Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals need to find more consistency on offense.
The play looked jumbled from the start, with Larry Fitzgerald briefly going in motion and both he and Andre Roberts standing well off the line of scrimmage, forcing an illegal formation flag at the snap.
It ended up not hurting the Cardinals – Michael Floyd made a 22-yard catch on the next play – but it is the little issues that still seem to be eating at the Cards and their offense.
"Yeah, at times there are moments when there is a little bit of confusion," Fitzgerald said. "I think guys are, overall, we are getting better at digesting things that are going on. We will do some things (this week) to make things a little easier for guys to play fast."
That's left coach Bruce Arians scratching his head a little bit. He said no group has even spent this long trying to pick up the offense, but also said that the mistakes don't occur in practice – instead, creeping in during
"You can't be close," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "You have to have 11 guys on the same page. If 10 are on and one is off, it's probably not going to be successful play."
What bothers Fitzgerald is that there is a feeling that the offense will be good as long as it is being executed. It is full of nuance, the Pro Bowl wide receiver said, but that can be hell on a defense when done right.
"There are a lot of things you have to pick up pre-snap and once you are running the route," Fitzgerald said. "But once you get it, I mean, it's pretty indefensible. They can't guess right if you are doing what you are supposed to do and you are on the same page as a quarterback."
Third downs is the category in which the Cards have the most room to improve. Since starting the season converting seven of their first 12 third-down attempts, the Cardinals have managed just 7-of-36 on third downs.
Arians also wants to see an uptick in the 36 percent red-zone conversion rate for touchdowns.
"The plays are there," Fitzgerald said. "They are there to be made. It's just not having good leverage. It's like the Revis pick. I just gave him too much at the top. I should have run it and broke out. It's doing too much. That's nipping us."
TAKING ON CAM
The Cardinals have some speed back at linebacker with the return of Daryl Washington, which should help taking on Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton. But, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said, "Cam has gone against those guys before and he's burned them."
Newton has been solid so far, passing for six touchdowns with just two interceptions along with 577 yards in three games, a 91.9 passer rating, and he's added 98 rushing yards. At this point, Carolina coach Ron Rivera said, "expectations are so great that if he has a good game, it's like he's not playing very well."
Newton, in his first NFL start against Arizona back in 2011, tied the NFL record for passing yards by a rookie with 422. Those who remain on the defense – like cornerback Patrick Peterson, who also was playing in his first NFL game – haven't forgotten.
"We have to contain him the right away the entire game (in the pocket)," Peterson said.
Newton's 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame also creates a problem.
"A lot of guys get hits on him," Peterson added, "but it's about getting him down to the ground."
CARDINALS HAVE A HANDFUL OF QUESTIONABLE
Every injured Cardinal practiced at least on a limited basis Friday and while Arians is listing five players as questionable, "they all look like they could all be available," Arians said.
Safety Rashad Johnson (finger) was wearing a cast on his left hand during practice Friday, which would be the game plan if he were to be active. Guard Daryn Colledge (shin), defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (groin), linebacker Jasper Brinkley (groin) and linebacker Kevin Minter (hamstring) are also questionable.
For the Panthers, defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (hamstring), safety Quintin Mikell (ankle) and cornerback D.J. Moore (knee) are all out. Defensive end Greg Hardy, who had been sick all week and who leads Carolina in sacks, is probable.
CARDS GET FINED
Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was fined 15,750 for his horse-collar tackle of Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin in last week's game, while safety Yeremiah Bell was fined the same amount for an unnecessary roughness call when it was deemed he hit Tampa tight end Tim Wright helmet-to-helmet.
Buccaneers safety Dashon Goldson, who was flagged late in the game for an unnecessary roughness hit on Cardinals wide receiver Jaron Brown, was not fined.