Collapse the pocket
The Panthers’ front four showed what they can do against a pocket passer two weeks ago when they basically rushed Eli Manning into submission, tying a franchise record by sacking him seven times. Carson Palmer also is a drop-back passer, although he was out of the pocket last year, as a member of the Raiders, when Greg Hardy drilled him and cracked his ribs. Palmer will try to get the ball off quickly; the rush needs to be quicker.
Make plays in the passing game
DeAngelo Williams has run hard and well through the first three games, but the sledding will be tougher vs. a Cardinals’ defense ranked second against the run (75 yards a game). And while Cam Newton ran the read option well against the Giants, the Cardinals’ 3-4 defense – with outside linebackers hovering – might be better equipped to handle the quarterback keepers. All of that means Newton needs to be on point with his passes and continue to take chances deep.
Stay in the lanes
Cardinals punt returner Patrick Peterson burned the Panthers two years ago. In his first NFL game, Peterson returned a punt 89 yards for the game-winning score in the Cardinals’ 28-21 victory. It was the first of four punt returns for TDs for Peterson, who tied a single-season record. The Panthers’ coverage teams have improved under special teams coordinator Richard Rodgers and assistant Bruce DeHaven. They can’t afford any missteps or shanks by Brad Nortman vs. Peterson.