Giving no quarter: Third key for Cardinals

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Third quarters have been pivotal for the Cardinals this season. No team scored more third-quarter points than Arizona during the regular season. Quarterback Kurt Warner tossed 12 touchdown passes with no interceptions during third quarters.

Will the third quarter prove pivotal for the Cardinals at Carolina in the divisional round? The teams' previous meeting this season says it might. Carolina scored two touchdowns in a 46-second span of the third quarter during a comeback victory over Arizona in Week 8.

The Cardinals and Panthers combined for 34 third-quarter points that day, with Carolina scoring 21 of them. Six third-quarter possessions between the teams produced five touchdown drives. The only non-scoring drive ended when Edgerrin James fumbled in Cardinals territory, setting up a one-play touchdown drive for the Panthers. Carolina won, 27-23.

For the season, Carolina outscored opponents by three points in first quarters and three points in fourth quarters. The Panthers held a 149-92 scoring advantage in second quarters and a 99-71 edge in third quarters. The Cardinals held a 154-81 edge in third quarters, but opponents outscored them in every other quarter (84-64 in the first, 150-117 in the second and 111-86 in the fourth).

Arizona held a 14-0 advantage in the third quarter of its 30-24 victory over the Falcons in the wild-card round. Coach Ken Whisenhunt must be a pretty persuasive halftime speaker.