The Arizona Cardinals learned the hard way against the Carolina Panthers in Week 10. With football, it’s any given Sunday.
There was a startling sign to begin the game when running back James Conner, who had 172 scrimmage yards in Week 9, wasn’t used in the first three plays of the game. The third play ended with a strip-sack and fumble on Colt McCoy.
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Then, after the new addition and Panthers’ great Cam Newton scored inside the five, the Cards didn’t convert on fourth down on their own 42 yard-line. Newton would go on to throw a touchdown, his first of the season.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury had regrets on the call for McCoy to sneak it.
“Just being aggressive,” said Kingsbury. “Thought we could get it. I wish I called a different play.”
The Panthers’ defense ranked second-fewest in passing yards allowed before Sunday’s matchup. Arizona has usually been on the other end of the spectrum this season, winning games short-handed. This time, Carolina took advantage unlike the 49ers last week.
Yes, Kyler Murray and Deandre Hopkins were out. But it’s still hard to find any positives with this game, as the Cardinals looked uninspired from start to finish. While the Cardinals could afford a loss as far as the playoffs are concerned, they’re still in battle with teams for the number one seed.
Carolina’s defense came to play, and largely due to one familiar face.
This game look scripted for any Cardinals fan, in the worst way imaginable.
Linebacker Haason Reddick, a former first-round pick by the Cardinals in 2017, must’ve had this game marked on his calendar. After playing four years for Arizona, general manager Steve Keim and company declined his fifth-year option in 2021, making him a free agent.
Reddick’s numbers so far have been astronomically better in Carolina, compared to his four seasons with Arizona.
So on the third play of the game, Reddick went right through left tackle D.J. Humphries and strip-sacked McCoy, forcing a turnover to bring the Panthers inside the 15-yard-line.
After the game, the 27-year old posted on Twitter “Reddick’s Revenge.”
Reddick finished the day with 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hits, four tackles and the forced fumble.
While Reddick played extremely well for Arizona in 2020 with 12.5 sacks, it wasn’t enough to merit another year in white and red. The Cardinals finally switched Reddick’s position from inside linebacker to edge rusher last season, but the Panthers now have the explosive 27-year-old.
The Cardinals were manhandled on offense, being limited to just 62 total yards of offense in the first half.
But it wasn’t Reddick who was disruptive. Fellow linebacker Shaq Thompson finished with six tackles, two QB hits and two pass breakups.
He also made a statement with a sack on McCoy, who went to the injury tent with a chest injury and would not return.
After the game, McCoy was optimistic in terms of his pectoral injury.
“Everything seems to be positive right now. Got hit a couple of times. It just got to a point where it had to get checked out.”
As for Reddick, he loved the familiar atmosphere in Glendale, Arizona.
“The energy was crazy today,” said Reddick. “It was on a different level.”
Dominance in the Backfield
All the talk will be on Cam Newton’s return for this surprising win, but let’s be honest. Newton held the ball seven times.
But you can’t forget about Christian McCaffrey, who rushed for 95 yards on just 13 carries. That’s an average of seven-and-a-half yards per attempt.
There was a point where McCaffrey, who didn’t play in the fourth quarter, had more yards than the Cardinals on offense for the whole game.
McCaffrey also had game-high 10 catches for 66 yards. This was his second game coming off a hamstring injury that placed him on injured reserve, which led to five missed games.
The Panthers were 1-5 in his absence, and starting quarterback Sam Darnold struggled mightily on top of an unproductive offensive line.
A game after Darnold’s three-interception day and fractured scapula, the Panthers were firing on all cylinders.
The Cardinals would love to burn the tape of this game.