Cardinals’ 7 turnovers lead to loss in NFC title game

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Carson Palmer couldn’t hold onto the football against a relentless defense, causing one of the NFL’s best offenses to sputter.

And his defense couldn’t come up with the hard-hitting stops needed to salvage any momentum.

The Arizona Cardinals picked a terrible time – on the road in the NFC championship game, no less – to have a mistake-filled performance.

Palmer had six of the Cardinals’ seven turnovers while the defense had a couple of key missed tackles that led to big plays in the Carolina Panthers’ 49-15 win on Sunday night, sending the Panthers to their second Super Bowl while ending what had been the Cardinals’ winningest season with a thud.

Palmer threw four interceptions and was stripped for a pair of fumbles, while All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson fumbled a punt return in the first half. And many of those miscues helped Carolina roll to a 24-7 halftime lead with an outcome that was – shockingly – never in doubt.

Arizona’s 13 regular-season wins allowed them to dethrone the two-time NFC champion Seattle Seahawks as NFC West champions, and the Cardinals were in contention for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs until losing at home in a blowout to the Seahawks in the regular-season finale.

Still, they entered the playoffs as maybe the most complete team in the league. They had the league’s No. 2 scoring offense (30.6 points) and top total offense (408.3 yards), while the defense ranked in the top 10 in both scoring (19.6) and total defense (321.7).

That group never showed up in Charlotte.

Palmer was inconsistent in earning his first career playoff win in last week’s overtime thriller against Green Bay in the divisional round. He struggled throughout on Sunday night, constantly shuffling against the oncoming rush and never looking comfortable.

He finished 23 for 40 for 235 yards with one touchdown, throwing a late pick-6 to Luke Kuechly followed by another interception as the game turned into a rout.

Meanwhile, Arizona’s defense allowed several big plays. It started early when cornerback Justin Bethel missed a chance to bring down Ted Ginn Jr. near the line of scrimmage, and Ginn weaved his way across the field for a 22-yard touchdown for Carolina’s first score in the opening quarter.

It was the start of what turned out to be a horrific game, with Arizona giving up more points than it had all season.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s NFL site at http://pro32.ap.org

Bennett doesn’t fear backlash for skipping White House trip

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HOUSTON (AP) Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett says he is not worried about upsetting team owner Robert Kraft by not attending New England’s trip to the White House as Super Bowl champions.

Bennett said after the Patriots’ 34-28 win over the Falcons on Sunday night that he’s “not going to go” to the traditional meet-and-greet with the president. It will be the first visit of a Super Bowl champion to Washington since Donald Trump was sworn into office.

Trump’s positions have alienated some athletes, which has raised questions about whether some might choose to skip the trip while the new president is in office.

But Bennett said he isn’t concerned about it and thinks the team believes “in whatever I want to do.”

Kraft is a supporter of Trump and attended a celebration dinner in Washington for him the night before his inauguration.

Patriots’ Tom Brady earns 4th Super Bowl MVP trophy with epic comeback

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HOUSTON (AP) The greatest quarterback in NFL history led the biggest Super Bowl comeback to be the MVP on Sunday night.

Tom Brady rallied New England from a 25-point third-quarter deficit for a 34-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history to earn his fifth Super Bowl title and fourth MVP trophy.

“They’re all sweet,” he said. “They’re all different and this was just an incredible team and I’m just happy to be a part of it,” he said.

Brady threw touchdown passes of 5 and 6 yards in the second half and tied things at 28-28 when he connected withDanny Amendola on a 2-point conversion with 57 seconds left.

He then directed the drive in overtime which ended with a 2-yard run by James White to make the Patriots the first team to win a Super Bowl after trailing by more than 10 points.

“We all brought each other back,” he said. “We never felt out of it. It was a tough battle.”

His performance certainly wasn’t without its struggles. His incredible second half and overtime came after a first half where the Patriots managed just three points and he threw an interception which Robert Alford returned 82 yards for a touchdown. He was hurried and harassed for much of the games. The Falcons sacked him five times and hit him on another eight occasions.

He noted the beating he took when he was trying to recount the details of the comeback and couldn’t remember what the score was at one point in the rally.

“There was a lot of (stuff) that happened tonight,” he said. “I got hit pretty hard.”

His 466 yards passing are a Super Bowl record, surpassing the 414 yards Kurt Warner had 17 years ago. He also set a record for most passes completed in a Super Bowl with 43 and most attempts with 62.

He is the first to play in seven Super Bowls and the victory ties him with Charles Haley for most Super Bowl rings.

After all Brady has done in his career, was this his finest moment?

“Tom’s had a lot of great ones,” coach Bill Belichick said. “But, yeah tonight was one of them.”

It’s a triumphant end to a difficult season for Brady, who missed the first four games because of his “Deflategate” suspension and dealt with his mother Galynn Brady suffering through an undisclosed illness. The Super Bowl was the first game she’s attended all season.

“They’re all happy,” he said fighting back tears. “It’s nice to have everybody here and it’s going to be a great celebration tonight.”

He shared a quick moment with her right after the game, but was looking forward to more time with her in the upcoming days.

“It’s kind of madness after the game so I didn’t get much quality time with her but we’ll get it this week,” he said.

But he certainly wasn’t asking for sympathy for his rough road to this title though, chuckling when someone asked about the adversity the Patriots have gone through in the past couple of years.

“We’ve done pretty good over the last few years … so I don’t think anyone’s feeling bad for the Patriots,” he said. “I don’t think anyone feels bad for the Patriots.”

Brady also collected the MVP trophy in 2001, 2003 and 2014.

“It was just a lot of mental toughness by our team and we’re going to remember this one for the rest of our lives,” Brady said.

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