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Wrap-up: Cardinals 28, Panthers 21

9/11/2011

Thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 28-21 victory against the Carolina Panthers in their Week 1 matchup Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium:

What it means: The Cardinals are tied for first place in the NFC West after surviving a Week 1 scare against the better-than-expected Carolina Panthers. Arizona has much to address in terms of finishing drives and shoring up its defense. Addressing those issues will be easier coming off a victory. This would have been a devastating defeat.

What I liked: Though not as consistent as they wanted to be, the Cardinals showed good big-play ability. Patrick Peterson's 89-yard punt return, Kevin Kolb's 70-yard pass to Early Doucet and Kolb's 48-yard pass to Jeff King produced touchdowns. Kolb topped 300 yards and posted a 130.0 passer rating. This might have been a blowout defeat had the Cardinals gone into the game with one of their 2010 quarterbacks behind center. Also on the positive side, Beanie Wells ran the ball effectively and found the end zone. That's progress.

What I didn't like: The Cardinals couldn't get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald until late in the first half. They couldn't score points despite driving deep into Panthers territory in the first half. They couldn't stop a rookie quarterback, Cam Newton, from looking like the best player in the league. The Panthers had 477 yards, including 422 through the air from Newton, against an Arizona defense expecting improvement under another new coordinator. This was not improvement on defense.

What's next: The Cardinals visit the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff.