Cardinals Game Plan Against Eagles

Here is how the Cardinals hope to click on both sides of the ball in the NFC title game.

The Cardinals need another balanced approach on offense this week. The running game has been productive in the past three weeks, and it's allowed offensive coordinator Todd Haley to keep teams off-balance with his play calling. There will be considerable pressure on the offensive line, the running backs and Kurt Warner to handle the blitz.

Defensively, the Cardinals need to contain Brian Westbrook. He presents different challenges than Atlanta's Michael Turner and Carolina's DeAngelo Williams. Those guys are mainly runners, but Westbrook is dangerous as a receiver, too. The Cardinals need to pressure Donovan McNabb and then limit his scrambling. He gained 24 yards rushing in their previous game.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Eagles CB Asante Samuel -- It doesn't seem to matter who covers Fitzgerald or how many people do it. He continues to make big plays. He's been outstanding in the post-season, realizing this is where reputations are cemented. Samuels, however, won't let Fitzgerald roam free, as the Panthers did last week.

Cardinals LB Karlos Dansby vs. Eagles RB Brian Westbrook: The Cardinals defense is designed to keep linemen from blocking Dansby, who then is free to use his speed to make plays. Dansby has been an impact player the past two weeks, totaling 16 tackles, including four for losses. His ability to tackle Westbrook at the line of scrimmage and on screen passes will be key.

Cardinals QB Kurt Warner vs. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson: Johnson has been successful against Warner over the years, with his team holding a 4-2 advantage. All but one of those games, the 2001 NFC Championship, was in Philadelphia, and Warner won that that title game. Warner has three interceptions against the Eagles earlier this season. He has been good against the blitz all year, and he needs to be efficient on Sunday.

INJURY IMPACT: WR Anquan Boldin practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday and says he's playing in the NFC title game on Sunday. Boldin saw a chiropractor earlier this week, which he said helped loosen his hamstring. He likely won't practice heavily this week, however.

--TE Stephen Spach, the starter, suffered a torn ACL last week and was placed on injured reserve. Leonard Pope becomes the starter and Ben Patrick the backup. Those two, however, have been dealing with knee injuries, too. Pope has been playing while Patrick missed last week's game. Patrick is expected to play Sunday, but the club signed TE Jerame Tuman just in case. He was with the team until Christmas Eve, when he was released.


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