The Cardinals have made games against Carolina a habit over the past few years. In coach Ken Whisenhunt’s four previous seasons in Arizona, the Cards have faced the Panthers five times, with three of them having memorable side themes. There was the Panthers’ 25-10 win in Arizona in 2007, a game in which the Cards looked to have a massive advantage since Vinnie Testaverde was quarterbacking Carolina with only three days of practice — only to see Kurt Warner’s elbow get mangled by Julius Peppers early in the game, forcing Tim Rattay to play Rattay also had only three days of practice.
In 2008, the Cards had a close 27-23 loss in Carolina early in the season, a missed opportunity that only served to help with a playoff rematch later that year — the 33-13 Cards’ thrashing in Carolina where Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme had six turnovers and had his career derailed in one signature night.
In 2009, the Cards lost, 34-21, at home when Warner had one of his once-in-a-while meltdown games in which he threw five interceptions. Then came last years’ disappointment, a 19-12 loss in Carolina when the Panthers were headed to the worst record in football.
(It’s odd the Cards keep drawing the Panthers yearly, since it is certainly not automatic.)
This year, though, is different. Every meeting previous Carolina had John Fox as head coach. Now the Panthers finally have made a change, with Ron Rivera as boss (and rookie quarterback Cam Newton as the unquestioned starter). The first game always is a challenge anyway, since teams don’t show as much in the preseason. Doing it now, with a new coaching staff, makes it harder.
“We are watching a lot of San Diego stuff from last year,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said, noting Rivera was the coordinator of the Chargers’ No. 1 defense last season. “Logic will say he will run some of the things he did last year.”
(On the flip side, Newton said the Panthers are watching film of the Steelers to get a sense of what new Cards DC Ray Horton will do — and the Panthers benefit because they just played the Steelers in a preseason game, Newton added.)
Whisenhunt said the Cards just have to be flexible as the game goes on to account for the “new” Panthers.
“This first game is always a little bit different, and probably not game planning in the preseason will help us from the standpoint of having to adjust and being ready to adjust,” Whisenhunt said. “We talked about that during the course of preparing for opponents during the preseason. You’re going to get to go against a team you don’t know exactly what they’re going to do. You don’t know if what they’ve shown in preseason is what they’re going to show in the regular season, but that’s the way it can be every Sunday in the NFL. Making adjustments is going to be key to us having success Sunday.”
Tags: Cam Newton, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Fitzgerald, Panthers, Ron Rivera
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