GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 02: Quarterback Kevin Kolb #4 of the Arizona Cardinals throws a pass during the NFL game against the New York Giants at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Giants defeated the Cardinals 31-27. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
With three straight close losses under the belt the Cardinals head into their week 5 game away to the Minnesota Vikings in a must win situation, following this game are tough matchups with the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers immediately following the bye and no doubt hitting the week off a 2-3 will feel a heck of a lot better than 1-4. Both these teams have struggled to finish so far this season, but it could well be whomever gets off to the better start in this one is well and truly in the box seat, with both ground games looking like the teams best option to move the ball, and committing to the run is much easier done when playing from in front. What do the Cardinals need to do to ensure they come out of this game with a win? Read on...
Put the game on the arm of Donovan McNabb – The Cardinals need to put this game on the shoulders of Donovan McNabb and off the legs of Adrian Peterson. Clamp down on the run, hit Peterson behind the LOS, get him off his game, and possibly most importantly get an early lead and force the Vikings to rely on the arm of Donovan McNabb to win this football game. McNabb has had his fair share of struggles this season, and it just makes sense to take the ball out of the hands of the Vikings biggest weapon and put it into the hands of their aging QuarterBack. Fundamentals are going to be the key, play disciplined in the front 7, get the edge and funnel plays back inside, play gap discipline and don’t let any big gaps appear and most importantly take down the runner on first contact, do not let him bounce around and make something out of nothing, slow down Adrian Peterson and half the job is complete.
Make McNabb throw into tight windows – McNabb has never been the most accurate of passers and has an aversion to making "tough" throws, if you can force McNabb into throwing into tight windows you are going to create one of two things, you will either get the checkdown king to come out, or you are going to force mistakes, both things are good for any defense wanting to face Donovan. The Cardinals should try to get pressure with four rushers (Where the fourth comes from does not matter, inside backer, outside backer, safety or even a corner) and drop into tight zone coverages the leave the flats as your open options, make McNabb throw into small windows for anything past 8 yards, and close downhill quickly and breakdown and make solid open field tackles on the shorter passes. McNabb has historically played better against the blitz, and is more likely to make mistakes if he has to try and make tough accurate throws into small windows.
Attack the Vikings Safeties – Husain Abdullah and Jamarca Sanford are not going to scare anybody in the league and those two are currently listed as the starting safeties for the Vikings, the Cardinals need to attack these two, and specifically attack them with Larry Fitzgerald. Use him on deep in routes and post routes, move him around and use him from the slot, get those safeties in coverage on Fitzgerald and get Fitzgerald the football. The Vikings currently rank 28th in the NFL in opposition passer rating allowed, having allowed the opposition to complete over 68% of passes attempted against them this season, attack the safeties, attack the corners, look to make a statement early in the game, get ahead and then;
Feed Beanie Wells – Coming off a 27 carry 120+ yard game in which he found paydirt three times, the Cardinals need to capitalise on the momentum that Wells has. The Vikings have proven pretty good in defending the run so far this season allowing just 3.3 yards per carry, but a one dimensional offense is one that is easy to stop, if we attack the Vikings safeties through the air and force the Vikings to stop Wells with seven in the box the Cardinals are in the drivers seat. Wells running hard and with a lead is the best position for the Cardinals to find themselves in, and if Wells has success on the ground forcing the Vikings to bring another man up in run support we can then go back to attacking the safeties with what should be a very effective playaction passing game.
Win the turnover battle – This one is pretty self explanatory, come out on the right side of the turnover ledger and the Cardinals will win this football game and this affects all areas of the team. Kolb needs to protect the ball, both from interceptions and fumbles, especially in the redzone and the Cardinals needs to come up with the big plays when they are on offer, if you get your hands on the ball make the interception as opposed to allowing the other team another shot, force the ball loose from McNabb and Peterson and show some urgency to get onto the ball and recover, turnovers can turn the momentum and an entire game on its head, that can give you great field position or save you from conceding crucial points, they essentially take a possession away from your opposition and give it to yourself and more possessions means more chances to score points and more likelihood of winning the game. I am going to pinpoint the Cardinals safeties in this game, Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson, if the two of them can have a good game, and create a couple of turnovers between then, the Arizona Cardinals will have come out on the right side of the scoreboard when the clock hits 0:00 in the fourth quarter on Sunday.