About that hyper-conservative approach the Arizona Cardinals took in the first half against the Green Bay Packers.
You won’t see that again. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians promised as much Monday, saying quarterback Carson Palmer played out of character.
“This was a game where he picked a lot of shorter completions early, instead of going for them like we normally do,” Arians said. “I think that was part of, ‘I don’t want to screw this up.’ Now that we don’t have to worry about doing that anymore, we can go back to being ourselves.”
Saturday was Palmer’s first playoff victory in three career starts. He completed eight of 14 passes in that first half for just 74 yards. And conservative play-calling didn’t keep Palmer safe from Green Bay’s pass rush; he was sacked three times.
Arians acknowledged the Cardinals will have to be more daring in their play-calling against the Panthers because the opposing offense is so dynamic.
“The first quarter is going to be very important for us,” Arians said, noting what a quick jump the Panthers got on the Seattle Seahawks Sunday to lead 31-0.
Arians said the contrast between Palmer and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is significant. Palmer is a conventional drop-back passer. Newton’s size, strength and running ability is something unique in the NFL and so difficult to contain.
“Well, it’s kind of like back in college, getting ready for a wishbone team. You don’t see the quarterback in this league run the power very often,” Arians said.
“They give you so many different, unique sets that you have to account for two-back runs because you’ve got a tight end back there running the ball that you’ve got to bring down. It’s so much different (from preparing for the Packers). They do run a little read option, but it’s not like designed runs for the quarterback.
“(Newton is) a very special guy in the things you can do with him; because he’s so big and strong, you don’t worry about getting hurt running the football with him.”
Arians addressed several topics in a half-hour news conference Monday at the Cardinals’ training facility:
On whether the beaten-up turf at Bank of America Stadium concerns him: “I don’t care if we’re playing in a parking lot. It’s the championship. Be aware of it and have the proper shoes.”
On the Cardinals’ health coming out of an ovetime victory over the Packers: “We came out pretty clean. No major injuries to speak of yet. Just some normal bumps and bruises.”
On what impressed him most about the Panthers’ victory over the Seahawks: “How fast they started – the passion, the energy they came out with.”
On what’s ailing the Cardinals’ running game (they rushed for just 40 yards Saturday): “Getting their (butts) kicked up front. It’s not anything David (Johnson) is doing. There’s just not a lot of holes there, and we have to do a better job. It’s a tough challenge this week.”
On Luke Kuechly, who Arians calls the NFL’s best linebacker: “Well, he’s got great instincts, but he can run. He’s really fast. What he really is, he’s a great pass defender. People see all the tackles, but (the defensive linemen) do a great job of keeping him clean, to make the tackles. But, he’s a great pass defense guy.”
On the effect if Panthers defensive lineman Jared Allen (foot injury) can’t play: “They’ve got good depth. Mario Addison gave us problems last year, and I’m not sure there’s a drop-off there.”
On preparing for all of the Panthers’ offensive wrinkles: “The first quarter for us is going to be very, very critical because there will be some different things, and being able to recognize things and play at that speed is different than practice.”
On whether there’s anything to be learned from last season’s Panthers-Cardinals playoff game: “There really isn’t anything to compare with last year, other than we played Carolina at their place. They’re a different football team. We’re a totally different team.”
Bonnell: 704-359-5129; @rick_bonnell
Sunday, Jan. 24
New England at Denver, 3:05 (CBS)
Arizona at Carolina, 6:40 (Fox)
Super Bowl 50
Sunday, Feb. 7
At Santa Clara, Calif.