It's nearly time for the Carolina Panthers to take on the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, the big game scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 7. The Panthers are a relatively new franchise, and while it won't be its first appearance in the championship game, the team's Super Bowl history is limited. Carolina has played in the big game just once, and it ended in heartbreak.
North Carolina was awarded an expansion franchise by the NFL Oct. 26, 1993, and played its first season in 1995, finishing with a middling 7-9 record. The following season the team had a great second year in the NFL, finishing the regular season 12-4 and advancing to the NFC Championship game. The season came to a close after the squad lost to the eventual champion Green Bay Packers 30-13.
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The next six seasons brought a range of results that teetered between mediocre and awful. The team missed the playoffs each season, never finished above a .500 winning percentage and won just a single game in 2001. The season after going 1-15, the Panthers rebounded to go 7-9, but still missed the playoffs.
Then came the 2003-2004 season, which, until this year, proved to be Carolina's best. Led by quarterback Jake Delhomme in his first year as an NFL starter, the Panthers went 11-5. They advanced to the Super Bowl by beating the Philadelphia Eagles 14-3 in the NFC Championship Game. The Super Bowl brought heartache, however. They took on the New England Patriots and entered the game as heavy underdogs. But the matchup turned into a thriller. It took a last-minute drive led by quarterback Tom Brady and a 41-yard field goal from kicker Adam Vinatieri with four seconds remaining for the Patriots to outlast Carolina 32-29.
The Panthers would make it back to the conference championship in the 2005-2006 season, but would never again make it to the Super Bowl until this season, made possible with last Sunday's 49-15 blowout of the Arizona Cardinals. The Panthers, led by presumptive MVP quarterback Cam Newton, hope for a better result this season than they had when Delhomme's Panthers fell to the Patriots. Likely boosting the hopes of Carolina fans, Delhomme himself said the 2015 squad would beat his team that was three points from winning it all. He marveled at the fact that the Panthers went 15-1 in the regular season and made short work of a talented Cardinals team in their latest matchup.
"This team right now looks like they're on a different planet," Delhomme said to ESPN.