The Panthers, for a while, seemed to be on the Cardinals’ schedule every season.
But there is something about this game that makes it hard to think about any Carolina-Arizona matchup other than the one two years ago – the last time the teams met, which, like Sunday, also happened to be at University of Phoenix Stadium. It was the lockout season, football had ramped up to 100 miles an hour in no time, and the Cardinals had a massive player overhaul that hadn’t really started until the lockout ended. That meant a roster upheaval that had been a month in the making.
But mostly, there were three players that stood out that day, three guys who should once again play a big role Sunday. On Carolina’s side, there is quarterback Cam Newton, who threw for 422 yards (although it was against a defense that didn’t really know what it was doing under new DC Ray Horton after the lockout, and it showed) and proved quickly he was worthy of the No. 1 overall pick.
On the Cards’ side, linebacker Daryl Washington had a huge game. It was the first time Washington really flashed his star potential. It’s fitting that it’s the Panthers against whom he will return this season after his four-game suspension. The Cards need that star once again.
And then there was Patrick Peterson, who won the game with an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown and, like Newton, showed right away that a star was born. It’s been a while since Peterson has made any waves as a punt returner, but as he showed last week, two interceptions that basically won the game for the Cards.
If the Cards can have the same equation of players stand out again Sunday, they should end up above .500 for the first time this season.
— I would expect Larry Fitzgerald to be targeted a few times in the first half Sunday. I don’t see the Cards getting locked into another situation where the halftime adjustments include making sure you start throwing to the top offensive weapon.
— Because practice is closed, and because Bradley Sowell didn’t join the team until after training camp – and thusly, after practices were closed – I have zero idea how he might hold up at left tackle. Obviously Steve Keim and Bruce Arians don’t make the move on Levi Brown unless they had someone they felt they could turn to. It’s not like last year when Brown got hurt and the Cards were forced to make a change. My guess is they took a month to not only assess Brown but also Sowell.
— All that said, like Keim noted Wednesday, Sowell is going to give up some plays. But the offensive line has to pick it up as does the offense. Whatever the unit’s issues are, the current level of play is not going to have a chance against all the playoff teams coming up on the schedule.
— Don’t forget about the bag policy. It should be in everyone’s head by now, but just in case …
— The Cardinals will be wearing their black uniforms. That’s good, because it’s also the breast cancer awareness game and frankly, the pink goes much better with black than red.
— I think Daryn Colledge finds a way to start at left guard with his shin injury. But Earl Watford is now working as Colledge’s backup now that Brown is gone, Sowell was promoted and Nate Potter was moved back to work more at left tackle as backup.
— With as much as the Cardinals have struggled on third downs, does that ever become a mental hurdle for the unit, a “here we go again” issue? Fitzgerald couldn’t say no fast enough.
“You can’t ever allow doubt to slip into your mind,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s how you have to be wired to play this game.”
— The Panthers have the third-ranked rushing offense. The Cards have the second-ranked rush defense. Something is going to give. I know that the Cards’ defenders take great pride in that ranking.
— If something happened to Newton – not that anyone wishes such – the Panthers would turn to backup Derek Anderson. That would be interesting. You know he takes this, um, stuff serious.
Then again, who doesn’t? See you Sunday.
Tags: black uniforms, Bradley Sowell, Cam Newton, Daryl Washington, Derek Anderson, Larry Fitzgerald, Panthers, Patrick Peterson
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