The anticipation on Sunday was like Christmas morning. What was waiting under the Cardinals tree, the football equivalent of the Red Ryder BB Gun or the bunny pajamas from Aunt Clara?
Of course, it was a little bit of both in the Cardinals 28-21 win over the Panthers. It sure beat last year’s opener against the Rams. They were flat out lucky to win that day and we all should have known right there on the spot it was going to be a long season. There was some luck in play on Sunday as well, but enough skill and talent on display to suggest that this year will be better.
Here are my four main thoughts on the Cardinals/Panthers game as we enter four-down territory.
First Down: Patrick Peterson
It was interesting listening to both Peterson and coach Whisenhunt after the game talk about the rookie’s unwavering self-confidence, even when he was being targeted over and over again. His punt return for a touchdown proved to be the winning score and we all felt a little better because of it.
Second Down: Cam Newton
The Cardinals did a great job stuffing the Panthers running game and daring the top overall pick to beat them. He nearly did it with 422 yards, a record for a rookie in his first NFL start. So much for being a project QB.
Third Down: Kevin Kolb
Impressive debut. 18-27 for 309 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Looked comfortable, poised. Recognized the blitz and took advantage of it on a couple of occasions. That in itself is a huge upgrade from a year ago. Getting no points out of two trips to the red zone isn’t all on him of course, but they left points out there on the field during those two drives.
Fourth Down: The defense
Daryl Washington was terrific and the Cardinals did an excellent job stopping the run. But the #1 concern entering this season was the pass rush and it was spotty at best on Sunday. You already know about the secondary and the abuse they took. Penalties weren’t a huge problem overall but there were two big ones on the Panthers final drive on two veteran linebackers Clark Haggans and Joey Porter.