Kurt Warner (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty)
The Cardinals' struggles on the East Coast again will on public display this week as the club prepares to travel to Carolina a second time this season. The Cardinals are 0-5 in the Eastern time zone this year, including a 27-23 loss at Carolina in late October.Since 2003, the Cardinals are 2-19 when playing in the East, with their last victory coming in 2007 against the Bengals.
It's a big reason the Cardinals opened the week as 10-point underdogs to the Panthers, the No. 2 seed.
The Cardinals have had numerous chances this season to prove they can be competitive when traveling across two or three time zones to play. They failed each time, and some of the losses were embarrassing, especially late in the year.
They lost by 40 in New England and 28 in Philadelphia.
Those games obscured the fact that the club played some decent games on the road early in the year. They lost to the Redskins by a touchdown and to the Panthers by four points, after leading by 14 in the third quarter.
The game earlier this year in Carolina gives them confidence that they can compete on the road. But Saturday's divisional playoff game is another test of this team's maturity.
--Free safety Antrel Rolle now has scored five touchdowns on nine turnovers. He has returned four of his eight career interceptions for scores, and returned a fumble for a touchdown last week.
--Of the Cardinals' 22 starters against the Falcons, 16 made their playoff debut last week.
--Cardinals president Michael Bidwill decided to keep the roof at University of Phoenix Stadium closed last Sunday, and his quarterback appreciated it.
"I don't know what it is, but the air just feels a little bit different," said Kurt Warner, who is 37-11 as a starter indoors and 21-33 outside. "I've been telling Michael (Bidwill) that all year: 'Just keep it closed every week.' I know it's beautiful outside. We love all that stuff, but just keep it closed for me."
--Coaches have been bugging quarterback Kurt Warner to run every once in awhile. He finally took their advice, gaining six yards on a key third-down play.
"That's something that goes all the way back to training camp for us," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "It only took us 17 weeks to get it done."
--Defensive lineman Darnell Dockett has been penalized twice in the past five games for excessive celebrations after touchdowns. The first came against the Rams in Week 13 when Dockett scored on a fumble return. The second one came against Atlanta after end Antonio Smith sacked Matt Ryan for a safety.
"I can't do something like that next week, though," Dockett said, "because that could hurt us."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--QB Kurt Warner was very efficient in his first playoff appearance since 2001. Warner was 19 of 32 for 271 yards and two touchdowns. He threw for three first downs on the team's final possession.
--WR Anquan Boldin suffered a strained hamstring against the Falcons and likely will be questionable for Sunday's game. Don't expect Boldin to practice this week, or for the Cardinals to say much about the injury. They give few details about injuries.
--DE Travis LaBoy has missed three straight games with an ankle sprain. Coaches were hopeful he would play last week but he had a setback in practice. He likely will be questionable again this week.
--TE Leonard Pope suffered a knee injury against Seattle and was inactive for the Falcons game.
--S Antrel Rolle's 27-yard fumble return for a touchdown was the team's first defensive touchdown in playoff history.