Cardinals vs. Buccaneers: 3 keys to an Arizona Week 4 win over Tampa Bay

Christian Petersen

Three keys to the Cardinals success this Sunday and a matchup to watch against the Bucs.

Playing ugly games in the NFL is fine if it results in a victory. But last week, the Arizona Cardinals were blown out by the New Orleans Saints in ugly fashion, and it was definitely not okay.

Far too many mistakes are still being made three weeks into the year. While that should be expected as a new regime works with new players, some fans are getting restless waiting to see a competitive team on the field.

The Cardinals (1-2) have shown they can move the ball and put up touchdowns on offense, but it must be more consistent -- especially on the road -- if they want to win games this season.

Defensively, the team is a mess. Arizona's defense is near the top of the heap when defending the run, but they are near the bottom against the pass. In this pass-happy age of the NFL, that is not a winning combination.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have shifted gears after a horrendous start to the season from starting quarterback Josh Freeman. The former first-round pick is last in completion percentage (45.7%) and next to last in passing yards (524) and passer rating (59.3).

As a result, rookie Mike Glennon has been named the starter this week.

It marks the fourth consecutive season in which a rookie signal-caller will make his first career start against the Cardinals, and though the defense had difficulty at times and nearly lost two of those games, they are 3-0 and hope to add to it Sunday.

What do the Cards need to do to avoid a loss to Glennon and the Bucs?

Find a pass rush

It really does not matter who brings the pressure, but getting to Glennon as he makes his first start is imperative. Arizona has lacked a pass rush, recording five through three games -- four came last week, with three from Darnell Dockett as he faced undrafted rookie right guard Tim Lelito in his first career start.

Despite Freeman's struggles this season, Tampa's offensive line has played very well. It has allowed just two quarterback hits and 11 hurries. Compared to Arizona's line (8 hits, 33 hurries), those guys are All-Pros.

Losing both starting outside linebackers to season-ending injuries is tough, but John Abraham and Matt Shaughnessy will fill the void, hopefully providing pressure on the inexperienced rookie.

One name to watch for is outside linebacker Dontay Moch (pronounced "Moke"). The Cardinals promoted him from the practice squad following Alex Okafor's season-ending biceps injury, and though he has yet to have a real shot in the league, he will get plenty of opportunity to show what he can do.

He is a talented speed-rusher who is ready to bring the "want" to the field.

Rob Housler...Housler...Housler...Housler

He was absent last week, that much was clear. Carson Palmer must get Rob Housler more involved this week no matter what. It doesn't matter how it happens, he simply needs the ball in his hands.

Housler can be a matchup nightmare for most defenses, but to this point in his career, he has not been that at all (0 touchdowns on 58 receptions).

Palmer has yet to target a tight end deep this season, and Housler has been targeted deep seven times out of 92 total targets (7.6%) in two-plus seasons.

It is unknown if getting Housler behind the defense on deep passes is a priority for the offense, but with his size and speed it seems to be a no-brainer.

Shocking stat: A staggering 37 of Housler's 58 receptions (63.8%) have resulted in gains of nine yards or fewer. For a player of his speed and talent, that is very high. Consider that Jason Witten -- who is one of the most un-athletic tight ends in the league -- has 452 of 822 receptions (55.0%) resulting in a gain of nine or fewer yards.

Run the ball, please

Keeping the ball away from the opposing offense is the best way to keep them from scoring points. Last week in New Orleans, Arizona ran the ball to start the game. It was not wildly successful, but the act of running the ball kept Drew Brees on the sideline, rendering him useless.

The Cardinals held the time-of-possession lead at the break, 16:14 to 13:46. It was not a pretty half by any stretch, but it sure was better than the second half.

Head coach Bruce Arians called five running plays in the second half, and along with the ineffective passing game, the Cardinals held the ball just 7:51 to the Saints' 22:09.

That's bad, in case you're new to football.

Matchup to watch: Larry Fitzgerald vs. Darrelle Revis

Oh, boy. This is the premier personnel matchup of the weekend in the NFL. Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis is still among the best cover corners in the league despite some feeling he's struggling early in Tampa.

The fact is that Revis is the third-rated corner through Week 3 according to Pro Football Focus. He has allowed eight receptions on 15 targets (53.3%) for 64 yards, 8.0 YPA and no touchdowns. He has yet to pick off a pass, but his 64.3 passer rating allowed is sufficient to suggest he's getting the job done regardless of turnovers created.

Larry Fitzgerald has faced Revis once before, in 2008 when the Cardinals faced the New York Jets (that was the Anquan Boldin concussion-at-the-goal-line game).

New York won the game behind six passing touchdowns from Brett Favre and three interceptions from its defense, including one from Revis in coverage of Fitz.

In that game, Revis covered Fitzgerald on four targets, allowing two receptions for 20 yards and the pick.

Get ready for this matchup -- it will be a dandy.

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