BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Cardinals are heading toward their 18th game of the season this Sunday, and Jerraud Powers is taking the same approach to it just like he’s done for the previous 13 he played in. It doesn’t matter to him that it’s the NFC Championship Game. What he’s done to get ready for those games has served him well to this point, so why change anything now?
“I use the same approach from preseason, Week 1, to now,” Powers said. “I do the same thing. I was just telling some guys in there, some younger guys, ‘Man, if you eat Burger King every Tuesday, go do it. Don’t change what you do on your routine because whatever you’ve been doing is the reason we’re at this point now.’ If it’s anything, I’ll say, ‘Guys, watch a little bit more film. Do a little bit more preparation-wise, but as far as your routine, do whatever your routine is, because that’s why we’re at this point.’”
Powers used to eat Burger King when he was younger, but he’s graduated from that, and he’s letting the younger guys in the locker room handle that. He’s got his own personal way of approaching and handling games, and it’s family-centric.
“On Fridays, I make sure that me and my son have a little one-on-one football game. I’ve got a four-year old son that thinks he’s a professional already, so I do that,” Powers said. “But then on game day, I have this Christian playlist that I listen to all the way until I get into the stadium, and then I just flip a script, like some other guy that I don’t even know. So that’s probably the only ritual that I do.”
Powers will be looking to flip and turn into that unknown person on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium, with the right to head to Super Bowl 50 on the line.
The Panthers are 16-1 on the season, and 9-0 at home for many, many reasons; one of them being that they love to blow teams away with their physicality, something Powers knows they’ll try to do to the Cardinals on Sunday.
“They’re (Panthers) physical and confident. They feel like they can run the ball on anybody, and they have all year,” Powers said. “They’ve done a good job of doing that. It’s hard to account for (Panthers quarterback) Cam (Newton). I was just saying, once you have one good running back, it’s easy to be like, ‘Yeah, we’ll put eight in the box for this guy, or that guy.’ But, to have a good running back (Jonathan Stewart) and a good running quarterback as well, it’s hard to account for. He makes a lot of plays with his feet, so it’s definitely going to be a tough challenge for us.”
“It’s going to be one of those games which you want to sit back and put your feet up and watch,” Powers said. “I think it’s going to be physical on both sides of the ball, especially with the wet conditions. It might be more runs than not anyway. I think whoever’s a more physical team on the night is going to win the game.”
No matter what the conditions may be in Charlotte, N.C., for the game, you just know head coach Bruce Arians is going to dial up the plays he thinks will be successful against Carolina. Arians caught a lot of flak for his decision to throw on 2nd and 8 late in regulation in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Green Bay Packers. Arizona had a four-point lead and could’ve milked more clock with Green Bay out of timeouts, but Arians wanted to throw. It wasn’t successful, but he didn’t regret making that call after the game when asked about it.
When it comes to confidence, Powers and his teammates pile theirs on top of the confidence they get from their head coach. Arians has rubbed off on them so much that Powers sees many players mimicking him in their daily walk.
“I think some guys take on it a lot,” Powers said. “Some guys just let him (Arians) be him. He has a unique confidence and swagger about him, and I think if you look around our locker room, it’s a lot of guys that act just like him. But, like I said, we still got the guys that read the books in the corners. Or, you’ve got the guys that are just paying no mind, unless he’s saying something to them. So, it’s still a locker room of different personalities, but overall, we definitely use his confidence because he feels like when we step on the field, there’s not another team better than us. We take that same approach.”
Something’s gotta give this weekend in North Carolina. Carolina’s undefeated at home this year, while the Cardinals were nearly unscathed on the road, with the Steelers loss being their only one away from University of Phoenix Stadium.
Powers’ reasoning behind Arizona’s road success comes from what the team’s been through over the past three seasons, and how they’ve conquered it all, and made it to this point in the season and in their careers much better men than when they started this journey in January 2013, when they got a new general manager (Steve Keim) and new head coach in Arians.
“I think it’s just helped our maturity level,” Powers said. “We feel like we can go anywhere and play well. We try not to let outside distractions, as far as the crowd noise and everything like that, play a part in how we play the game. Guys are just relaxed and have fun. I think you should go into away games with an attitude, knowing that everybody in the stadium is against you and your backs are against the wall. The only way you can win is fight your way out of it, and that’s just been our mentality on the road this year.”
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn’t throw Patrick Peterson’s way much last Saturday night, and when he did, Peterson made him pay for it with a pick-6, which luckily for Rodgers, got called back on a defensive penalty.
Rodgers spent plenty of time targeting Powers and cornerback Justin Bethel when he was rotated in. Expect to see Newton do more of the same to Powers and Bethel on Sunday, if he knows what’s good for him.
Powers is fine with the extra workload. He relishes the fact that he and Bethel are going to get picked on a lot by Newton. He’s ready to take that challenge head on and come out on the winning end of the majority of it.
“I just think you’ve just got to maintain your confidence,” Powers said. “You’ve got to admit that they’re going to catch some balls every now and then, but as long as you’re putting yourself in position to make plays, your plays will come. I always try to tell J.B. (Justin Bethel) just to remain calm, relaxed, keep competing, and your plays will come. That’s just the life of being the opposite of Patrick (Peterson). You know you’re going to get some work. You’re going to have opportunities to make plays and when the opportunity presents itself, just make a play.”