Can the Cardinals get pressure on Brees?

Sunday's game between the Cardinals and the New Orleans Saints holds each team's playoff lives in the balance. A key for the Cardinals is pressuring Drew Brees and not allowing him to get in a rhythm. With injuries sidelining Reggie Bush, the Saints will lean even heavier on their Pro Bowl quarterback.

So far this season, the Saints have given up the fewest sacks in the league (11). Their offensive line is made up of solid talent across the board and is anchored by their Pro Bowl left tackle, Jammal Brown.

In just his third season out of Oklahoma, Brown has established himself by making first team All-Rookie in 2005 and his first Pro Bowl in 2006. Based on his play and that of the rest of his offensive line, it would appear that Brown will have another ticket to Honolulu waiting for him in February.

Arizona's pass rushers will enter Sunday's game in a bit of a funk, having only managed to get one sack in each of the last two games. They must increase that number on Sunday if they expect to have any chance of winning.

Not helping matters is that the team's two best pass rushers, defensive ends Bertrand Berry (tricep) and Chike Okeafor (bicep), are on the injured-reserve list.

The Cardinals' biggest threat is defensive tackle Darnell Dockett coming up the middle. His eight sacks this season are two more than he had in his first three seasons combined. The battle between Dockett and Saints' center Jeff Faine is one to keep an eye on.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt has utilized some exotic blitz packages from his former team, the Steelers. These new packages, along with a switch to outside linebacker, seem to have saved the career of former first-round bust Calvin Pace. Pace has set career-highs in every major statistical category this season, including sacks (5.5).

Karlos Dansby is another weapon who could be used to pressure Brees. Dansby is a versatile and athletic linebacker who totaled 17 sacks in his first three seasons. This season, however, Dansby has not been used as much as a blitzer, totaling just 3.5 sacks. He is, however, on pace to set a career-high in tackles.

If the Saints offensive line can keep the pressure off of Drew Brees, then the Saints will be in good shape to keep their playoff hopes alive. Second-year stud Marques Colston continues to put up huge numbers and be a dangerous threat in the Saints' passing game. David Patten can also torch defenses that don't worry about him. Of his 40 catches and 627 yards this season, 26 catches and 425 of those yards have come in just four games.

The Cardinals live and die by their pass rush. In their six victories this season, they have gotten to the quarterback 13 times, more than twice per game. It is going to be a battle for them to get there against an offensive line that has pitched six shutouts.

Whichever team wins this matchup will likely be able to continue their playoff dreams for another week. Football is won in the trenches, and Sunday will be no exception.

Brad Vipperman is a reporter for the Scout.com network. He is an accomplished sports writer, with recent work appearing on www.hoopswriters.com.


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