At one point — and it was very ugly for a while Sunday — someone said to me on Twitter that Sunday's showing by the Cardinals in Carolina was worse than the one in January by the Cardinals in Carolina. Uh, no. It wasn't at its lowest point Sunday, and then the Cardinals started to rally.
Late rallies after early bad deficits are what they are. It shows a little something, but it doesn't wipe out what you did to tumble into the hole in the first place. There were legitimate questions of why it turned out this way — hangover from the nasty five quarters against the Seahawks, an early kickoff — but it's really all moot.
Now the Cardinals reach the halfway point and their bye with a chance to regroup. Get a little more healthy. And try and make sure the gains they had made over the previous three games don't go to waste.
"We're not going to coward away," quarterback Carson Palmer said.
They shouldn't. The math says they are still in control of their own destiny. The Seahawks lost and aren't looking all that powerful themselves. The problem is that the Cardinals have to pile up wins — on the road — in the second half of the season to get there. Doable, but they will have to play much more consistently from here on out.
-- About the two replays. The first is simple. It was a turnover and a score. The booth was going to look at it. Both Bruce Arians and Palmer lobbied that it was a pass and not a fumble, but that's as much as they can do. No, Arians can't call a timeout to argue more. The booth — rightly or wrongly — decided quickly that there was no reason to look at it closely. I was stunned, and so were the Cardinals, but that was that.
-- As for the Greg Olsen catch on the sideline that by TV replay looked incomplete (and ultimately cost the Cards four points, because the Panthers ended up getting a touchdown instead of a field goal), Arians said the Cardinals did not get a replay that showed something to be challenged. It doesn't sound like they necessarily get the TV replay.
-- The bye comes at a good time, because the Cardinals are hurting. It's never good when your starting left tackle leaves the game, and Jared Veldheer has been so tough since he showed up you have to figure something really had to be wrong with his right arm to come out. That's one that bears watching. If Veldheer was hurting long-term, D.J. Humphries may slide over to the left side and John Wetzel — who replaced Veldheer Sunday — could be on the right side.
-- The Cards also have to see how safety Tyrann Mathieu is with his shoulder and if whatever that sent Larry Fitzgerald to the sideline hobbling (he came back in) is something that lingers.
Yes, a bye is a good thing for a wounded team.
-- Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who was not happy earlier in the season by some hits he was taking and said something about it, wasn't happy after the game again. At one point after a run he had words with linebacker Kevin Minter and safety D.J. Swearinger, and then he was very upset after defensive tackle Calais Campbell got him between the knees and ankles on a pass attempt, pulling Newton down in an attempted sack. No flag was thrown.
Campbell had stumbled through the blocking — it did not look like he intentionally dove at Newton's knees — and he tried to say something that looked conciliatory after the play.
"I could have torn my ACL," Newton said. "That's the breaking point."
Newton added, "It's really taken the fun out of the game for me, honestly. It really is because at times, I don't even feel safe. Right? And enough is enough. I plan on talking to Commissioner Roger Goodell about this."
-- Michael Floyd played, but he didn't have a catch (save for one wiped out by penalty). We'll see where he is with his hamstring, but he looked OK running around. John Brown got his first touchdown of the season but Arians said he's still not playing like Smoke. J.J. Nelson, however, played very well, and Arians said someone is going to have to take Nelson's playing time away at this point.
-- An early hole made it harder to stick with the run, but what really made it hard was that the Panthers' run defense swarmed David Johnson Sunday. Between that and the eight sacks, it was not a good day for the offense line. To their collective credit, they owned up to it.
-- Cards are down 16, but there is still a quarter to go and they have momentum. So:
1) Earl Watford is called for holding on a no-yard run on first-and-10; 2) Veldheer is called for illegal formation on first-and-20; 3) Palmer gains six yards on a pass to make it second-and-19 and then drills Andre Ellington for a 27-yard gain but D.J. Humphries is called for hands-to-the-face and Palmer pops off (pretty mildly, though — "Another freaking flag"? draws a flag?) and suddenly, the Cards aren't inside the Carolina 30 but at their own 20 on second-and-44.
-- Sure the Cards had their chance late after the Jefferson fumble and before the Palmer tipped interception, but that penalty sequence really undercut the comeback. You can be upset with the flags being thrown, but ultimately, you have to avoid them in the first place. Usually the Cards are good at that.
-- I've rambled long enough. Eight games to go. We'll see if the Cardinals can find a way to be playing beyond New Year's Day.