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The Keys to Beating the Cards (Part 4 of a pre-game series)

January 30, 2009 by Still Mill

The keys to beating AZ......Part 4 of a pre-game series
The Keys to Beating the Cards (Part 4 of a pre-game series)

This is part 4 of a pre-game series.�� Part 1 (the initial key versus the Cards) can be read here; Part 2 (a position by position breakdown of the Cards) can be read here; Part 3 (The Shortcomings of the Stillers) can be read here.���


This segment will focus on the overall keys to this game.��

Stiller Offensive Keys:

- The #1 key on offense is, of course, Bruce Arians extracting his head from buttocks sometime prior to kickoff.If this were to occur, the Stillers have a fighting chance.�� If it doesn�t -- and if Arians� head remains firmly implanted in his rump -- you can expect a long afternoon of lethargic slop n� slather of the highest magnitude.

����� Regardless of profession, when you have no idea what you�re doing and what you wanna do, you�re bound to inevitably stumble aimlessly in circles.Such is the lot cast by Bruce �The Airhead� Arians.Armed with a franchise QB, a stable of RBs, a gifted TE, and a very deep corps of WRs, Arians managed to bog the offense down throughout the entire season.The offense all season long has mustered barely what was needed on the scoreboard.Only once against a quality opponent did the offense muster more than the bare minimum, and that was against New England back on Nov. 30th.The other wins against quality opponents were the result of narrow 1, 3, 4, 5, or 7 point victories.Until Troy Pola� late game heroics, the AFC Title game was a 2-point affair.It is precisely this kind of �doing the minimum� by Arians that allows an inferior foe to remain competitive and in the ballgame well into the final quarter.Facing Arizona, you cannot go into this game assuming that some piddly-assed amount of points, such as 13 or even 20, will be sufficient for a �W�.The number �38� should be at the front of Arians� limited mind and he should be prepared to score 41 or 45 if required.

���� Arians, for once, needs to keep this offense uptempo, and FRESH in its approach and its attack.Variety and versatility should be the name of the game on Sunday.Attack a flank, then attack a gut, then attack another flank.Isolate a weak spot and then exploit it.Once overpursuit starts, attack it with a reverse or misdirection.Don�t plow headfirst into the enemy�s strength; rather, attack the enemy where he is weakest.Never allow the enemy a comfort zone where he is 98% sure as to what the next play will be and where it will be conducted.

����� No media source covering the Stillers has been harsher and more persistent in its criticism than has maintain, once again, that the biggest obstacle to the Lombardi Trophy is not the AZ Cardinals, but Bruce Arians himself.

- Anticipate heavy run blitzing and the walking of SS Adrian Wilson up to the box in non-3WR/4WR formations.�� Arians� dry, bland offense has become so predictable a toddler could guess correctly on most plays as to whether it�ll be a pass or a plunge.And because Arians rarely, rarely ever runs wide, any runs pretty much means a gut-plunge between the tackles.This will allow the Cards to run-blitz between the Center-Guard gaps on apparent running plays, as well as to walk SS Adrian Wilson up to the box to chip in on run stuffing as well.Wilson enjoys hitting and is the perfect 8th-man to join the box in order to throw wrenches into Arians� plungefest.One would think that, in a 2-TE or 3TE set, the Cards would have to respect the other TE(s) besides Heath Miller.Fact is, they don�t, because the Stillers throw to their other TEs about once every 6 weeks.��

- TE Heath Miller must get involved in the passing game as a pass-catcher, not as a sidecar blocker.Quick pop passes and taking advantage of Gerald Hayes� slowfootedness and Adrian Wilson�s over-aggressiveness on play-action should be a staple this Sunday.Hayes cannot cover Miller and Wilson, if sent up to the box, is ripe for some coverage beatings.

- Mewelde Moore must be involved in the passing game and a change-of-pace runner.Moore�s best production came when Parker was injured and Arians, the dumbass that he is, having no other choice.But otherwise, Moore is typically treated like an AIDS-infected leper by Bruce Arians.He needs to be involved often this Sunday.

- Production from the WR corps outside of Holmes.Since we know Comar will be isolated on Holmes, this will essentially remove Tonio from the passing attack.Yes, Cromar is that good and there is no sense attacking a strength when there are far weaker coverage-men in the AZ secondary.Ward, Nate, and even Limas Peed must contribute to offset the loss of Tonio�s production.

Stillers Defensive Keys:

- Get out of the base defense.As noted here, this is the largest key of this game.�� The Stiller base defense is wholly incapable of defending the AZ offense when it goes to 4-wide.Other than true short-yardage plays, Dick LeBeau should be prepared to go with a 5 DB alignment, with Hampton and Foote taking a seat and Larry Timmons in heavy use throughout the game as a combination rusher and cover �backer -- sometimes rushing, sometimes dropping into coverage.The 6 DB alignment, which should sport both Townsend and Gay, should also see a tonload of work in this game.


���� It should be noted that the Stillers finished #1 in pass defense each of the past 2 years under Tomlin, a feat they never once accomplished under the supreme leadership of Billy Cowher. We can only hope that Tomlin�s oversight and influence will produce a pass defense game-plan capable enough of limiting the Cardinal offense.

- Lack of speed at ILB.�� Foote and Farrior represent the very slowest set of starting ILBs in the NFL.The Redbirds will try to isolate James and Hightower on outs and wheel routes to take advantage of the slowfootedness of Farrior/Foote.��


- Batting the ball by rushers.��� Warner likes to go 3/4 sidearm on the short, blitz-beating slants that he loves to throw.�� This means that Aaron Smith and especially Bret Keisel -- the best �batter� on the team -- must be prepared to anticipate, read, and then get their hands up to bat these short sidearm passes.

- Collapsing the middle of the pocket.Against mobile, athletic QBs, a defense must always concern itself about not giving the mobile QB an easy escape route around end.Against the slowfooted Warner, no such concern exists.Rather, Warner prefers to keep his eyes on the target and step directly up into the center of the pocket.This is why collapsing the middle of the pocket is so very critical.But, please, spare me any blather about Fat Casey Hampton �collapsing the pocket� and �pushing in the middle�.Hampton does this��about once every 11 weeks.�� Otherwise, he�s content to play pattcakes and grabass within a foot of the line of scrimmage.No, what�s needed is Larry Timmons -- or Harrison or Woodley on the occasional stunt -- blasting up the middle and creating havoc directly in the face of Pop Warner.


- Woodley on Levi Brown.�� This is the one matchup that I really, really like when the Stillers are on defense.Woodley tooled Brown when they were collegians in the Big 10, and this season Brown gave up more sacks than the rest of the AZ line combined.Woodley should be well rested with the 2-week layoff, and he�s got a full array of brawn and speed that should allow him to beat Brown 4 or 5 times on Sunday.


- Crisp tackling by the LBs and secondary.�� AZ gets a lot of its yardage on RAC after short slants and drags.Fortunately, the Stillers are a very strong-tackling team, with its top 6 DBs all being decent tacklers.Sure, there is an immense problem with Farrior and Foote making tackles, but otherwise the LB and DB personnel are sure-handed in the tackling department.They need to punish AZ pass catchers and they need to limit RAC in order to extend AZ drives.


- Beware the trickeration (as Cowhard used to call it).�� Cheezenhut always loved the trick play and he stlll does. You can expect at least one trick play, if not 2, this Sunday.


- McFadden on Larry Fitz.��� So-called conventional wisdom says to place Ike Taylor on Fitx, since Ike has adroitly carried out solo coverage on other high-profile WRs with decent success.While Ike has done a nice job in the past, his total lack of vision, ball skills, and ball reading makes him woefully inadequate for this assignment.Fitz can high-point the ball better than anyone in the league, and if covered by Ike, all the Cards would have to do is lob the ball straight into the air, then allow Fitz to easily �out-rebound� Ike for the cake-easy reception.McFadden has much better instincts and ball skills than Ike and should draw this assignment.Ike won�t get the day off, of course, because Anquan Boldiin still needs to be covered.


- Lack of speed at FS.Rest assured, Clark will be the #1 guy targeted by OC Todd Haley on deep routes this Sunday. Dick LeBeau has got to expect this and not allow Clark to be tooled all alone on an island.


Spec Teams:


- Don�t over-run the coverage on punt coverage.This is what killed the coverage last week on the long return by Leonhard, and it is precisely what allowed the long return by Jax in last year�s playoff loss.�� It is okay to give up a 5-yard return.A coverage man should never, ever be positioned parallel with the return man as the return man catches the punt.Rather, the coverage men should be at least 2-3 yards �short� of the return man, so that they can react and make a tackle.




The Stillers are correctly favored.They�ve had the tougher schedule and endured it with a far better record.The Stillers, pound for pound, are deeper, tougher, and are a better all-around team.However, because of the prolific ability of the Cards� offense, this is no gimme.If the Stillers can address the 2 biggest keys -- overcoming Arians on offense and getting out of their base on defense -- they stand a solid chance of securing victory.�� Stay tuned for in-depth Postgame coverage on Monday and the days following �the day after�.



(Still Mill and -- when it comes to the analysis of the Pittsburgh Stillers, no one else comes close�.)



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