What: First NFC West game
When: Sunday, September 25th, 1p.m. (PST)
Where: Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington
Weather: Sunny, 73 degrees
Cardinals Key Players:
QB Kurt Warner: Since his incredible two-year run in St. Louis in which he won a Super Bowl, was the MVP of the league and the leader of one of the most potent offenses ever in the NFL, Warner has bounced around the league and appears to be a shadow of his former self. In his defense, he's been injured, has lacked the type of pass-protection his lack of mobility demands and the requisite support from the coaching staff to be an effective starter. Last season was a disaster for Warner with the New York Giants and the hope was he would find a new home in the vertical passing-game employed by Dennis Green in Arizona this fall. So far, the marriage has been somewhat of a flop, as Warner has been sacked eight times, thrown only one touchdown and two interceptions while completing 63.6% of his passes for 591 yards. Warner still possesses a good arm and a deft touch on deep passes. The Cardinals must devise a way to protect Warner better or he will be too banged up to lead this team to where they want to go.
WR Anquan Boldin: After missing several games last season and restructuring his contract during the offseason, Boldin showed up ready to go when training camp got underway. Never at a loss for words, Boldin has been disgruntled with the way the offense has produced over the first two weeks of the season. Boldin is very strong, has good hands and runs precise routes when he's focused. He is a big-play threat with the ball in his hands and the Cardinals need to continue to do their best to get him the ball more often than they have so far.
DE Bertrand Berry: Last year, Berry was the best free agent signing in the entire NFL. Berry led the NFL in sacks with 15 and he's already off to a good start in 2005 with two in the first two games. Berry forces teams to scheme against the pressure he provides. He continually demands double-teams, allowing his linemates to face one-on-one blocking. He is adept at using a power-move on the tackle, getting him off balance, then swooping to the outside and collapsing on the quarterback. He's also very emotional and the leader of the front seven.
SS Adrian Wilson: Wilson is one of the best kept secrets in the league. Not only is he very athletic and a devastating hitter, he is the leader of the defense and the man the Cardinals look to when they need a big play. Wilson is solid in coverage, but he's at his best when asked to support the run. He leads the team in tackles so far in 2005 with 13 and remains a player that quarterbacks and receivers need to know where he's lined up on every play.
Berry vs. Seahawks LT Walter Jones: Jones is widely considered one of the top-three tackles in the league. Last week, Jones manhandled Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl DE Patrick Kerney all game and continues to throw linebackers around like rag dolls. Berry and Jones squared off twice last season and while Jones usually won the battle, Berry more than held his own. This one will be fun to watch. If you like one-on-one battles, it doesn't get any better than this. If Jones can control Berry, the Hawks will be able to concentrate their protections in different areas. If Berry can get consistent pressure on QB Matt Hasselbeck, the Hawks will have to use a running back to help out and that will cause problems in the passing game.
Seahawks WR Darrell Jackson vs. Cardinals CB Antrel Rolle: Jackson continues to impress with his good hands, although he did drop a sure first down last week versus the Falcons, and solid route running. He and Hasselbeck have a synergy that they have developed over the last three years and he is becoming even better at reading zones and finding soft-spots in the coverage. Rolle, a rookie, is an excellent athlete and while he doesn't possess blazing speed, he has the strength and athleticism to match-up well with any receiver in the league – all he lacks is experience. Jackson and veteran Bobby Engram will face off with Rolle and David Macklin all day and they should be able to have their way with them.
Seahawks CBs Marcus Trufant and Andre Dyson vs. Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald: Dyson has really made a difference for the Seahawks in the secondary, allowing the Hawks to blitz more, relying on his experience and sure-tackling if a pass is completed. Trufant still struggles to make plays with the ball in the air, but he is adept at reading routes and smothering wideouts for the most part during games. Fitzgerald and Boldin are both on the bigger side, each weighing in excess of 220 pounds, but both are still immature. Fitzgerald doesn't run good routes and Boldin can lack concentration at times. Both are big-plays waiting to happen, so it is imperative that Trufant and Dyson, along with third corner Kelly Herndon, stick with their men all day.
Seahawks defensive tackles vs. the interior of the Cardinals offensive line: Second-year C Alex Stepanovich has struggled all season with a broken hand, having to move to guard when the team goes to the shotgun formation. Rookie RG Elton Brown, while massive, has struggled with his blocking assignments and LG Reggie Wells had never played a down in the NFL before this season. Seahawks DT Rocky Bernard has been a terror the first two weeks, generating a consistent pass-rush and playing inspired ball. Chuck Darby and Marcus Tubbs are the starters and while neither gets much of a push when the quarterback drops back to pass, they have stuffed the run well. They must make the Cardinals a one-dimensional team, allowing the defensive ends to pin their ears back and collapse the pocket against the immobile Warner.
News and Notes: The Cardinals are averaging 292 yards per game through the air, which ranks 4th in the league; Warner has a 40-21 record as a starter and is 1-0 vs. the Seahawks; Fitzgerald leads the entire league with 17 receptions and is second in the NFL with 14 first downs; Hasselbeck has thrown at least one touchdown in 18 straight games at Qwest field, which is the second longest active streak; Jackson (14) and Engram (13) are the only wideout tandem in the league both ranked in the top 10 in receptions; RB Shaun Alexander's 217 yards ranks third in the league; Arizona leads the series 7-5.
OUT: T Wayne Hunter (hamstring); T Floyd Womack (triceps)
OUT: LB Gerald Hayes (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: LB James Darling (knee)
PROBABLE: Antrel Rolle (knee)
Prediction: Seahawks 27 – Arizona 20
Scott Eklund writes and reports for Seahawks.NET and Dawgman.com. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com.
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