CHARLOTTE – Head coach Bruce Arians' Arizona Cardinals have become known for their fearlessly explosive passing game.
Quarterback Carson Palmer finished the regular season with 4,671 passing yards – fourth-most in the NFL – and 35 passing touchdowns – one behind New England's Tom Brady for the top mark.
With Palmer directing an offense that features big-play wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown, Arians is always in "attack-mode," as Carolina head coach Ron Rivera described it.
"He's just not afraid to make a play call," safety Kurt Coleman said. "He's a guy that trusts his players to make plays. You can call it bold, you can call it whatever you want to. I just think (coach Arians) trusts his guys."
And Palmer trusts his wide receivers. The Cardinals produced 15 passing plays of more than 40 yards during the regular season, third most in the league.
They're explosive wide receivers with great size and speed," safety Roman Harper said. "They're all on the same page with Carson – you can tell on film. He throws it deep and he trusts them to come down with it."
The Panthers defense held opponents to a league-low 73.5 passer rating during the regular season, but Carolina's defensive backs know they'll be tested in Sunday's NFC Championship, and they know a deep shot might be coming when they least expect it.
"We have to understand when they like to take their shots," Harper said. "I see it as an opportunity. We have to go out there and make plays when our numbers are called."
Added cornerback Robert McClain: "You can't get lazy out there. You can see on film guys will relax and receivers can get behind the secondary. That's when Carson makes defenses pay. We have to take every play one at a time and we have to be in attack mode also. You can't just sit back and let them come at you."
Carolina's defensive version of attack mode starts with its front four.
"Ultimately, it's going to start up front and trickle to the back end," Coleman said. "We have to be able to get enough pressure on Palmer so he doesn't have the open windows that he likes."
Defensive end Mario Addison couldn't agree more. And after combating the elusive Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Playoff, the Panthers will take aim at a quarterback who is most comfortable operating from the pocket.
"A quarterback like Wilson rolls out and looks to make things happen. A quarterback like Carson Palmer – he wants to stay in there and throw the ball. We can make inside moves and know that he's still going to be in that spot," Addison said.
"We work together (with the secondary), and he can't get it to the receivers if we're in his face."
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED