this.
5. Fully utilize Patrick Peterson on special teams and on defense coverage. He is one of the most dangerous kick returners and cornerbacks in the NFL.
6. The “X Factor” – the offensive line must give Palmer time in the pocket to utilize has cannon of an arm. With the many talented receivers the Cardinals’ possess, Palmer must have the time to look down field. Given the Panthers’ injury-plagued secondary, Palmer must have the extra few seconds to find the open receiver or read the defense to create a play through the air for one of the Cardinals’ wide receivers. If the offensive line can achieve this, Palmer will be able to pick apart the Panthers’ secondary all day.