After surviving some improbable heroics from Aaron Rodgers, the Arizona Cardinals are excited to be playing in their first NFC Championship since 2009. In fact, if you’re the Cardinals, Sunday can’t get here fast enough.
“(The atmosphere is) very loose,” KTAR Cardinals insider Adam Green said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “It’s a team that feels like they may have gotten away with one last week against Green Bay, but at the same time, it’s the playoffs, and as long as you win and advance, it’s all that matters. But they feel like they can play better, they’re excited for this game, and they like the idea of playing Carolina, who they lost to in the playoffs last season without Carson Palmer as well as a few other players. So they feel like they have a good shot this weekend. They’re excited for this game. They’re ready to play because they are just anxious to see if they can get the job done in Carolina.”
The Cardinals seemed extremely tight in their 26-20 overtime win over the Packers, especially in the first half. Arizona scored just 10 points through three quarters but 16 in the fourth quarter and first possession of overtime.
What did the Cardinals struggle offensively early in the game?
“Carson Palmer didn’t look quite right, didn’t look quite like himself early on,” Green said. “He overthrew Larry Fitzgerald on an open out route, which is really unlike Carson Palmer. It looked like he was probably a little amped up, and he even admitted during the week that he was probably going to be a little excited and had to keep his nerves calmed down. We didn’t really notice it at the time, but they were playing very conservative in the first half and Bruce Arians said after the game that when they map out their first 20 plays or so, Carson gets to pick them from a group of plays that Bruce likes. Carson went a lot more conservative with the safer, shorter completions, which, that’s not their offense. They like to throw the ball down the field.
“So Carson went into the game, he’s a little tight, and that kind of trickled down to the rest of the team,” Green continued. “In the second half they started playing a little more loose, a little more like themselves. This week, a lot of talk has been about how they learned their lesson, they’re not going to play conservative, and they’re going to be the team that got them this far. I guess we’ll have to see if it comes to fruition this Sunday in Carolina, but that seems to be the message they’re giving out right now.”