ReFo: Cardinals @ Panthers, Wild Card Round

Thomas Maney reviews the key players on both sides in the Panthers victory over the Cardinals on a soggy field to open the 2014 playoffs.

| 2 years ago

ReFo: Cardinals @ Panthers, Wild Card Round

2014-REFO-WC-ARZ@CARIn the first of the weekend’s playoff games, the Cardinals scored 14 unanswered points in the second quarter to take the lead and remain surprisingly competitive going into halftime, despite playing their third string quarterback in a road playoff game. However, the lack of offense caught up as the Panthers held them scoreless in the second half, breaking the record for fewest yards allowed in a postseason game.

Special teams was a special type of nightmare for Arizona in this contest. The Panthers had their own fair share of mistakes, including a botched punt recovery and several dropped passes however. There’s plenty for the coaches to look at and correct as they await the result of Lions-Cowboys to determine whether they head to Seattle or Green Bay for the Divisional round.

Let’s take a look at some of the notable performances from this NFC Wildcard game.

Arizona Cardinals – Performances of Note

Ryan Lindley, QB: -4.6

Breakdown: A predictably shaky performance from Lindley, who was inaccurate throughout the game – especially when he ventured downfield – and made a handful of costly blunders. One was mishandling a simple shotgun snap on third-and-long (2Q, 10:33), which they weren’t likely to convert based on the rest of the game, but the fumble still cost the team a chance at getting a first down. Later in the game after getting the ball inside Carolina’s 10-yard line after a fumble, Lindley immediately gave it back, misreading Luke Kuechly breaking on the throw to Larry Fitzgerald. Otherwise he made a few positive throws spread throughout the game, but along with the lackluster production from the run game, failed to move the offense consistently.

Signature Stats: Lindley faced pressure on more than 40% of his drop backs and took a sack on 30.8% of those plays. He also failed to complete a single pass thrown further than 20 yards downfield (5 attempts).

Dan Williams, DL: +0.9

Breakdown: Aside from the missed tackles, Arizona’s defense played well at times, and Williams was one of the few bright spots in this game. He collected two pressures in 16 rushes, using his power against center Ryan Kalil in both cases, while three of his four tackles counted as defensive stops.

Signature Plays: 2Q, 1:05. Stood up Kalil at the point of attack, getting first contact to slow the rusher before everyone else. Also, at 8:45 of the fourth, picked up the tackle for no gain outside of guard Andrew Norwell.

Drew Butler, P: -6.3

Breakdown: Butler didn’t do his defense any favors as he notched his lowest grade of the season in the rainy conditions, consistently lacking distance on his punts despite good hang time and location on several of them. His first quarter was particularly rough as he failed to hit the 30 yard mark on his first two punts, with Carolina subsequently facing a short field on both of its drives. Arizona did get a break on the third (1Q, 2:21), though it was another short punt and Butler had to deal with pressure and an offline snap on the play. He did improve throughout the game, but didn’t reach the level we saw in the regular season.

Signature Stat: Butler’s 34.8 punt average was lower than what any punter had during the regular season.

Carolina Panthers – Performances of Note

Thomas Davis, LB: +4.0

Breakdown: Most of his work came unblocked and he didn’t necessarily come up with the highlight-reel plays that his teammate did. This was still a great performance from Davis who collected seven tackles and five stops. He was particularly good limiting yards after the catch in the passing game, consistently closing and finishing on passes into the flat. Davis allowed the Cardinals to gain less than 20 yards on seven passes into his coverage.

Signature Play: 3Q, 4:04. Impressive start to the drive, getting into the backfield to drop the rusher for a loss, making a quick read at the snap to avoid any potential blockers.

Luke Kuechly, LB: +2.5

Breakdown: Outside of allowing a pair of first downs in coverage, it was a typically active game for Kuechly. In this contest he made three defensive stops and had a direct hand in both of Lindley’s interceptions, though he only hauled in one of them. At 11:53 of the fourth, he read the play action and anticipated the pass to Larry Fitzgerald, making a nice break to grab the interception and prevent Arizona from pulling within a touchdown.

Signature Play: 4Q, 2:03. Maybe the more impressive of Kuechly’s big plays, he again read Lindley locking onto Fitzgerald, coming from the deep middle to defend the post and get a hand on the ball, tipping it to teammate Tre Boston in the end zone.

Jonathan Stewart, RB: +0.8

Breakdown: One of the more elusive rushers during the regular season, Stewart continued that trend with a ridiculous nine forced missed tackles on the day. Stewart gained 123 yards on predominately option runs while giving up just one pressure in 16 snaps in pass protection.

Signature Play: 1Q, 5:29. Scoring the first touchdown of the game, Stewart made an impressive cut to get past Sam Acho past the line of scrimmage before bursting through Rashad Johnson to reach the end zone.

PFF Game Ball

A few players to choose from, but it’s hard not to give this to Luke Kuechly for his role in both interceptions.


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  • Jason Williams

    Lindley’s pick in the endzone when they had the chance to get within one score was just crushing. Carolina gave them every opportunity to steal this game. Arizona just couldn’t take advantage.

    • Sam Doohan

      Sadly that’s been the cards story these past few games. I can’t help feeling that just a slight tweak to the offensive scheme to give Lindley some easy throws might have been enough to make the difference.

      • Jason Williams

        I felt like they did that early on but the Panthers sort of forced their hand late in the game. That pick – he’ll have nightmares about that for months…

        • Gèr Steffens

          The Cardinals had 99 yards before the final play. And while they had a horrid 34 yards in the second half the first wasn’t much better with 65. Great defense and turnovers kept the Cardinals in the game, but in the end with Lindley and no NFL ready running back they never had a chance (they averaged under 2 yards per play, both running and passing). They were really lucky to be in the game at half time, with all their points coming from the defense or off turnovers.

          The interesting question is what will happen next year, if Palmer comes back, or with any other half decent QB it will be a very dangerous team, especially since the defense won’t have to push so hard they start making mistakes.

          • Jason Williams

            Great teams find ways to win. Arizona almost did.

          • Gèr

            I don’t disagree, the problem is regardless of the quality of the rest of the team their backfield was so putrid it didn’t matter how good the rest of the team was, eventually they would pretty much always fall short.

            And remember the muffed punt by Brenton Bersin wasn’t exactly a great Cardinal play but a horrendous mistake by the Panthers, if that doesn’t happen I don’t think this game is ever close.

          • Jason Williams

            from my view, that game was FILLED with horrendous mistakes by the Panthers. Why they ever let Cam throw it I will never understand. He puts so much on those balls, it’s a wonder any of them are ever caught.

          • Gèr

            True, I just picked out the one I feel let the Cardinals back in the game. My point was that the Cardinals offense was so putrid even with all the mistakes by the Panthers they never had a realistic shot to win it, all the Panthers had to do in the second half was play below average on offense.

            I agree with you on Cam, he doesn’t seem to understand you don’t need to throw as hard as you can on every single throw, or he’s simply unable to take something of due to his technique, either way he misses to many easy throws.

          • JT

            I have no problem with Cam throwing all that hard but he needed to be more accurate this game….He was in the game because he actually does a great job calling audibles and the running game is very threatening when he is in the game because teams have to play as if Cam might take it himself on the hand-offs. He actually did a good job finding guys that were open and ran the no huddle well. Can anyone tell me what they graded Cam for this game if I would take a guess it was probably like -0.6 based on what I saw.