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Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer must open up against Carolina Panthers

By The Sports Xchange   |   Jan. 19, 2016 at 1:11 AM
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TEMPE, Ariz. - The NFC Championship will be a contrast in offensive styles. The Arizona Cardinals love to pass, especially deep, while the Carolina Panthers' strength is the running game, including using quarterback Cam Newton.

That makes it one of the most unique offenses in the NFL, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.

"It's kind of like back in college getting ready for a wishbone team," Arians said. "You don't they see the quarterback in this league run the power very often. And so they give you so many different unique sets. You have to account for two-back runs because you've got a tight end (Cam Newton) running the ball. It's so much different."

Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer could not be more different than Newton. Palmer is a classic drop-back quarterback.

Palmer was shaky at times against the Packers, which Arians attributed to nerves. It was Palmer's third playoff game and the first one that he won. It was also Arians' first playoff victory as a head coach.

"I went over and wiped Carson's off his back and he brushed mine off," Arians said. "Those monkeys are good to get rid of."

Arians could tell Palmer was a bit tight last week when it came time to pick plays to use in the first half. Palmer was opting for more short to mid-range throws.

"I think that was part of 'I don't want to screw this up,'" Arians said. "Now that we don't have to worry about doing that anymore, we can go back to being ourselves."

Palmer said he has no ill effects stemming from a dislocated right index finger against Philadelphia in Week 15. Statistics don't suggest a drop-off. Palmer has been intercepted four times since suffering the injury, but he also played against better teams.

He completed 60 percent of his passes since the injury, slightly down from 64 percent before.

Arians isn't happy with the way his offensive line has run blocked in the last few weeks.

"Got our asses kicked," he said on Monday, two days after the Cardinals gained just 40 yards on 19 carries against the Packers.

Arians' teams are 24-5 in one-possession games. That includes a 9-0 record in 2012 as the Colts interim coach and 15-5 in three seasons with the Cardinals.

The Cardinals are 5-0 at home in the post-season including 4-0 at University of Phoenix Stadium. The other victory came against the Eagles in the 1947 championship game.

--Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has 912 receiving yards in eight playoff games, more than anyone else in history. Fitzgerald surpassed 100 yards receiving five times and has 10 touchdowns.

--Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney has nine sacks in 12 games with the Cardinals, including six in the last five games.

--Cornerback Justin Bethel was teary-eyed after the game. He gave up a 60-yard 'Hail Mary' on fourth-and-20 that kept alive Green Bay's final drive. Arians said it will be interesting to see if Bethel bounces back this week. It will show his character.

REPORT CARD VS. PACKERS

--PASSING OFFENSE: B. Carson Palmer passed for three touchdowns but was intercepted twice. Another possible interception was dropped. The protection was not good in the first half. Larry Fitzgerald carried the team late, catching seven passes for 170 yards after halftime. He also scored the game-winning touchdown.

--RUSHING OFFENSE: F. The offensive line was dominated throughout the game. The Cardinals gained just 40 yards on 19 carries. Running back David Johnson had little room.

--PASSING DEFENSE: B. Of Aaron Rodgers' 261 yards, 101 came on two 'Hail Marys' on the last possession. Receivers Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis hurt the Cardinals. Rodgers was sacked just once.

--RUN DEFENSE: D. The Packers gained 135 yards on 22 carries, with Eddie Lacy leading the way with 89 yards on seven carries. The Cardinals overpursued on a few played in the second half and the Packers hurt them by cutting back.

--SPECIAL TEAMS: B. A solid effort all the way around. Drew Butler had a 49-yard net average on three punts. The coverage units were good, and kicker Chandler Catanzaro was perfect on extra points and field goals.

--COACHING: B. Arians can be criticized for calling for a passing play on second down with 2:39 remaining. A run would have taken the clock to the two-minute warning. He can be criticized for ordering defensive coordinator James Bettcher to pressure Aaron Rodgers on the final possession of regulation. But that's how Arians coaches, and it usually works for him. He did it in the first game of this season against the Saints. The Cardinals had a five-point lead with less than two minutes. On second down, they passed to David Johnson, who scored from 55 yards.

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