Arizona Cardinals need to avoid fast Carolina Panthers start
By Scott Allen
The Carolina Panthers got out quickly against the Atlanta Falcons in winner take all game last week
They say it’s all about how you finish, not start, but if you ask the Carolina Panthers, getting out to a big lead early sure does help. The Arizona Cardinals will need to avoid getting into the same first-half hole the Panthers put the Atlanta Falcons in last week, taking a 10-0 first quarter lead and 24-3 halftime lead en route to an easy win.
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The two games the Cardinals lost this season by 20 or more were both close games in the beginning, so there is that to hold hope on. Arizona was down 24-20 to the Denver Broncos going into the fourth quarter before losing 41-20. Just two weeks ago the Cardinals were down 14-6 in the third quarter before seeing the Seattle Seahawks start their 35-6 rout.
Last week against the San Francisco 49ers, quarterback Ryan Lindley, despite some mistakes, kept the game close by moving the offense. He may find a more difficult time doing that on Saturday. Carolina’s defense has given up 10, 17, 13, and 3 points the past four games during their four-game win streak to end the season.
Lindley looks to be the starter again this week, although the Cardinals have not ruled out Drew Stanton for the game as of Thursday morning. This can’t be stressed enough but on the road, in the playoffs, against a defense like Carolina, you can’t turn the ball over. Lindley threw three interceptions against the Niners. It does make Cardinals fans nervous.
Many have the faith he can get the job done though. On Twitter, there is a group trying to establish an unofficial Ryan Lindley Club. It’s a nice gesture and it is good to see fans who haven’t jumped off the bandwagon.
Now, that’s the offense but what about the defense? They will get linebacker Larry Foote back on Saturday. He missed the final regular season game last week but is going to play this week. They need him too. Way too many missed tackles once again hurt the Cardinals at times last Sunday.
The most concerning part of the defense now is stopping the run. Once as recently as mid-November, the Cardinals were third in run defense in the NFL. However after giving up 267 yards on the ground to the Seahawks and 206 to the 49ers, there is a little concern.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton love to run like Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said this week he is actually more concerned about stopping Newton than he was Wilson and Kaepernick. He thinks he is a better athlete than each of those two playmakers.
Game time is 2:35 p.m. Arizona time Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals leave for Charlotte on Friday. Only one more practice on Thursday to get ready for the game. Let’s hope they have a plan in place to keep Newton and the Panthers at bay.