Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Cardinals and Panthers took differing approaches to this season. As Pat Yasinskas noted, Carolina aggressively overhauled its offensive line. The Cardinals focused on continuity, bringing back all five starters on the line and most starters on offense.
Like the Panthers and every playoff team, the Cardinals also made a few lower-profile moves that have helped them succeed this season. Five that come to mind for Arizona:
1. Giving Steve Breaston a chance. Breaston caught eight passes during the 2007 season. He was mostly a special-teams player. The Cardinals gave him a chance to develop as a receiver, but rookie third-round choice Early Doucet appeared more likely to have staying power. Breaston deserves credit for improving. The Cardinals deserve credit for giving him a real chance. Breaston caught 77 passes for 1,006 yards during the regular season.
2. Re-signing Ralph Brown. The Cardinals viewed the 30-year-old Brown mostly as a mentor to rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Brown qualifies as such, but he has also made an impact as the Cardinals' nickel cornerback after Eric Green played himself out of the job. Brown picked off a pass against the Falcons in the wild-card round. His experience and smarts are helping the Cardinals.
3. Changing punters. Replacing a struggling punter during the season can be harder than it sounds. The consistent, proven punters generally have jobs already. The Cardinals, frustrated with Dirk Johnson's inconsistency, brought in 35-year-old journeyman Ben Graham. Graham helped pin the Falcons inside their 10-yard line three times in the wild-card round. The Cardinals downed seven of Graham's 20 regular-season punts inside the 20.
4. Adding Stephen Spach. The Cardinals signed Spach two days after their 27-23 defeat at Carolina. Spach, who opened the season with New England, played extensively the following week against the Rams. His blocking helped Tim Hightower rush for 109 yards. Spach started six of the final regular-season games. His 23-yard reception on third-and-16 helped Arizona run out the clock in the wild-card round.
5. Bringing back Bertrand Berry. The veteran pass-rusher accepted a pay reduction heading into the season. Releasing him would have proved costly given the injury problems Travis LaBoy experienced late in the season. Berry remains best suited to a situational role, but he has played extra reps and generally held up. He had five sacks during the regular season and a sixth against Atlanta in the playoffs.