Well, I suppose I’m not sure exactly what to say in this edition of the Aftermath. I’ll admit I’m stunned after today. I’d never discount a chance at winning or losing but to have it go down the way it did, no, I wouldn’t have guessed that. Then again, I suppose there could have been many who cover the Panthers writing the same thing after the Cards whipped the Panthers last January.
In the end, Sunday boiled down to three main points: The inability to slow the Carolina run game, the turnovers and this odd part of this team’s DNA that seems to keep it on a roller coaster.
– There were a couple things that killed about the Carolina running game, beyond the 270 yards the Panthers got. One, the Cardinals knew it was coming and how could you not? With all the problems Jake Delhomme had had coming in, you had to know the Panthers would do anything possible to not allow Delhomme to self-inflict wounds. He completed only 7-of-14 passes for a mere 90 yards.
As much as the running game hurt, though, think of this: The Cards probably could have survived it. How? Well, one touchdown for Carolina came on that 50-yard freeze-and-go pass to Steve Smith, when the Panthers used Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s gambling nature against him. DRC has to learn that, when on an island like that play, he has to be conservative. Then the Panthers got another touchdown on the next play when Kurt Warner threw the interception (on what really was an amazingly athletic play by Julius Peppers to overcome the cut block and make the pick for six). Without those scores, which had nothing to do with the run game, the Cardinals gave up 20.
That’s not apologizing for anything, or even saying a team can afford to give up that many rushing yards. But …
– That’s where six turnovers can’t be overcome. Warner has had bad games before, and there were a couple of tipped balls Sunday. But he equaled his career-high for picks (five, which he also threw in Seattle in 2007) and the passing game – especially with the receivers – just felt out of sync, even early, before the turnovers started. Can that change in Chicago next week? Hopefully the Windy City will be anything but.
– The ankle injury to Anquan Boldin already is a concern, but maybe it’s moreso now. Boldin is the warrior coach Ken Whisenhunt says he is, but depending how limited he could end up being on this new tweak, maybe the Cards decide to rest Q a week and let a healthy Early Doucet have a shot.
– Then again, if teams keep playing these back-off-and-give-up-underneath coverage, the receivers may not matter as much. Running back Tim Hightower had another eight catches Sunday and it’s become clear that defenses will do whatever they can not to get beat deep by anyone – and by Larry Fitzgerald in particular.
That’s enough for tonight. The silver lining now? You figure the Cards will almost certainly be the road underdog in Chicago next week, a role in which they play very well.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, DRC, Early Doucet, Jake Delhomme, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Panthers
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