Keys to the Game: Cardinals at Seahawks

After squeaking by with a victory against Houston in week 4, the Arizona Cardinals face a crucial divisional game against the Seattle Seahawks in the tough confines of Qwest Field. Here are three keys to victory for Sunday's game.

Get off to a quick start...

In the Cardinals' two wins this year they have outscored their opponents 45-3 in the first half, and in their two losses they have been outscored 34-9 in the game's first two quarters. Although Arizona isn't the best team at closing games, their chances of winning are clearly greater if they get on the board early.

Staying in the game early is all the more important while playing at Qwest Field. Seattle's 12th Man may be the loudest crowd in the league. Kurt Warner and the offense will be much better served if they get in-sync early, and the defense must avoid giving up the big play, so the that crows will not take them out of the game.

Make the big play on defense...

Until the Cardinals' secondary makes significant improvements, the defense as a whole will never be dominant. So, if it wants to help win games it must be opportunistic. This is the type of play that propelled Arizona to a victory against Houston last week. The offense struggled to score and the burden was left on the defense. While the defense gave up its fair share of yards, it made the big plays—Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's interception return and the goal-line stand.

In the NFL, it's all about creating turnovers and keeping teams out of the end zone. This has to be the focus of the Cardinals' defense heading into Seattle. The team's run defense is solid, but it has to improve its pass rushing and pass defense for the unit as a whole to become better.

Protect the old man...

Arizona's pass protection has been an area of concern the whole season. The offensive line gave up just one sack against Houston, but has allowed Warner to end up on his backside far too often this season. If it continues, Warner won't have a chance of making it through the whole season healthy. The O-line faces another tough defense that is tied for fourth in the league in sacks with 14.

The steady rush from opposing defenses has resulted in the Cardinals having only one pass play of 40 yards or more. Improved pass protection is necessary if Arizona wants to get it downfield against the Seahawks' ninth-ranked pass defense. A better balance of running plays, which Ken Wisenhunt promised this week, will help keep Seattle's pass rush guessing and off of No. 13.

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