There is one thing that can turn a Hall of Fame quarterback into a liability – pressure. No quarterback likes to face the heat, but even greats like Brett Favre can be made to look awful when forced to get the rid of the ball faster than he wants to. Kurt Warner is no exception to that rule. If given time, he is a deadly precision passer. When pressured, he is quick to release the ball and can often be picked off when his receivers aren't expecting the ball so quickly. He is a Jeckyl-Hyde at quarterback and it will be incumbent of the Vikings defensive front to pressure Warner into critical mistakes, making this the matchup to watch.
Warner is an immobile quarterback who rarely strays from the pocket. He has been sacked just 20 times on 525 pass attempts, putting the Cardinals in the top 10 in the league for pass protection. What makes Warner so dangerous is two-fold. When given time to survey the field, he has uncanny accuracy and rarely delivers a pass that isn't on the hands of the receivers and isn't a perfect spiral. Having been weaned in the Arena League, where he had to deliver balls fast and on target to succeed, he is deadly when given time to pass. Second, he has a lightning-quick release that has been compared to all-time greats like Dan Marino. Watching the Cardinals on film, there are many instances in which it appears he is going to be sacked, but gets the ball out so fast, not only isn't he sacked, but the Cardinals make big plays out those opportunities.
With the ability to score at any time and pile up yardage and points on a consistent basis, Warner is also a liability when pressured. He has fumbled nine times this year, losing six of them, and has a history of fumbling when contacted by defenders. It will be the focus of the Vikings defense to create pressure, whether through stunts, blitzes or standard pass rushing. That will be Job One for the defensive line.
Jared Allen will likely be limited somewhat with the knee injury suffered last week against Detroit, but his 12.5 sacks has him among the leaders in the NFL in that category. Kevin Williams has 8.5 sacks from the tackle spot, showing the ability to collapse the pocket in the middle. On the right side, Ray Edwards will lock up with rookie Levi Brown and will have chances to break through if he mixes and matches his pass rush moves.
Getting past the linemen would typically be the matchup of note, but the ability of Warner to get rid of the ball so quickly, not only will pressuring Warner be key, but knocking him down and getting in his grill will be even more pressing.
If given time to make decisions and not feel consistent heat from the Vikings front line, he will have the chance to carve up the Vikings secondary. If they put pressure on him, like Favre, he will throw passes with his own confidence he can complete them. Those are often picked off and Warner has been prone to having some awful interception numbers in games in which teams can frustrate him and force him to throw out of his comfort zone. The ability of the Vikings defensive line to do that to Warner and force him into mistakes will be as critical as anything to who will win and who will lose.
Matchup to watch: D-Line vs. Warner
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