In the regular season opener, the Cardinals faced more struggles than they thought they would, especially out of first overall pick Cam Newton. Newton, playing in the same stadium he won the collegiate National Championship. He exposed the Cardinals pass defense, tying a record for a rookie debut, with 422 passing yards and two scores.
Although the pass defense struggled for most of the day, the scheme defensive coordinator seemed to be using was a Cover Zero zone package, designed to bring pressure to Newton, who was sacked four times. There’s no excuse to give up that many yards, although Coach Whiz argues “77 yards of that came from one play, a busted coverage”. He continued, saying, “there were a lot of those guys, especially in the back end, that were not playing coverages the correct way or not making the correct adjustments”. Moving forward into Week 2, the defensive mishaps will have to be corrected, as they face a more experienced offense, led by Rex Grossman.
On offense, the Cardinals started fast, scoring on their first drive after forcing a Carolina punt. The run game, for the first time since the lockout was lifted, was looking strong, led by Beanie Wells’ 90 yards and touchdown on just 18 attempts. Kevin Kolb led a very efficient passing game, completing 67% of his passes, hitting the 300-yard mark in his first game as a Cardinal.
Perhaps the most exciting moment of the game was the touchdown that gave the Cardinals the lead for good. Rookie Patrick Peterson returned a punt 89 yards to the house late in the fourth quarter. While he was able to have an impact on the final score of the game, he also contributed to the some of the Panthers points as well. Covering Pro-Bowler Steve Smith can be frustrating for any corner, let alone a rookie playing in his first game after being locked out all offseason. Peterson struggled, giving up eight catches, 178 yards, and two touchdowns, including a 26-yard fade that Steve Smith easily plucked out of Peterson’s hands.
The Cardinals missed out on two scoring opportunities, including a turnover inside the 15-yard line and a missed field goal, sloppiness that is probably the result of the lack of offseason work teams were allowed to partake in. The season is still very young, and the Cardinals still have a ways to go, but Coach Whiz and the Cards seem very committed to improving in all facets of the game.