Cardinals look to recoup, stop the bleeding with bye coming
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Just when it appeared the Arizona Cardinals were turning things around, their season has hit another speed bump.
The Cardinals (3-4-1) lost 30-20 to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, one week after missing a golden opportunity against Seattle and settling for a 6-6 tie when a short Chandler Catanzaro field goal attempt hit the upright in overtime.
“We’re getting hit in the mouth,” Cardinals linebacker Kevin Minter said. “We have to stop the bleeding before it’s too late.”
They’ll have a bye next week to figure that out.
Sunday’s outing was a mistake-filled affair in which the Cardinals were penalized 10 times for 88 yards, allowed eight sacks, and had one situation when they wound up in a second-and-44 after quarterback Carson Palmer was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct for yelling at an official.
“We had way, way too many penalties and missed assignments,” said Cardinals coach Bruce Arians. “The pass protection struggled. I’ll have to check the film for all of the holding penalties, but penalties were obviously a huge factor in this game.”
One plus for the Cardinals is division-leading Seattle lost at New Orleans.
“We harped on (the Seahawks’ loss) a bit,” said running back David Johnson, who caught nine passes for 84 yards, but could manage just 24 yards on 10 carries against Carolina. “We’re one game away from tying them, and being in the lead. We just have to get healthy, and come out next week after the bye and come out fast.”
Two of Arizona’s next three opponents are road games against NFC division leaders: Minnesota and Atlanta.
Other observations from Sunday’s game:
STEWART’S IMPACT: Carolina’s running game seems to be rounding into form with the return of Jonathan Stewart, who has four touchdowns in the last two games.
Stewart carried the ball for a season-high 95 yards on 25 carries. It was Stewart’s second game back after missing three with a hamstring injury. Carolina is 2-1 in games in which Stewart has played. He scored touchdowns on two of his first five carries Sunday.
“It’s been a long time, and you definitely don’t want to take these wins for granted,” said Stewart, whose team will play at Los Angeles, and then home against Kansas City and New Orleans next.
THE FULL NELSON: The Cardinals got John Brown back on the field and Michael Floyd played through a hamstring injury.
But it was wide receiver J.J. Nelson, who started opposite Larry Fitzgerald, who delivered a promising game with eight catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns. Nelson was targeted 12 times, the most among Arizona receivers.
“I was prepared and just tried come out and make plays,” Nelson said. “I felt like I was in a groove, but I did make a few mental errors that I need to improve. As a group, we’ve got to clean up all the mental errors and continue to get better.”
FINALLY, A PASS RUSH: Carolina entered Sunday’s game against Arizona 22nd in the league in sacks with 12. The Panthers tallied eight against Palmer , the most he’s been sacked in his career.
Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott called several blitzes, some utilizing nickel back Leonard Johnson.
“It’s a really good front,” Palmer said. “Kawann Short’s a great pass rusher. Charles (Johnson) has been a great pass rusher for a long time, and Star Lotulelei is a great pass rusher. You throw in Thomas Davis blitzing and (Luke) Kuechly blitzing, and it’s a very good group.”
PANTHERS VS. AFC WEST: It’s no fun to play a first-place NFL schedule.
It can be extra tough when your inter-conference schedule pits your division against the AFC’s best. An angry Cam Newton and the Panthers already lost to Denver this season and must still face Kansas City, San Diego and Oakland. Three AFC West teams have winning records.
“We’ve been close a couple of times,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “A couple of times, we just didn’t play to our abilities. . We could have had some better things happen for us. There are some things that still need to get fixed up.”
INJURY CONCERNS: Both teams have some injury concerns moving forward.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said two-time All-Pro Ryan Kalil has a sprained right shoulder and linebacker Shaq Thompson has a sprained left knee.
Arizona safety Tyrann Mathieu left in the first half with a shoulder injury and did not return. Left tackle Jared Veldheer departed in the fourth quarter with an arm injury.
AP freelance writer Eli Pacheco contributed to this report.
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