W2W4: Carolina at Arizona

October, 5, 2013
10/05/13
5:00
PM ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Coach Ron Rivera has been saying for two weeks the 38-0 victory against the New York Giants can be a catalyst for the Carolina Panthers.

He'll find out in Sunday's 4:05 p.m. game when the Panthers (1-2) face the Arizona Cardinals (2-2) at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

Here are three keys for Carolina:

Hardy
Hardy
Hardy har har: The Cardinals traded left tackle Levi Brown to Pittsburgh and will give Bradley Sowell his first start. Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy, coming off a three-sack performance against the Giants, and the entire defensive front have to take advantage to pressure Carson Palmer. Hardy ended Palmer's 2013 season at Oakland with a controversial hit that broke the quarterback's ribs and bruised his lungs. If the Panthers a can get to the veteran early, they can throw off his timing and good things should follow. Remember, coach Bruce Arians called his offense putrid a week ago. The Panthers must force the coach to find an even more colorful adjective. The always-colorful Hardy, despite missing a couple of days of practice with a fever, welcomes the chance to help out.

Immovable object: Arizona's No. 2 ranked run defense meets Carolina's No. 3 run offense. The Cardinals are allowing 75 yards a game. The Panthers are averaging 151. Something has to give. What the Cardinals haven't faced is a quarterback who can run like Cam Newton. If Newton can stretch the field a few times early with his legs, which I believe he can, that would open up the rest of the offense. Carolina also has a new wrinkle in rookie Kenjon Barner, a scat-back type who missed the first three games with an ankle injury. The change of pace from DeAngelo Williams will make the Panthers more unpredictable. But bottom line, this will come down to the guys in the trenches, and who can move the other out of the way.

Fourth quarter: The Panthers lost their first two games by blowing fourth-quarter leads. The Cardinals have won two games with fourth-quarter comebacks, outscoring Detroit and Tampa Bay by a combined 22-0 in the final period. If this one is close, and it has a chance to be with two stingy defenses, this could lean in favor of Arizona. Beginning with a 28-21 loss to the Cardinals in Ron Rivera's first game as Carolina's head coach in 2011, the Panthers are 2-14 in games decided by seven points or less. There's a mindset that comes with winning close games, and for Carolina to turn things around, this has to change.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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