CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers were at the pinnacle of their game the last time they faced the Arizona Cardinals in January.
Newton threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more as the Panthers walloped the Cardinals 49-15 in the NFC championship to advance to the franchise's second Super Bowl. But things have gone downhill since for Carolina (1-5), which enters Sunday's rematch against Arizona (3-3-1) in dire need of a victory and looking to snap a four-game losing streak.
Carolina's offense, which led the league in scoring last season, showed signs of life in a 41-38 loss to the Saints before the bye week in Newton's first game back from a concussion. But the Panthers will face a defense that has been outstanding in recent weeks, limiting the New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks to a combined nine points in the last nine quarters.
Coach Bruce Arians says Arizona's biggest problem in the NFC championship game is it got behind early and began to press under pressure - something the Cardinals can't afford to do on Sunday.