Wild Card Match Up: Cardinals at Panthers

C3 Up, Three Down is a series that identifies three key areas the Panthers succeeded and three areas they failed in their most recent contest.  This week's C3 Up, Three Down weeds through the good and bad of Carolina's win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Three Things Done Well

The Carolina Panthers got their first playoff win with Cam Newton as their starting quarterback. The Panthers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-16 in a NFC Wild Card Playoff matchup at Bank of America Stadium.

This is the Panthers first playoff win in nine years, and is a big step in a positive direction for the Carolina Panthers organization.

In this matchup, the Cardinals started their fourth string quarterback, and were without the dynamic Andre Ellington. The Panthers carried their momentum into the playoffs with their defense shutting down the Cardinal's offense.

What three things did the Carolina Panthers do well against the Arizona Cardinals?

  1. 78 Yards – The Carolina Panthers carried their momentum into the playoffs, and set an NFL playoff record by only allowing the Cardinals 78 yards on offense. One reason why the Cardinals only had 78 yards was because of the injuries to Carson Palmer, and Andre Ellington. The other reason was because of the sharks on the Panthers defense. Going into the playoffs they only allowed opponents 10.75 points per game in their last four games. The defense finished the game with four sacks, and two interceptions.

  2. Jonathan Stewart – Jonathan Stewart was named the starter for the Carolina Panthers even though DeAngelo Williams was activated before the game. Stewart's start was well deserved, because over the past five games of the season he rushed for 486 yards. He was second to only DeMarco Murray (491 yards) in rushing yards over that span. The Panthers “Double Trouble” has been forgotten by the league, but teams need to be aware of the former Oregon Duck. Stewart had a great game by rushing for 123 yards on 24 carries.

  3. Front Seven –The Panthers front seven went after Ryan Lindley, and the running backs like bees swarming someone who invaded their hive. The Cardinals came into Bank of America Stadium, and I don't think they will be coming back anytime soon. The front seven sacked Lindley four times, and caused three turnovers. Lindley finished the game with only 82 passing yards, and a 44.2 QB rating. The Cardinals only had 27 rushing yards, and 78 total yards of offense.

By, Justin Raymond

Follow Me On Twitter @JayRay19

Three Things Done Poorly

The Panthers were able to get the team’s first playoff win since January 15, 2005. A strong running game and a suffocating defense were the key to the dominating performance. The Cardinals started the season on fire. Due to a litany of injuries, this team limped into the playoffs. The biggest loss was veteran quarterback Carson Palmer. With so many injuries at key positions, the Panthers won the game, it was ugly, but they won. They could have scored 40 or more points had they done some things better. Let’s take a look at some of what those were.

  1. Red Zone Play Calling- Typical for the offense this season, red zone scoring was again an issue. The execution of plays was just not very good, and the play calling was questionable. When will Shula put down the three napkins he calls a playbook, and make better use of Cam’s run/pass ability in this part of the field? How about calling a play action roll out with Greg Olsen running an out pattern and KB coming across from the other side of the field! The ran a nice play action where Cam hit Tolbert in the flat down near the goal-line and he was able to score. We need more of that, especially if we want to beat Seattle on Saturday.

  2. Punt Returner- Brenton Bersin for whatever reason was not satisfied with the poor punting done by Drew Butler. Butler punted 9 times for a measly 34.8 yard average. Despite the abysmal effort from Butler, Bersin could not be satisfied taking the outstanding field position so graciously given by the Cardinals punter. Bersin was constantly around the ball while it was on the ground. While he was waving other players away from the ball he was like a moth drawn to a flame. On one particular punt Bersin got down into a baseball catcher stance while the ball is bouncing his way, he does this with 3 Cardinals special teamers surrounding him and the ball. As you witnessed, it did not turn out so well for Bersin. This is a simple fix. Just stay away from the dang ball when it’s bouncing around on the ground.

  3. Graham Gano- The kicker missed another field goal. It is strange to me how the team and fans consider him good when he has missed 7 field goals this year. One was a block and one was from an unmakeable distance. But despite that he has missed too many that were easily makeable. I am fearful that he will end up costing us a game on what should be a field goal he could make. This should be an area of concern for Carolina. Maybe something we address in the offseason.

The Panthers won in ugly fashion. But the mark of a good team is to be able to win ugly. This team has the makings of something special. We will see just how special this Saturday. Seattle will not be facing the same team it did back in week 8. I hope they underestimate us and think this will be an easy win. Because this Panthers team with a solid run game and a hot defense is capable of beating anyone. Go Panthers. Keep Pounding.

By "that Freak'n Puerto Rican" aka @JoeRiollano