The Arizona Cardinals' dream of playing on their home field in the Super Bowl ended on Saturday (January 3) as they lost 27-16 at the Carolina Panthers in the first NFC game and the Baltimore Ravens ended the Pittsburgh Steelers season 30-17 in the AFC wildcard matchup.

A highly promising season was disrupted when starting quarterback Carson Palmer suffered a season-ending knee injury on November 9. It got worse. Back-up Drew Stanton took over and kept the Cardinals on track before he sprained a right knee in a win over the St.Louis Rams which took the team to an 11-3 record. That left Cardinals coach Bruce Arians with no choice but to turn to third-stringer Ryan Lindley, who had been brought in from San Diego's practice squad.

Inexperienced and with little time to learn the playbook, Lindley was unable to win the final two regular-season games for Arizona and he looked out of his depth in Saturday's playoff game. The Cardinals (11-6) managed just 78 total net yards, the lowest in the history of the NFL playoffs, and Lindley threw for just 82 yards on 16 of 28 passing with two crucial interceptions down the stretch and four sacks.

In the AFC, the Ravens shut down the Steelers high-powered offense and earned some payback after losing playoff games in 2008 and 2010 at Heinz Field. Joe Flacco passed for 259 yards and two touchdowns and the Ravens defense held the Steelers without a touchdown for three quarters as Baltimore moves on to face the New England Patriots in next weekend's divisional round.

Baltimore, who only made the playoffs after San Diego lost on the last day of the regular season, pulled away from archrivals Pittsburgh after the Steelers had pulled to 20-15 early in the fourth on a Ben Roethlisberger touchdown pass. An intercepted Roethlisberger throw led to the Ravens' clinching touchdown, putting Baltimore up 30-15. The Steelers missed the running and pass catching of injured running back Le'Veon Bell and were held to three field goals in the first half.


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Panthers, Ravens Win NFL Wild Card Games