Gameday: Panthers at Cardinals

The Panthers have 150 passing plays and 143 rushing plays through five games, but they'll focus on their running game with QB David Carr ailing and 43-year-old Vinny Testaverde signed this week to back him up. It's time for Carr to develop some chemistry with WR Steve Smith, who has just nine catches for 79 yards and no scores in Carr's two starts.

Carolina Panthers (3-2) at Arizona Cardinals (3-2)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET

GAMEDATE: 10/14/07

SURFACE: Grass

TV: FOX, Ron Pitts, Tony Boselli

SERIES: 7th meeting. Panthers lead series 4-2, but this will be the first meeting between the two teams at the new University of Phoenix Stadium. The Panthers defeated the Cardinals in 2003, '04 and '05, but the two teams did not play last season. The Panthers overcame 298 combined receiving yards by Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald to beat the Cards 24-20 at Sun Devil Stadium on Oct. 9, 2005. Delhomme threw for 243 yards and two scores and Stephen Davis ran for another touchdown.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Panthers have 150 passing plays and 143 rushing plays through five games, but they'll focus on their running game with QB David Carr ailing and 43-year-old Vinny Testaverde signed this week to back him up. It's time for Carr to develop some chemistry with WR Steve Smith, who has just nine catches for 79 yards and no scores in Carr's two starts. ... Cardinals QB Kurt Warner has a 102.3 passer rating, but that's in three relief appearance while primarily running the team's up-temp sets. The Cardinals will be wary of exposing Warner to an extreme pass rush, but can he avoid turnovers when pressured? The Cardinals hope to alleviate some of the burden with RB Edgerrin James attacking a run defense starting rookie LB Jon Beason in the middle.

KEY INJURIES: Panthers: QB Jake Delhomme (arm) is out for the season; Carr (back) is expected to play; MLB Dan Morgan (Achilles tendon) is expected to miss his third straight game. Cardinals: QB Matt Leinart (broken collarbone) is out for the season; WR Anquan Boldin (hip) hopes to return after missing two games; RT Levi Brown (sprained ankle) tweaked his injury and appears out for a second consecutive game; RT Elton Brown (knee) should be healthy enough to replace Levi Brown.

FAST FACTS: The Panthers enter their bye week following the game. ... Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald has caught 19 passes for 256 yards a touchdown in the two games Boldin has missed.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Panthers:

--QB David Carr did not practice Thursday. He said he hopes to work Friday and still hopes to start Sunday against Arizona.

--QB Vinny Testaverde could start this week if David Carr's back becomes bothersome.

--CB Ken Lucas returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday and is expected to start this week.

--LB Dan Morgan did not practice on Thursday and there's no chance he'll play this week and probably will not play until after the bye week.

--LB Jon Beason will start in the middle again this week.

--DE Julius Peppers has no sacks this season, but has three in his last three games against Arizona.

--LB Adam Seward is likely to be held out of this week's game with a calf injury.

--RB Nick Goings looks like a scratch for this week. He will have missed two weeks now with his third career concussion.

--WR Steve Smith is working on returning punts for Carolina. He returned one last week against New Orleans. Rookie Ryne Robinson simply isn't getting the job done.

Cardinals:

--RB Edgerrin James leads the NFC in rushing yards (442) and carries (107). But his workload is manageable. James is averaging about 21 carries per game and coaches won't become concerned about his carries until he approaches 30.

--WR Anquan Boldin's sore hip is improving but it doesn't look like he'll play Sunday. Boldin hasn't practiced this week and is expected to miss his third straight game.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald is carrying a huge load with Anquan Boldin out. Fitzgerald has 19 catches for 256 yards and a touchdown the past two games, both of which Boldin missed.

--TE Leonard Pope has caught just one pass for five yards in the past three games. The Cardinals tried to find him on routes down the middle last week in St. Louis, but he was well covered.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Panthers:

The likelihood of 43-year-old Vinny Testaverde starting Sunday against Arizona increased on Thursday after David Carr missed his second straight day of practice.

Testaverde signed with Carolina on Wednesday.

Carr threw on the side before practice Thursday and is still hoping to take some reps in practice Friday.

"I threw some balls and it wasn't bad," Carr said. "It wasn't as uncomfortable as I thought it would be.... It's a little tight on the release. It's just a matter of getting it through there. It should feel better tomorrow and if it does I will try to practice."

Carr said he feels like he has to get some work in on Friday if he wants to play.

"You want to do something," Carr said. "You don't just want to walk in there on Sunday and try and do it. I have experience, but not that much. You have to get some reps with these guys. So I'm going to try to practice (Friday)."

Carr admitted one option the Panthers are considering is resting him this week before the bye.

That essentially would give him three weeks of no contact between games, allowing his back more time to heal.

"Yeah definitely and that has crossed our minds and we have talked about it with the trainers," Carr said. "I played last week with it and it was sore and we were on a lot of (medication), but it can go either way.

"I will know more tomorrow at this time. I threw some balls today but I didn't really practice. I didn't drop back and I didn't run. I will be able to tell you for sure after practice Friday."

When asked if he's hopeful about Carr practicing on Friday, coach John Fox said, "I was hopeful he was (ready to practice) today, but he's not. So we'll see how it goes tomorrow."

With Carr out, Testaverde and Matt Moore shared reps in practice.

Of those two options, Testaverde makes more sense as a starter because he has more experience and would better be able to manage the game. Testaverde has played 21 seasons in the NFL, while Moore is a rookie and has thrown only two passes -- both of those coming last week against New Orleans.

The general feeling is Testaverde won't hurt you with mental mistakes.

"Anytime you bring in somebody new who hasn't been with you at camp or at off-season workouts, it's tough," Fox said. "But with Vinny he has some familiarity with the system we run and he has some familiarity with the coaches we have here. So hopefully he's a quick study and I think he is. I think he's looked pretty good."

Cardinals:

The Cardinals have received some solid performances on offense from unlikely sources, allowing them to survive a rash of injuries.

Elton Brown has been a capable fill-in at right tackle with Levi Brown out and expected to miss his third game. Lyle Sendlein played well in place of center Al Johnson for two games.

And Kurt Warner has been so efficient as Matt Leinart's backup that fans were starting to call for him to start. He'll get that chance now that Leinart is out for the season with a fractured left collarbone.

Part of the success is attributable to Ken Whisenhunt's coaching style. Under his regime, players have to sit up and pay attention in meetings and must carry in a pad and paper for note taking.

No one is allowed to slack off, which wasn't the case under former coach Dennis Green. Whisenhunt's demeanor has helped, too. Through the injuries, he has acted calm and kept repeating the mantra that other players had to step up.

They have and it's a big reason the Cardinals are 3-2. A victory over Carolina Sunday would be the Cardinals' third straight win, their longest streak since 2002.


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