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Opposing View: Panthers vs. Cardinals

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians

On what stands out most about last season's NFC Championship game:"I think we played a little uptight too early. We got behind. We were down 10 but it felt like 20. I think just the pressure of the moment, being in it for the first time. We threw some interceptions we really wouldn't have thrown normally. I think pressing a little too much. The big thing is you can't let them get a big lead or any kind of lead because they're really good when they have a lead."

On the adaptation of linebacker Chandler Jones to the Cardinals' system:"He's been an outstanding teammate, a great worker. His preparation is outstanding. He's been a really good addition, standing up at the outside linebacker gives us great position flexibility because he can play two or three different spots and obviously he can rush the passer."

On if Jones has given the Cardinals an "edge":"There's no doubt. (Linebacker) Markus Golden has come on his second year and I think he and Chandler are a really good pair of edge rushers."

On what the biggest difference is in the Panthers now compared to last season's team:"Really when you turn on the film, you think they're 5-1 because they play that well and they're scoring a lot of points. They've lost some close games at the end like we have. But the same cast of characters are there. They have the same front seven and it's as good as there is in the League. They have the best inside linebacker in the League. Obviously they have had some injuries at cornerback which has hurt them. But offensively and defensively, I think they are as sound as they've ever been."

His reaction to the game being moved to 1:00 p.m. EDT:"We would have much rather had the game at 4:00 p.m., which is 1:00 p.m. our time, so we could stay on a normal schedule. We've kind of gotten used to it. This is our sixth or seventh time that we've played a 10:00 a.m. our time on the east coast so we've gotten used to it a little bit. You would have hoped that both our records would have kept it in primetime."

On if he could have predicted running back David Johnson playing well early in his career:"I think you never know. You'd hope so because he's very mature and the talent spoke for itself. The biggest thing for young guys is opportunity. He got opportunities last year through injuries and made the best of them. He's continued to progress this year."

On how tight end Greg Olsen is effective in the Panthers offensive scheme:"He blocks. When you have a tight end who blocks in a running offense and can run down the stretch of the field, you have a special guy. He'll do the dirty work and then Coach (Mike) Shula does a good job of rewarding him and (quarterback) Cam Newton with a lot of passes because you do get that good, hard running action and he can get into the schemes and split you with his feet. He's a unique guy."

On how division champions are a measuring stick and if this is still a measuring stick game with the Panthers 1-5 record:"I don't think there is any doubt. We're both very, very hungry. Nobody is out of it, but we've dug holes so you know, every game is very important."

His thoughts on the Panthers' defensive issues:"The only thing I could see is the young corners. They're getting better but like we had a young corner bust a coverage and gave up a touchdown. It cost us the game. You have those growing pains with young players."

On if he has seen the defensive issues on film:"I think when you look at the front seven and those two safeties, it's all the same guys and they're all playing at a really high level. The play outside is getting better and better."

On the similarities between the Cardinals and the Panthers:"I think you have veteran clubs and every year, each team is different and injuries do certain things to different positions. Normally they affect special teams because you're playing younger players and if they get roles on special teams, they can't handle the volume of information. But I think both teams have young players that have lived up to the expectation we had hoped."

On if linebackers Shaq Thompson and Deone Bucannon are similar players:"They are very similar with the same stature. They both could play safety if you needed them to play safety. You can make him run, you know. I think they are very similar."

On how the back end of the Panthers defense affects the overall defensive scheme with the front seven remaining the same from last season:"You didn't see the deep balls completed on them last year and it's happened on the tapes this year. Young guys get hit with double moves, and veterans too, but young guys are pressing so hard that communication can get a little screwed up."

On if they are reviewing the NFC Championship tape this week:"You always look at it and you learn from your mistakes. There were some good things on the tape and you try to figure out how they were defending you.  But you'll look at last year's playoff game and from two years ago also."

On how a team can create turnovers:"They usually come in bunches. I've gone through seasons where we won a lot of games and didn't create a bunch of turnovers. The defense didn't ever break and we had a great year with the Steelers. I don't think we had an interception for eight games but we still played great defense. Sometimes your offense has to play a bit of a longer field because of it."

On the rehabbing of safety Tyrann Mathieu:"He brings back the passion and the energy. He's not his self yet. He's probably 85 percent or 90 percent maybe. He's getting better. But I think he'll feel better whenever he can take that brace off and feel like himself. But he brings a playmaker that brings a ton of energy and passion."

Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson

On how Carolina's offense this year compares to last year's:"Those guys are still doing some of the things that they've been doing over the course of the last year. It just seems that they're just not in sync right now. For the most part but those guys are running the same plays, have the same personnel. Get the second team in there a little bit more. (Wide receiver) Kelvin (Benjamin) is definitely a big part of their offense, and so is (tight end) Greg (Olsen). Getting (running back) (Jonathan) Stewart back is huge for them. Also, coming off of the bye, getting (quarterback) Cam (Newton) back healthy. I think these guys can find their identity again as far as getting those players to what they were used to last year. For the most part like I said, they're pretty much the same offense."

On Arizona acquiring linebacker Chandler Jones:"Chandler has been a huge addition to this defense because he can do some things that we weren't able to do in the past. Play a little bit more coverage and let him and (linebacker) Markus (Golden) get after the quarterback, which they have been doing such a phenomenal job for us throughout the season. It's just the way he comes to work each and every day, it passes down to the younger guys to understand what it takes to work and what it takes to be at the top of your game and be a Super Bowl champion. Chandler was on that 2014-15 team that won the world championship that year so he has that experience. He has a very, very big playmaking ability. We're happy to have him and he's been nothing but great for us."

On if he was surprised at how last year's NFC Championship game began:"Yeah, no doubt about it. Just seemed like we couldn't get out of first gear. Definitely was surprised to see the 17-point lead grow so quickly. It happens, we have to find a way to get over it and I believe we have this season. What a great experience it was to have the opportunity to play for it all – to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Like I said, we didn't come with our best game that day for some odd reason. First time since Coach B.A. (Bruce Arians) has been here where the five-star players – none of us showed up. We hold ourselves accountable for the outcome of that game, for sure. We definitely want to continue to do whatever we need to do to get to that pinnacle peak again and hopefully we can have a different outcome."

On trailing by 17 points early in last year's NFC Championship game:"It was definitely surreal to be at that point in the game. We always had that belief that we had a shot of coming back but we continued to shoot ourselves in the foot that game. Like I said, we just could not get out of first gear. It was something that was heartbreaking. Definitely going to the fourth quarter thinking that all the mistakes that we made to create that hole that we were in. We all know that we can't take anything back but we just all wish we could get the start of that game back for sure."

On what it would be like to prepare for Newton if he did not run the ball:"Life would be much easier, I can tell you that much. I can guarantee that. Having that freak of nature running down between the hashes and down the sidelines, that's not supposed to happen. It would definitely be a blessing to not prepare for Cam Newton as a runner but we know that's not reality. Like you said, that is his game. You can tell that gets him into the game. That gets him fired up. Not only him but his team. The guy is really, really tough. He's a lot to deal with. I don't know Cam personally like that but I'm sure he knows how to be smart watch himself for another [concussion] because he is a very valuable piece to that Carolina offense and to the organization as well. You want to have your best player on the field at all times and he understands that and I'm quite sure he'll be smart from here on out."

On if he looks at the game differently since the kickoff time was moved from primetime:"No, not really. Things happen throughout the course of the season. They have flex games going with Sunday Night Football on NBC so things happen. It's not the way that they projected it to be but this is still a big game for both of us. Carolina wants to get their season back on the right foot as far as getting that second win on Sunday and we're also in the middle of the pack right now trying to gain some separation from the other guys in the NFC. So this is a big game for both teams regardless of what time the game is and who picked it up or who dropped it. We're not looking at it as that. They could play the game midnight. If they say we had to play the game at midnight and drop the ball, we'd be there. That's what we're all about. Being prepared whenever your number is called. They dropped it from the 4:25 PM time and we're playing at 1:00 PM and that's what they called us to do and now we just have to go out there and put forth the effort and come out with the "W." We're not worrying about when we're playing."

On how the Cardinals defense has not allowed a touchdown in 11 quarters:"Just the defense working as a unit. We are beginning to catch our stride and we're beginning to play in that same dominant force that we were last year. Obviously starting the years we had a few bases that we had to work with as far as communicating and things like that. And now that we have those couple game under our belt, guys understand what they're supposed to be, especially the secondary. Having (safety) Tyrann Mathieu play at a new position and bringing (cornerback) Marcus Cooper and those guys and trying to get them into the group. Now that we are all on the same page, playing on one accord, I think we're all having fun and playing fast. At the beginning of the season, I think some guys were just doing too much thinking as far as going out there and playing but now they're know what they're doing, they're playing fast and having fun and that all goes into the type of football that we're playing."

His advice to young players in the Carolina secondary:"It comes with time honestly. When you have a collective young secondary and guys don't have that much experience. You may have safeties that have experience but they may not understand the cornerback position. For the most part, I tell my guys that in order for you to be a good football player, you have to see the football and put yourself in situations. So just have them study the game and have them understand what offenses are trying to do to them and what they're trying to do. I believe if you understand that, you'll be able to play a little bit faster. When you see guys get in deep and go for those long balls or like a third-down or a key drive, sometimes they don't know that it's covered. When you watch film and you watch your opponent throughout the week, you kind of have a feel for it and understand what's coming and that gives you the ability to play more loosely or play a little bit faster. I just tell my guys make sure you have the mental part of the game up to par because I believe that will get you through most downs."

His assessment of Olsen:"I don't know what to call him, a tight end or a receiver. He's in the backfield sometimes, not that they're handing him off the ball, but you have put him everywhere. He's a very difficult guy to prepare for throughout the week. We have our hands full preparing for No. 88."

View photos of the Panthers' week of practice leading up to their game against Arizona.

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