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Breaking Down the Cardinals Kurt Warner won it all with the Rams after a journeyman s start. Now he s back after his starting days were thought to be over. (By Donald Miralle Getty Images)
Wedneday, January 28, 2009 The Greatest Show on Turf from his days as a two time league most valuable player for the St. Louis Rams are no longer, but Kurt Warner is back in the Super Bowl. Either he or the Steelers Ben Roethlisberger will emerge as a two time Super Bowl winner, and some think a victory by Warner would cement a place for him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
His initial rise to being a Super Bowl winning quarterback for the Rams was improbable enough. He was a journeyman player and a former grocery bagger, an Arena Football League and NFL Europe graduate and an undrafted rookie in Green Bay too timid to step into the huddle and call a play, recalled Eagles Coach Andy Reid, a Packers assistant at the time.
The return is every bit as unlikely. Warner played only nine games with the Rams over 2002 and 2003. The glory days seemed over. He left St. Louis and spent a season in New York in 2004, serving as a mentor and seat warmer for top overall draft choice Eli Manning after Kerry Collins refused to stay around to do that job. He made only nine starts for the Giants before Coach Tom Coughlin benched Warner and decided to get the Manning era under way.
Warner landed in 2005 in Arizona, the place where pro football careers often go to die. Another celebrated young quarterback, Matt Leinart, arrived in 2006, and the script for Warner was supposed to be the same as the one he www.nflbroncosofficialstore.com/97_malik_jackson_jersey_cheap followed in New York.
But something happened to Leinart on his way to being a franchise quarterback in the NFL: He didn t play particularly well, and his off field decision making led Cardinals coaches to question his leadership abilities. Coach Ken Whisenhunt surprisingly went with Warner over Leinart as the starter entering this season, and now Warner is back on the sport s biggest stage with a team that entered this season with one winning season since 1984.
Warner s task today is to get the ball in the hands of Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who s having Authentic Malik Jackson Jersey a postseason for the ages. The Steelers undoubtedly will do all they can to force Warner to look elsewhere, so fellow wideout Anquan Boldin could have a more prominent role than in recent weeks. Warner is better now than he used to be when facing blitzes, but the Steelers almost certainly will be aggressive and attempt to pressure Warner into mistakes.
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Steelers secondary vs. Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald: Pittsburgh finished the regular season with the No. 1 pass defense, allowing 156.9 yards per game. In Authentic Terrance Knighton Jersey this postseason, however, the Steelers have yielded 200 yards per game. Fitzgerald, meantime, has 419 yards receiving in these playoffs, breaking the NFL record held by Jerry Rice for most yards in a single postseason. Fitzgerald can make catches despite double teams, and if he continues his postseason success, Arizona may have more running room with Pittsburgh focused on the pass.
FOUR DOWNS Don t Forget Boldin: Remember when people talked about the Cardinals having two great wide receivers, not just Larry Fitzgerald and the other guy with the hamstring injury and penchant for a sideline temper tantrum? Today Arizona might need more from Anquan Boldin, who would be a No. 1 wideout on many other teams.
Pressure Points: Arizona ranked only 19th in the NFL in total defense during the regular season. But the defense has played far better than that during the postseason, and the Cardinals must take advantage of the Steelers pass protection deficiencies. Making Roethlisberger hurry throws gives the Cardinals a much better chance at winning the turnover battle.
Play From Ahead: If the Cardinals fall behind early and get into pass only mode, it could get ugly. If that happens, the Steelers will rev up the pass rush, and Warner might not have much chance to duplicate his exploits during these playoffs.
Run the Ball: The Cardinals don t have to churn out an abundance of rushing yards. They just have to stay committed to the running game and keep giving Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower enough carries to keep the mighty Pittsburgh defense honest.
WHERE: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa.
TV: WRC 4, WBAL 11.
RECORDS: Steelers 14 4, Cardinals 12 7.
DEFENSE LE 94 Antonio Smith LT 97 Bryan Robinson RT 90 Darnell Dockett RE 92 Bertrand Berry SLB 56 Chike Okeafor MLB 54 Gerald Hayes WLB 58 Karlos Dansby LCB 26 Roderick Hood RCB 29 D. Rodgers Cromartie SS 24 Adrian Wilson FS 21 Antrel Rolle
SPECIAL TEAMS PK 1 Neil Rackers P 5 Ben Graham Team Stats CATEGORY ARI OPP PPG 26.7 26.6 YPG 365.8 331.5 PASS YPG 292.1 221.2 COMP. ATT. 418 630(62.5%) RUSH YPG 73.6 110.2 ATT. AVG. 340 3.5 445 4.0 1ST DOWNS 328 312 3RD DOWN EFFICIENCY 83 198.