We're very excited to be playing in the NFC Championship Game. We're in a good place right now. We're excited about the opportunity to play in the game. However, we understand that we're facing an opponent that's playing good football right now.
I don't want to say the difference in the way the Cardinals are playing is "night and day" because they threw the ball well when we played them back on Thanksgiving. They're still doing that. The biggest change is how physical their defense is playing and how well they're running the ball. Not only are the Cardinals giving Edgerrin James more carries, he's running so hard and so effectively that it makes them a much more dangerous team. They already throw the ball effectively. Kurt Warner is a great passer. He can distribute the ball and he can make every throw. If you mix in a good running game, it makes for a dangerous combination.
You always have to weigh the risk vs. the reward when you blitz a quarterback of Kurt Warner's caliber. You have to pick and choose your moments. Hopefully, you get home when you blitz.
The Cardinals' game against Atlanta could have gone either way. It came down to a couple key plays on the final drive that kept it alive and allowed them to run out the clock. Carolina, having played Atlanta the way they did during the regular season, thought that they were going to have an easy time, at least that's the way it looked when you watch the game tape. The Panthers are a talented team. They just didn't have a good night.
If you count the preseason, this is Week 24. We've played a lot of football and guys are nicked up. That's the nature of the game. The same way we focused on keeping a level head early in the week and not playing the game on Wednesday and Thursday and staying in a good place to be able to focus and absorb information and get the game plan in is important.
I talked to Dawk in the week leading up to the first playoff game about not getting too excited early in the week because there's a lot of energy around the team. You can see inside the locker room how guys are bouncing around, maybe already a little too excited. The veteran leaders who have done this five times now are leading the way and keeping us on an even keel right now.
We know a team can go on the road in each game of the playoffs and win it all. The Giants did it last year. It's fun playing on the road in a way because it's kind of a back-against-the-wall mentality. You have to tighten up. It's like you already have to face adversity before the game even begins. I think we play well under those conditions.
At the end of the day, we're still the sixth seed and we're playing at their place. We can't afford to take them lightly. It's not like we're the overwhelming favorite, at least in our eyes. We still feel like we're the underdogs and that's the mentality we're taking.