From the beginning, the Cardinals offense was throwing the football all over the field. Their first possession took the ball all the way to the 2 yard line. That’s when the Carolina defense stood up as Tyler Brayton made penetration and the run by Tim Hightower was stuffed. That kept the score down to 3-0.
If not for some other critical plays, the lead would have grown much fatter.
The wheels came off if only momentarily when the Panthers were setup with the ball at the 20. Keydrick Vincent was called for a false start setting up an ugly play. Jake Delhomme was stripped by Karlos Dansby who recovered at the five yard line. One play later, Anquan Boldin would make an easy catch in the endzone and the Panthers trailed 10-0.
On the ensuing possession, Carolina got something going using the direct snap to DeAngelo Williams three times on the drive. Things bogged down at the five yard line as Muhsin Muhammad dropped an easy pass at the goalline and Dwayne Jarrett was mugged in the endzone. John Kasay would put up three and the Panthers trailed 10-3.
Then things got weird. Arizona put together another nice drive and would line up for a 39-yard field goal. Inexplicably, they faked it, threw a pass to Jerame Tuman and came up short of the firs down. Charles Godfrey came from nearly all the way across the field to make the tackle and the lead would remain 10-3 at the half.
The most ineteresting moment of halftime was a report from the Fox sideline reporter who quoted John Fox saying, “Our offense played like crap in the first half.” Amen, coach.
It looked like more of the same when Arizona quickly drove to yet another score – this one by Hightower. The lead was 17-3.
Six plays and 80 yards later, DeAngelo Williams was in the endzone with a 15-yard touchdown and the Panthers were down only 17-10.
Maake Kemoeatu then made the play that turned the tide. He pummeled Edgerrin James in the backfield, forced a fumble and recovered setting up the offense at the Arizona 18 yard line. One play later, Steve Smith and Jake Delhomme hooked up for a beautiful pitch and catch touchdown.
Still, the Cardinals weren’t done as they would drive for the go-ahead TD to Boldin. The problem? They muffed the hold on the snap and the lead was only 23-17.
Time for Jake and Smitty again. Maybe he went out of bounds and maybe he didn’t. The replays were inconclusive according to the referee. Either way, it goes in the record books as a 65-yard touchdown for Steve Smith. Suddenly, Carolina led for the first time 24-23.
The defense looked a little sluggish on the ensuing Arizona possession as they marched again. This time, however, Jon Beason would make a pick and take it back to the 49. The result was a 50-yard field goal by John Kasay who hasn’t missed in a very long time. The lead was 27-23.
One forced punt and a time-consuming possession sealed the deal.
Here are some random notes from today’s game:
- There had to be at least three missed calls for pass interference in favor of Arizona! One of them was when Dwayne Jarrett was mugged in the endzone.
- The game was a tale of two halves as the Carolina offense looked tentative in the first half but turned in on in the second half.
- The Arizona special teams were the difference. A failed fake field goal and a muffed hold on an extra point were the points that would have tied the game.
- John Kasay has now made 21 straight field goals and is ranked 8th all-time in scoring.
- John Fox looked more animated on the sidelines early in the third quarter than I’ve ever seen him.
- There were two more obvious dropped interceptions.
- Charles Johnson looks solid as he came up with two sacks and a forced fumble.
- Hilee Taylor could very well be one of the steals of the draft. He put on a pass rush that caused a holding call and always seems to make plays when he’s in the game.
- Julius Peppers might get held more than any defender in the league but rarely seems to get the call.
- The Wildcat offense has been the “In Vogue,” copycat offensive formation for 2008.
- Jonathan Stewart had only 8 carries for 10 yards. The coaches might be saving the rookie’s legs.
- DeAngelo Williams had another 108 yards and a touchdown.
- Jon Beason might be the least-known great defender in the league.
- Moose had to be the sickest man in the stadium after dropping that touchdown. I guarantee he’ll be the most critical of himself in postgame interviews.
- Dwayne Jarrett might still take some more seasoning but he made a critical catch for 19 yards on third and 11 late in the game to keep the drive alive – one that eventually ran out the clock.
- Kurt Warner took a beating today. It’s nearly impossible to not gain a tremendous amount of respect for him after this game.