It ain’t play time anymore. It’s time to be serious about this thing. The Carolina Panthers have work to do.
They must protect this house!!!!! That’s a good start when you consider that they haven’t lost at home all season. It goes a whole lot deeper than that, though. Let’s run through five things our Panthers must do to win this game.
1. Get Lucas some help. Rumors are circulating that a safety will be rolled over to Ken Lucas‘ side of the field to help with Larry Fitzgerald. Anybody remember that game back in October? Fitz had 7 catches for 115 yards while Anquan Boldin, coming back from a serious concussion and jaw injury had 9 catches for 63 yards and two TD’s. Maybe this is bigger than just Ken Lucas. Steve Breaston added another 9 catches for 91 yards. Does this mean the team will go with a nickel package more often? Do that and the Cards just might chew you up on the ground. Still, one thing is certain, Lucas was a weak link 10 weeks ago. He needs help over the top.
2. Face to face with Kurt. If you listen to our podcast for this week and our interview with DT Nick Hayden, you’ll hear him agree that getting in Kurt Warner‘s face is important. Last week, Atlanta didn’t do that. Their best pass rusher, John Abraham, was held in check. If the DT’s and linebackers can successfully get in Warner’s face and throw off his rhythm things will be much more likely to go in the Panthers favor.
3. Keep Pounding! Double Trouble, Smash and Dash, D-Will and J-Stew – whatever you call them, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart cannot be used as window dressing. Make 35 carries your goal and then run some more. Sure, Arizona held Michael Turner down last week but, frankly, Atlanta doesn’t have our offensive line. Besides, this group is healthy now with all five starters back unlike that first meeting. Run it and run it some more. By the end of the third quarter, those Cardinals defensive linemen will be beat up.
4. Start fast. This one could be and maybe even should be number one on the list. In October, Carolina fell behind 10-3 in the first half then gave up another touchdown early in the third to go back 17-3. That cannot be allowed to happen Saturday night. Two or three defensive stops early and two or three quick scores and it’ll be Arizona in the early hole. They have a great passing game, yes, but making them one-dimensional sure wouldn’t hurt.
5. Intangibles. Coaching is critical and John Fox will have his team ready. The Cardinals will be pumped up and ready to prove the doubters wrong. That is a wash. What could be a major factor is being at home with the crowd making enough noise to be heard in Atlanta. Don’t forget that the Cards haven’t won on the east coast all season. Their frustration levels will rise quickly if they are behind and the crowd is rowdy enough that they can’t hear themselves think.