Cam Newton caused a bit of controversy following last Sunday’s playoff win over the Seahawks, grabbing a “12th Man” flag and throwing it to the ground.
Of course, it was only controversial if you’re a Seahawks fan – or if you dislike the Panthers.
“You know what? Cam had a little thing earlier in the year where he tore down a Green Bay Packers flag that was in our stadium as well,” Panthers sideline reporter Jordan Gross said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think that Cam cares about his teammates, he cares about winning, and he honestly isn’t concerned with scrutiny from the outside. And when your quarterback goes and he takes down a Green Bay Packers sign and says, ‘We got to protect our house,’ or he takes down a ‘12th Man’ sign and he knows he might get fined for it or catch some scrutiny, internally that motivates his teammates and his coaches. That gives them more pride in their house. That gives them a whole sense of defending what is ours. Cam, he’s doing it, man. He’s not hurting anybody, and it does a lot to motivate his team.”
Motivation shouldn’t be a problem this Sunday, as Carolina hosts Arizona in the NFC Championship. The Cardinals have won 10 of their last 11 games, including a wild overtime win over Green Bay this past Saturday.
Arizona led the league in total offense this season and finished second in passing offense and scoring offense. That kind of aerial attack could pose problems for the Panthers.
“Well, I think if you’re going have a weapon that’s going to give the Carolina defense trouble, you would have a very accurate passer and very good wide receivers,” Gross said. “The Panthers, we’ve suffered a lot of injuries in the secondary, so now you’ve got Robert McClain and Cortland Finnegan on the field, whereas originally you had Charles Tillman and (Bene) Benwikere. So we’re on second- and third-string now in our secondary and you bring the Cardinals in and they have all the talent they have at wide receiver, well, that’s the formula that is going to cause problems. . . . I think our front four needs to be disruptive with their pass rush alone, so we can keep our secondary (in tact) and drop as many guys as we can (in pass coverage).”
Carson Palmer was shaky at times against Green Bay, throwing a pair of interceptions in big moments. But he also finished with 349 passing yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner to Larry Fitzgerald.
Still, if the Panthers can limit Palmer in the passing game, they have a great chance of playing in their first Super Bowl since February 2004.
Gross was a rookie on that Carolina squad.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been to the Super Bowl,” he said. “It was a different season because we went 11-5. There was a stretch where we lost three in a row. We had five overtime wins that year. So the team, the city, the area really earned that playoff win. We beat the Cowboys at home in the first round and everybody was so excited because we won a playoff game. But this year, it’s different. Because the team won 15 games in the regular season, it’s almost as if everybody’s so used to winning that they’ve taken for granted a little bit the fact that we’re in the NFC Championship and it’s at home. There were never any hard parts to this season. They lost one game to Atlanta, and then it got quickly erased because the team blew out Tampa Bay. I think this is the first game the fans are really realizing, ‘Oh, my gosh, if we win this game, we go to the Super Bowl.’ It’s crazy to think you can play 17 football games to this point and you’ve only had one week were you didn’t win.”
Kickoff Sunday is at 6:40 p.m. ET.