Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said he and the offense began too tentative in the playoff game against the Packers.
Carson Palmer just wanted to make sure the Cardinals got some completions early in the game against what he figured to be a furious Packers pass rush. The quarterback wanted to avoid negative situations, which is why he went more conservative in his play choices last week.
Did nerves play a factor in Palmer's slow start? Palmer wouldn't go that far Wednesday, but he sounded confident he and the Cardinals
would be in the right frame of mind when they play in Carolina Sunday for the NFC Championship.
"There are always butterflies," Palmer said. "I get butterflies in preseason. And I love that. That's what football gives you. That's how I still know I love it.
"The first half (against Green Bay), we've had other halves like that. … I think wanting it so bad, maybe too bad, being tentative, that's not my style. That's not our head coach's style. This is not a tentative offense. I think being tentative bit us in the butt in the first half. We came out with a different mindset -- I came out with a different mindset -- after halftime."
Palmer had 74 yards passing in the first half, and 275 yards passing in the second half and overtime.
"I think everybody got (nervousness) out of the way, and with it especially being such a tight game, it was very beneficial to us," coach Bruce Arians said. "I think this preparation already, you can see a different football team. It looks like a lot of energy, a lot of focus, maybe not as much apprehension."
As a follow up, Arians was asked specifically of Palmer, to which the coach said, "that's basically who I'm talking about."
Whatever problems he might have had, Palmer insisted it wasn't because of the finger he hurt Dec. 20 in Philadelphia. The quarterback quickly dismissed that idea, saying it was not bothering him. "There is no issue with the finger," he said.
OLSEN PRESENTS ANOTHER TIGHT END PROBLEM
Arians paused for a moment when he was asked, if the Cardinals were able to neutralize Panthers tight end Greg Olsen Sunday, how Carolina would be able to beat Arians' team.
"Well, that's a good question," Arians said. "We take him out of the passing game, that's about 47 percent of it, and that's our goal.
That's hard to do though."
Olsen has worked well with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton before this season, but with the season-ending knee injury to top receiver Kelvin Benjamin in training camp, Olsen became that much more important. He had 77 catches for 1,104 yards and seven touchdowns. Only Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski had more yards as a tight end.
The Cards have had their issues since Arians arrived against tight ends, and the defense lost a key piece when safety Tyrann Mathieu got hurt. But defending the tight end has improved, Arians said, with linebackers like Karlos Dansby, Larry Foote and now Deone Bucannon, along with safety play.
"It's funny because we played Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis, some of those guys who are split outs," Arians said. "That's where they were catching balls. Greg Olsen is a whole new problem because he's everywhere. He is their focal point."
INJURIES SHOULDN'T BE A FACTOR
It was Arians' opening statement Wednesday: "Basically, no injuries to report." The Cardinals indeed have a bunch of players listed on the report, but all are expected to be available for Sunday's game.
Five players were limited: Cornerback Justin Bethel (ankle), wide receiver John Brown (shoulder), running back David Johnson (toe), defensive tackle Josh Mauro (calf) and defensive tackle Frostee Rucker (ankle).
For the Panthers, the list was even shorter, although three players did not practice: Running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle), defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (foot) and defensive end Jared Allen (foot).