What it means: The Arizona defense solidified its place as a premier unit in the NFL. It sacked Cam Newton seven times -- including once for a safety – and intercepted him three times. With the offense continuing to struggle to find any rhythm, Arizona's defense -- which just got better with linebacker Daryl Washington's return -- shouldered the load Sunday. But this is a slippery slope because when the defense has an off game and the offense is still finding its way, it can be a long day. Just look back to 2012.
Stock watch: Bradley Sowell came in and showed the Cardinals what life without Levi Brown could look like, and it wasn't a bad thing. He played well in his first NFL start, slowing down the outside rush and even pancaking his college teammate, Greg Hardy, a couple times. The Cardinals' brain trust must be feeling good about its decision to entrust Sowell with Carson Palmer's blind side.
Washington returns: What were the Cardinals missing without Washington? Oh, just two sacks and an interception and sideline-to-sideline speed that can bring down a running back. His impact was felt on the Panthers' first offensive play when he chased Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams out of bounds. Washington's presence opened gaps for Karlos Dansby, who also had two sacks and an interception, but as the game progressed, Washington started doing what he wanted at will.
Drives derailed: As good as Arizona's defense is, the offense is not. They are forcing the defense to play more snaps than it should. Palmer threw three interceptions, two of which were picked off in the end zone and killed productive drives at times when the Cardinals desperately needed rhythm. The boos rang down on Palmer after his third, which, again, like the other two, was thrown inside Carolina territory. Sustaining drives has been an issue all season, especially on third down, but Palmer single-handedly ended three.
What's next: The Cardinals face their second NFC West foe when they travel to San Francisco on Sunday to play the 49ers at 4:25 p.m. ET for the last time at Candlestick Park.