The Arizona Cardinals entered Sunday's match against the Carolina Panthers as the league's top run defense. But the Panthers ran past the Cardinals' accolades, racking up 270 yards and two rushing touchdowns (courtesy of Jonathan Stewart) to take home the 34-21 victory.
DeAngelo Williams also marched all over the Cardinals' glorified run defense with 158 yards.
On defense, the Panthers kept the Cardinals' run game to less than 100 total yards. Through the air, seven different Cardinals receivers (Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower, Anquan Boldin, Ben Patrick, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Anthony Becht) combined for 242 yards.
Stephens-Howling and Patrick will throw secret celebrations for themselves. Stephens-Howling raced in the Cardinals opening touchdown, which tied the game 7-7 in the first quarter.
While fellow running backs Hightower and Wells were instrumental in the play, it was Stephens-Howling who earned his first career touchdown similar to the way Wells did the week before. Patrick scored his first touchdown since 2007. Hightower also put his hand in the pot with his fifth touchdown of the season.
But the real story was the Cardinals failure to escape the clutches of Carolina's pass defense. The Panthers picked off Kurt Warner five times (thanks to Julius Peppers, Thomas Davis, Richard Marshall and Sherrod Martin- with two).
Peppers also added a sack against Warner, as did Charles Johnson.
The Panthers defense showed up to make big plays, the Cardinals' defense didn't. The Cardinals were only able to pressure backup quarterback Matt Moore after Jake Delhomme was sidelined. Calais Campbell and Chike Okeafor combined for the Cardinals only sack. The Cardinals were unable to force a turnover.
The Cardinals (4-3) return to the field next Sunday to take on the Bears in Chicago. The Bears smashed the Cleveland Browns 30-6 in Week 8. The Bears are also 4-3. The biggest questions for Week 9 will be the status of Anquan Boldin (ankle), whether the Cardinals can overcome an early East Coast game and if they can rebound from a costly performance.