Cardinals defensive tackle Calais Campbell takes down Panthers quarterback Cam Newton when the two teams met last season in the playoffs.
Cam Newton said it himself when asked about what he was as a quarterback.
"How do you want to attack defenses?" the Panthers quarterback said this week. "I feel as if I bring a unique way in some ways."
It's fair to call Newton unique, at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds. He can batter defenses as a runner, and he has improved so much as a passer that he's the expected MVP after accounting for 45 touchdowns himself – 35 passing, and 10 rushing.
That's what the Cardinals must first wrestle with when trying to defend the Panthers in Sunday's NFC Championship.
"It's like a double-edged sword with him, because he can run the ball or pass it out of any formation," defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said. "That puts stress on the defense. We have to be disciplined. We have to put our hands where they are supposed to be, and technique-sound. Really contain him. You can't really stop him."
The Cards' battles with Newton have been all over the map since he arrived as a rookie in 2011. The Cardinals beat Newton that year despite Newton throwing for a rookie record 436 yards. In coach Bruce Arians' first season, the Cards shut Newton down in a 22-6 win. Then Newton beat the Cardinals last season in the rainy Wild Card game.
But the Newton in those games and the one currently behind center don't look the same. This one has carried an offense that was expected to be average at best.
"It's going to be a task to try and slow him down," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "He is a monster."
The Cardinals feel confident they can handle the Panthers if Carolina is forced to pass, although they must find a way to slow tight end Greg Olsen. But the Panthers are run-first – Jonathan Stewart has been very good as the top ballcarrier – and because of Newton's size and running ability, they are a deadly team when they are able to get into third-and-short situations.
That's in large part because of Newton.
"It's difficult," safety Tony Jefferson said. "He's huge. He's a big guy. But you've got to get him down. He's human."
WEATHER OR NOT, HERE COME THE CARDS
Social media around Sunday's game was dominated Friday about Carolina's weather – how it was ugly, with pictures of the Panthers practicing in the snow. But the Cardinals, who practiced in 70-degree sun, continued to shrug off the weather possibilities as a winter
storm hits the area.
"I think the weather talk … I haven't talked to anybody about weather," Palmer said. "Until now."
Palmer said he's played in a lot of "weather" games – wet, cold, snow – without a glove and said he's planning on doing the same in Carolina.
Right now, the precipitation is supposed to be gone by Sunday, with a high of 44 degrees and sunny the forecast. It is expected to drop into the 30s for the 6:40 p.m. kickoff. Arians said the team's travel plans are unaffected – the team leaves Saturday – although he feels bad for the Cardinals fans who might not be able to get to Charlotte.
"We don't have any weather forecasters on our team," Palmer said. "You can check it as much as you want, but it changes so fast, especially a storm like that. Looks like it will be OK, but we are prepared for the worst."
If anything, Arians said the weather might have hurt the Panthers since their practice schedule/efforts could have been messed up, while the Cardinals' schedule has been unaffected. The Panthers do not have a practice bubble, and when asked if his team could have used one Friday, Panthers coach Ron Rivera told reporters, “Good question.”
PALMER'S LAST TRIP TO CAROLINA
Because of Palmer's knee injury last season – preventing him from playing in Carolina in the playoffs – the last time he played there before this weekend's NFC Championship came in a game Dec. 23, 2012, when he was with the Raiders.
Early in the game, Palmer tried to wait for a receiver to get open and then-Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy drilled him, crown of the helmet first, on the backside of his midsection, breaking ribs and puncturing a lung.
"I remember possibly not getting to go home that night and they were going to keep me in the hospital a couple of days and not going to let me fly," Palmer said. "I would miss Christmas with a bunch of kids, which wouldn't be good. I remember I did a procedure to puncture the other lung to get on the flight in time and be home for Christmas."
Wait – puncture the other lung too?
"Yeah," Palmer said. "I am not a doctor but that didn't make sense to me, but they let me on the plane and that is all that matters. I wasn't stuck in a hotel."
CARDINALS HEALTHY, ALLEN OUT FOR THE PANTHERS
The Cardinals listed everyone on their injury report as probable for Sunday's game, the first time that has happened all season. Arians had said all week there were no injuries of concern, and the report validates the statement.
The same can't be said for the Panthers, who officially ruled defensive end Jared Allen out because of his broken foot. Allen told reporters he could've played and while he respected coach Ron Rivera's decision to keep him out, he was disappointed in the decision.
Images from the Biggest Red Rage radio show/pep rally