Patrick Peterson dives for a touchdown during his 89-yard punt return against the Panthers in 2011.
Home, after a couple of road games and the previous week working out of a hotel, couldn't sound any better to the Cardinals.
"To have three out of four at home is great," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "We always talk about being a dominant home team and you have to win your home games. This is no different. This is a must-win for us."
University of Phoenix Stadium better mean to the Cardinals (2-2) what they hope it will mean. Yes, there is a stretch at home – including the game after the Nov. 3 bye, the Cards actually have four of their next five at home – but it is littered with playoff teams after Carolina visits Sunday.
Coach Bruce Arians stresses the need to win at home and is willing to steal some on the road to create a
playoff-type record. The statistics say a team that can begin at least 3-2 has a much better chance to have that postseason hope than a team that is 2-3.
When you factor in the next stretch of post-Panther games, that point is driven home. A road trip to San Francisco, a home game on a short week with Seattle, and then Atlanta visits. After the bye, it's a home game against Houston.
"Every game has the same meaning to it," cornerback Jerraud Powers said. "It's not like we are college, 'We want to win this game and the next week you know you might play a lesser opponent.' This game means just as much as whoever we are playing after that, because it's an NFC opponent and we need this."
The Panthers (1-2) are coming off a bye, but the last game they played, they rolled over the Giants, 38-0, with a defense that forced three turnovers and sacked Eli Manning seven times.
"It's scary watching the Giants game," tackle Eric Winston said. "I turned that off pretty fast. I was like, 'Let's watch somebody actually block these guys.' "
Of course, that was a couple weeks ago by now. The Panthers, though, say the bye helped with injuries and aren't worried that they couldn't play right away after a big win.
"Momentum is something you build and build by working hard," Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith said. "It's not about how well you do the week before. It's really what goes into your preparation way before the season even starts."
Arians thinks the move home can help his team's struggling offense. Defensively, the Cardinals get a boost with the return of linebacker Daryl Washington to a defense that is second in the league in stopping the run and a unit that still believes it can be one of the best in the league.
"There is so much more to this season and it's just getting started," defensive end Frostee Rucker said. "Getting D-Wash back is such a huge deal for us. We lost some huge players for us in Sam and Lorenzo but getting D-Wash back in the fold will mean that much more to the defense. He's such a leader on the field and obviously the way he plays. I know he's coming back hungry and determined to come back from where he ended."
Washington will have a sold out crowd rooting for him as well – something the entire roster will embrace after so much time away.
"It's always good to be home," Powers said. "You know what to expect."