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Panthers have also had Cardinals' number

Howard Balzer Avatar
September 30, 2022

It’s not to the level of the Rams, but the Carolina Panthers have also been a thorn in Kliff Kingsbury’s side since he became the Cardinals’ coach in 2019.

The Cardinals and Panthers have played each of the three seasons with Carolina winning them all by a combined score of 103-51 (38-20, 31-21 and 34-10 last season).

Asked about Carolina’s defense specifically, Kingsbury said Wednesday, “They’re really good. I’ve always been impressed with Coach [Matt] Rhule and the culture that he brings, whether it was at Baylor or Carolina. Tough-nosed, physical, they get the ball out. They’ve put a lot of draft picks, a lot of money into that defense and they play hard, play really well together. So it’ll be a huge challenge.”

The Panthers’ Donte Jackson runs with the ball after an interception during the first quarter against the Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on Nov.14, 2021. (Getty Images)

Panthers have Cardinals’ number

It has been that story all three years, but especially the past two seasons when slow starts, which have been the story so far this season, were also an issue.

In the 2020 game in Carolina, the Cardinals fell behind 14-0 when their first three possessions totaled 34 yards on 13 plays. The Panthers won 31-21 playing without running back Christian McCaffrey. Mike Davis ran for 84 yards on 16 carries and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater passed for 276 yards and two touchdowns.

The Cardinals had only 262 net yards on 55 plays (4.8 per play), while quarterback Kyler Murray completed 24 of 31 passes, but for only 133 yards (5.5 average per completion).

Last season, with Colt McCoy playing for an injured Murray a week after defeating the 49ers on the road, 31-17, disaster struck on the third play of the game when former Cardinals edge rusher Haason Reddick strip-sacked McCoy on third-and-5 and the Panthers recovered at the 15-yard line. Five plays later, Carolina led 7-0 and the game was never close.

The Panthers led 23-0 at halftime and won 34-10. McCaffrey rushed for 95 yards on 13 attempts and added 66 yards on 10 receptions. He could have had a lot more, but it wasn’t needed. He had 10 rushes for 90 yards and seven receptions for 39 yards at halftime.

The Cardinals had four three-and-outs in the game and two four-and-outs. Two of the three-and-outs netted minus yardage. McCoy, one week after completing 22 of 26 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown with a 119.4 passer rating, was 9-for-17 for 67 yards and a 38.1 rating.

Overall, the Cardinals had 169 yards of total offense on 53 plays (3.2 average).

In 2019, which was the third game of Murray’s career and Kingsbury’s tenure as a NFL coach, the game was close until the fourth quarter. The Cardinals led 17-14 in the third quarter and pulled within 21-20 late in that quarter.

McCaffrey had only 35 yards rushing on nine carries at halftime and had added 19 on four attempts prior to the Panthers getting to the 16-yard line with 2:47 to play in the quarter. He ran for eight yards on first down and then exploded for a 76-yard touchdown. He finished the game with 153 rushing yards on 24 attempts.

That provided the Panthers with a 28-20 lead and the Cardinals offense went ice cold. Five possessions resulted in two interceptions, three punts, one first down with 15 plays totaling minus-12 yards.

After falling behind by the 35-20 final score, in four possessions, Murray was sacked five times for 31 yards. For the game, he completed 30 of 43 passes for 173 yards (5.8 yards per completion), while the team had 248 yards on 73 plays (3.4 yards per play).

In those three games, the Cardinals ran 181 plays for 679 yards (226.3 per game and 3.8 yards per play).

In the two games McCaffrey played, he had 50 touches for 349 yards: 37-for-248 rushing (6.7 average) and 13-for-101 receiving (7.8 average).

Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said he expects McCaffrey to play even though he didn’t practice Wednesday and Thursday this week because of a thigh injury.

“He’s a special player,” Joseph said. “Watching him on tape, obviously in last year’s game, he had 10 catches against us for over 60 yards which is not good for us. If he pops, he can make a big play. He’s capable of making big plays in the running or passing game alike and that makes him dangerous.”

Not surprisingly, Joseph said the plan is to “take him away first. If he’s having success, it’s a problem for our defense.”

Moore a man of few words

Cardinals wide receiver Rondale Moore wasn’t very talkative while answering questions from media Thursday.

Here is the transcript:

Are you ready to go on Sunday? “Solid. Good.”

Do you feel like this could be … ? “Good.”

How nice is it … ? “It’s great, man. Excited to be back, healthy, and go compete and so yeah, feel good.”

Are you ready for a full play-load thing or maybe on a pitch count? “I’m good.”

But what do you think? “Good.”

How frustrating was it to be injured right before the opener? “Sucks. I don’t have a lot of words for that. Obviously, as a player, you want to go out there and play and you want to show all the work you put in and go have fun and be with your teammates. But I’m excited to be back so it will be fun.”

Do you believe you can help the team and give a jump-start to the offense? “Just excited to be out there. Whatever happens, happens. Let the chips fall where they may.”

Do you feel comfortable getting downfield? “Whatever they want me to do I’m ready to go do.”

Finally, a half-joking question … 

So, you’re good? “Solid.”

Moore was officially listed as limited Thursday for the second straight day.

Inside slants

Joseph provided his thoughts on several situations.

Asked if he is concerned about the absence from practice this week by defensive end J.J. Watt, he said, “I’m not overly concerned. He made it last week with the same injury (calf), so we’ll see. He’s obviously working hard to be ready to go and we’ll see.”

When asked if cornerback Trayvon Mullen Jr. will play his first defensive snaps of the season, Joseph said, “Absolutely. He’s progressing along very well. He’s ready to go. Hopefully, he’s excited about it.”

As for whether Leki Fotu will get most of the snaps with nose tackle Rashard Lawrence (hand) out, Joseph said, We’ll see. It’s Leki, it’s (Michael) Dogbe. A bunch of guys have played there during training camp, during the week, even (Jonathan) Ledbetter. So we’ll see who’s the best player for nose. But all our guys have trained at nose and 3-technique, so it’s not a big deal.”

Changes from the Wednesday injury report had center Rodney Hudson (knee) and guard Justin Pugh (elbow) upgraded from DNP to limited. Tackle Kelvin Beachum, tight end Zach Ertz and wide receiver Marquise Brown, who all had rest days Wednesday, practiced.

For the Panthers, cornerback Jaycee Horn (calf) was upgraded from limited to full and wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (hamstring) was downgraded from limited to DNP. Defensive end Marquis Haynes (knee) was added as DNP and linebacker Frankie Luvu (shoulder) was added as limited.

Safety Chris Banjo was signed to the practice squad on Thursday, following the release of Deionte Thompson. With only two safeties on the roster, it is expected that Banjo will either be signed to the 53-man roster prior to the game or elevated.

It was easy to see why the Cardinals reported only a visit for Banjo on Wednesday rather than a tryout. He obviously wasn’t sitting on the couch since becoming an unrestricted free agent in March and not being with a team since then. Banjo is in superb physical shape and was already being vocal with defensive teammates in the locker room.

Last season, he played 16 games for the Cardinals and participated in 76 percent of the team’s special-teams snaps. Thompson played 84 percent of special-teams snaps against the Rams.

As Joseph said about Banjo’s return, “He’s a leader of our defense. He’s been a great leader for us. He’s a guy that’s a good mentor for our young guys. And he’s always a guy who you can trust to play the game and that can help you win.”

The quote book

Joseph on whether Isaiah Simmons is embracing his role: “He is. He has played really well the last two games and he’s practicing that way. He’s playing good football right now. I’m proud of Isaiah.”

Top photo via Getty Images: Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey runs through a host of Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on Nov. 14, 2021. The Panthers won, 34-10. 

Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions via Twitter @hbalzer721 or by emailing me:

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