Arizona’s mistakes helped Newton’s record day

The flip side of rookie Cam Newton’s record performance is the
bad afternoon for the Arizona Cardinals’ defense.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt criticized that defense, particularly the
secondary, on Monday, implying that Cardinals’ errors, both in
technique mistakes and in improper positioning, helped Newton amass
422 yards passing, tied for the most by a rookie in any game and a
record for a rookie in a season opener.

But, Whisenhunt added, ”It’s much easier to correct your
mistakes after a win.”

The Cardinals did hold off the Carolina Panthers 28-21 on
Sunday, rallying with two fourth-quarter touchdowns – Kevin Kolb’s
70-yard pass to Early Doucet and rookie Patrick Peterson’s 89-yard
punt return. Newton drove the Panthers to the Arizona 11-yard line
in the final minutes, but threw four incompletions. He got an extra
play because of an offside penalty, and threw over the middle to
Mike Goodson, who was stopped by linebacker Paris Lenon at the
2-yard line, a yard shy of a first down.

”We got out with an ugly victory,” Kolb said. ”That’s the
key. We still won the game. Can you imagine if we had lost that
game in the final seconds some way, we’d be sick.”

Kolb, in his Arizona debut, also had a 48-yard TD pass to tight
end Jeff King. But the Cardinals were inside the Carolina 6 twice
and came up empty.

”Look, it’s got to be our point of emphasis to clean up those
details,” Kolb told reporters at his locker after viewing the tape
of the game on Monday. ”especially when they’re that critical, the
ones we had down there in the red zone, some of the plays on
defense, everybody. The good thing is we have a good veteran group
of guys that know that.”

The Cardinals’ best defensive performer on Sunday, inside
linebacker Daryl Washington, has a calf injury and an MRI is
planned. He had one interception and another pick was nullified by
penalty.

Both of the Cardinals’ starting cornerbacks were playing in
their first NFL game, the rookie Peterson and A.J. Jefferson, a
second-year pro who spent last season on Arizona’s practice
squad.

”It’s a learning curve for me and A.J.,” Peterson said. ”We
were in some bad positions technical wise. At some time and place,
we weren’t playing within the scheme of the defense, not knowing
when the ball’s coming out hot. That’s going to come with both of
being in our first year starting, but that’s one game under our
belt and we’re definitely going to learn from it.”

Whisenhunt said Patrick, the fifth overall pick in the draft,
showed the effects of not having offseason training because of the
NFL lockout.

”The thing I like about Patrick is that he is aware of what he
is seeing on the field,” Whisenhunt said. ”He can communicate it
when he comes to the sideline and I think, with that being said,
that means some of the technique errors that he made yesterday we
will be able to clean up, get his eyes right so he’s not looking at
the wrong thing, which will certainly help him be in the right
position. But I’m not worried about that. I think he will continue
to grow and get better.”

Whisenhunt said Jefferson ”looked like a young player out there
making his first NFL start.”

”A lot of the things he had been working on being consistent in
training camp, which we talked about before being the big thing I
wanted to see from him, he struggled with that a little bit
yesterday,” the coach said, ”but that was his first game. I’m not
down on A.J. by any stretch of the imagination. He’s a talented
young player and he’ll continue to get better.”

The team’s veteran safeties, Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes,
also struggled at times.

Wilson didn’t play at all in the preseason after tearing a
biceps tendon.

”It looked like he hadn’t played in a while,” Whisenhunt said.
”There were a number of things where we weren’t playing them
correctly. I’m not pointing a finger at Adrian, but he was
definitely part of that. There were a lot of those guys, especially
in the back end, that were not playing our coverages the correct
way or not making the correct adjustments. Part of it is having
young guys outside and part of it is just not getting it done well
enough. That’s what we have to work on. Like I said, I’d much
rather work on it after a win.”

Peterson, whose personality oozes confidence, almost chose to
make a fair catch of the punt that he returned 89 yards, the
second-longest in Cardinals history.

”I took a chance. I definitely took a chance,” he said. ”I
saw everybody slowing down in my peripheral vision. I was like, `We
need a play, so to heck with it.”’

Then he laughed.