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Cardinals had tied Seattle in OT in a bruising battle the previous Sunday night. Panthers were coming off a Bye Week. Cards have an uphill battle to catch up with and then pass the Seahawks (who enjoy a 1.5 game edge). Panthers were a surprising 1 & 5, having lost to Denver, Minny, Atlanta, Buccos and Saints and convincingly beaten the Niners. Panthers have been banged up, but the Bye week helps heal many physical wounds. The extra week was spent correcting mistakes and dealing with bruised egos. Panthers had something to prove. Cards had something to play for. A must game for the Cards/a desperation game for the Panteras.
Panthers Clobber Cards (Again) 30 - 20.
The Bottom Line:
You could say the Panthers were well rested and the Cards bruised and battered coming off a tough battle with Seattle...and you'd be right. You could say the Walt Coleman-led refs murdered the Cards with horrible calls...and you'd be right. You could claim that the Cards had one day less to prep for Carolina than vice a versa...and you'd be right. You could claim that the OL forgot how to block...and you'd be right. And you could say that Cardinal defenders missed more tackles than they made...and you'd be (etc. etc.)
Starting with an incomplete shovel pass that was ruled a fumble and returned for an early 1Q touchdown, things went pretty much downhill from there, as the Panthers expanded their lead and then hung on to whip the Cardinals convincingly 30 - 20.
Cards looked lethargic especially during the early part of the game The anemic Carolina defense (noted for its inability to rush the passer) sacked Carson Palmer 8 times!!! , but the Cards seemed to regain a bit of their juice to almost make a game of it in the second half. They pulled within 10 points of the lead with a littlle bit more than 3:00 in the 4Q, but a Palmer interception (thrown directly into the numbers Ealey) ended the final Cardinal threat.
But all is not "doom & gloom" - Seattle lost too.
Panthers built up a 24 - 0 lead early in the second quarter. Cards closed the gap to 24 - 7 by halftime, but the Panthers hung on, adding a couple of FG's while limiting the Cards to a couple of TD's.
Cards won the toss and received. TB on KO. They made it out to their 43, but a Palmer shovel pass as he was sacked, ruled a fumble & returned 46 yards for a TD, dug the Cards an early 7 - 0 hole only 3:12 into the football game. Panthers 7 - Cards 0.
TB on the KO. Cards (with Palmer sacked for minus-9) were held to 3 & out). Punt FC at the Panther 41. Penalties moved them back to their 26. Punt was returned by Golden to the Card 22. Holding and grounding calls helped keep the Cards inside their 39. Punt went out of bound at the Carolina 25. Newton engineered a 9 play drive capped by a J Stewart 2-yd TD run off RT. Panthers 14 - Cards 0.
TB on the KO. A holding penalty on Iupati pushed the Cards back to their own 24 as the quarter ended.
1st Quarter Score: Panthers 14 - Cardinals 0.
Cards made it out to their own 26. Quigley's piunt returned by Ginn to the Carolina 35. On the 7th play of the Panther possession, Stewart ran off right tackle for a one-yard score. Panthers 21 - Cards 0.
Ellington returned the KO to the Card 14. A 6-yard sack of Palmer forced a 3 & out. Punt fair caught at the Carolina 40. This time Newton put together a 13 play drive resulting in a Gano 43 yard FG. (We've got them right where we want them - lulling them into a false sense of security). Panthers 24 - Cards 0.
TB on the KO. Palmer put together a 9-play scoring drive featuring 15-yard pass to D Johnson, a 10-yard sack of Palmer, an 11-yard pass to Fitz and a 17-yarder tp Golden and capped with a 17 yard TD pass to Nelson (who leaked out uncovered to the left sideline). Panthers 24 - Cards 7.
0:20 til the half. KO return and one play (mercifully) ended the 1st half.
First Half Score: Panthers 24 - Cardinals 7.
Pantherss received. TB on the KO. Panthers managed to convert their 2H opening possession to a 52-yard Gano FG on the 8th play of the drive. Panthers 27 - Cardinals 7.
TB on the KO. A false start flag on Iupati and a 6-yard sack contributed to a3 & out. Punt FC at the Panther 43. 9 plays later, Gano connected with a 21-yarder. (Whoop-dee doo. We've gotta 30 - 7 football game). Panthers 30 - Cardinals 7.
Palmer came right back with a 10-play touchdown drive, with a Palmer-to-Smokey B 17-yard TD pass narrowing the score. Panthers 30 - Cardinals 14.
TB on the KO. Cards held Carolina to 3 & out. (There's still a whole quarter to play!) Punt was out of bounds at the Cardinal 30. Cards reached their 35 to end the 3Q.
Third Quarter Score: Panthers 30 - Cardinals 14.
A holding call on Watford was followed by an illegal formation penalty. Two plays later, a 27-yard ass to Ellington was nullified by an illegal use of the hands penalty on Humphries and then an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Palmer (who apparently said a bad word to a ref). Quigley's punt was FC at the Panther 17. THe Cards stopped them at the Panther 26. Lee's [imt was returned to the Cardinal 16, but a holding penalty on B Williams pushed the Cards back to their 8-yd line.
Despite all the penalties, Palmer was able to move the Cards to the Panther 4-yard line in 13 plays before hitting Nelson for a 4-yard TD. 2-pointer was no good. Panthers 30 - Cardinals 20
4:49 left. KO downed at the Carolina 26 for no gain. On the third play of the Carolina possession, Stewart's fumble was recovered by Jefferson. Cards ball with 3:19 left (We gotta chance). But on the very next plaay, Palmer threw a pass directly into Easely's arms. The interception was returned to the AZ 44. 3:13 left. Carolina ran down the clock and failed to convert a 4th and goal. Cards ran off one play to end the game.
Final Score: Panthers 30 - Cardinals 20
Notable Game Stats.
Passing: Palmer was 35 for 46, 363 yards 3 TD's and 1 Interceptions. (Newton was 14 for 27, 212 yds, 0 TD's and 0picks).
Rushing: D Johnson gained 24 yards on 10 carries & 0 TD's.. (Stewart picked up 95 yds on 25 carries.
Receiving: Fitz had had 10 grabs for 74 yards and 0 TD's. Nelson had 8 for 79 & 2 Td's. D Johnson caught 7 for 84.
Turnovers: Minus-1. Cards gave away 1 fumbles /1 pick. (Carolina gave away 1 fumble).
Penalties: Cards 10/ Carolina 5
Run/Pass Ratio: Cards: 10/46. (Carolina: 36/27)
Kicking: Catanzaro was 0 for 0 in FG attempts.
Net Punting Yards: Quigley averaged 43.2. (Panther punter averaged 50.3)
Tackles: Bucannon, Campbell and Minter led the Cards with 9 tackles each followed by Swearinger (7) and Minter (5)
Sacks: Cards sacked Newton once (K-Mart). Palmer was sacked 8 times
Interceptions: Palmer was picked off once - by Easely. No Card picks
Third Down Efficiency: Cards were 4 of 12 for 331%. (Carolina was 6 of 14 for 42%).
Red Zone Efficiency: Cards were 3 of 3 - 100%. (Carolina was 2 of 4 for 50%).
Time of Possession: Cards 29:12/ Panthers 30:48
Card rush defense gave up an average of 2.4 per rushing play (Card rushers averaged 3.9)
D Johnson - Didn't run for much yardage, but had one highkight reel catch & run in the 3Q (where he hurdled one defender and juked the next one out of his jock on route to a 14-yard gain).
JJ Nelson - Good hands - made clutch plays when he had to.
Fitz continued to produce like someone 10 years younger.
That's about it.
The Dark Side
Give-away TD on the Cardinal opening drive sucked the momentum right out of the Cardinal sideline.
Pass blocking (or whatever they call it). Cards gave up 8 sacks.
When we saw that Walt Coleman's crew would be our officials, we knew we were in trouble. From the "shovel pass that wasn't" on the opening drive to the Cardinal penalties on three consecutive plays capped off with a fourth "unsportsmanlike" flag on Carson Palmer (for "complaining"), this crew was murder. Memo to Michael B - Suggest you mend whatever fences you may have broken with the League Office. We can't continue to be on the losing side of so many questionable calls.
Tackling was abysmal.
What scheduling geniuses gave Carolina an 8-day edge in prep time? (Panthers had a Bye Week/Cards - after a brutal OT game vs. Seattle - had a 6-day practice week. (Cards didn't look prepared/Carolina seemed to know every play we ran before we ran it).
Palmer's interception in the 4Q is part of a pattern where he just seems to get a brain cramp and throw a short pass directly at a defender. Limiting this type of miscue to just once or twice a game won't cut it. Cards were putting together a modest comeback Palmer's interception sucked all the momentum out of the Cardinals side of the stadium.
The Badger hurt his shoulder.
Yesterday's debacle confirms what we've learned throughout the first half of the season - When certain talented players reveal weaknesses - whether it be throwing without looking into the arms of a defender to failing to wrap up tackles in the open field to ignoring a rusher coming off the edge - those weaknesses hard hard to fix permanently. Invariably (& usually during the most stressful times in a game) these weaknesses will resurface and come back to bite us in the butt.
Remedying these problems aren't easy - there are three ways to deal with them: (1) change players, (2) take these weaknesses super-seriously and work very hard every day to fix them or (3) change schemes to help out players who are struggling.
It didn't help that the Panthers had an extra week to study film & work on figuring out the Cardinals and their tendencies, while the Cards had to suck up a gut-wrenching OT tie with Seattle and work within the framework of a 6-day workweek. (Cards looked tired and unprepared. Carolina seemed to know our plays better than we did.
And it didn't help to be penalized 10 times - twice as often as the Panthers - while the Panthers (many of whom would win the waltzing title in "Dancing With the Stars") were only flagged 5 times.
But my point isn't that. while whining about this isfruitless, the team and its coaches should realize that unfairness by the NFL is a fact of life, and if we want to succeed, we'll have to manage our weaknesses and deal with lopsided scheduling and officiating.
It should be "El Forko Dunno" time for the Cardinals, but Seattle (who lost to NO yesterday) keeps making things interesting - we're still within reach (& play them again near the end of the season).
It's full-grind, heads-down time. And it still may not be enough. But that's about all we can do. Each year, a couple of teams like ours "lucks" their way into the playoffs. Why not us?