Just How Bad Was Carson Palmer's NFC Championship Performance?
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer had a fantastic season in 2015.
And as the 2 seed in the NFC, Arizona had a great shot at the Super Bowl.
Unfortunately for them, so did the Carolina Panthers, who had home-field advantage and a 59 percent chance to win this game, according to numberFire Live.
The Panthers' seemingly unprecedented dominance got the best of Palmer's Cardinals, and he completed just 23 of 40 passes for 235 yards, 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions, and 2 fumbles.
How did that monstrosity of a game stack up compared to other performances this year?
At numberFire, we have a metric called Net Expected Points (NEP), which digs deeper than just raw stats you'll find in a box score.
Consider -- among many other costly plays -- that Palmer threw an end zone interception to Kurt Coleman with under a minute to go in the first half of a 24-7 game. Also consider that he threw a late-game pick to Luke Kuechly, who returned it for a touchdown.
Those interceptions aren't equal, though you wouldn't know it by simply scoping out his stat line, and NEP works to show how many expected points those plays gained or lost for a team.
In case you're curious, per numberFire Live, the Coleman pick lost Arizona 4.56 points in expected scoring. The pick-six lost the team 6.90 points.
Overall, Palmer finished with a Passing NEP of -14.36.
Of the 511 instances of a quarterback attempting at least 20 pass attempts this season (including playoffs), that ranked 490th. Per play, it was 484th.
Palmer's Passing Success Rate of 48.84 percent (meaning just under half of his drop backs led to positive NEP gains) wasn't awful -- it ranked 190th in this group. But the negative plays were big hits.
His six turnovers -- four interceptions and two fumbles -- resulted in a NEP of -25.64.
For some context, the worst single-game Passing NEP on the year, believe it or not, belonged to Aaron Rodgers, who posted a -24.70 in Week 16 (primarily because of a worst-in-the-sample -22.27 Sack NEP. Palmer's turnovers alone were more costly.
Making matters worse, Palmer and the Cardinals lost 9.18 points on sacks, the 35th-most lost points in the 511-game sample.
As for Palmer, playing below zero on the NEP scale is something he wasn't used to.
He led the NFL in Passing NEP (186.49) this year. Tom Brady was a fairly distant second at 165.92. Palmer's Passing NEP per drop back of 0.33 was second only to Andy Dalton's 0.35. His Success Rate of 52.93 percent was third among all passers with at least 100 drop backs this year.
He also never posted a game this season -- before Sunday -- with a Passing NEP below zero.
No other quarterback who attempted a pass in at least three games could say the same thing.
This was an anomaly for Palmer this season, and it certainly came at the worst time possible.
In his defense, the Panthers owned the second-best pass defense after adjusting for schedule this season, but this performance will forever mar what was otherwise the best passing season by any NFL quarterback this year.