The Cardinals make their way to Seattle to take on a division rival, hoping to turn out 3-2 for the year. They'll surely have their hands full, with a team coming off a 41-0 spanking of the Jaguars. The Seahawks established a dominant passing game last week, and were able to stifle the Jags offense. This week, they'll focus on pressuring Kurt Warner, and giving Matt Hasselbeck enough time to play like he did last week. Let's take a dive into the keys to the game.
Cardinals pass defense vs Seahawks passing offense - We all know that the Cardinals struggled tremendously last week, attempting to defend a passing offense featuring Andre Johnson. They held their own in the first half, but once they had a comfortable lead, they allowed the Texans to make the game closer then it should have been. The blown coverage was in part due to a quck release by Matt Schaub. You can also blame the linebackers failing to defend the short-yardage passes. The Seahawks have a young talented tight end in John Carlson, and will use him to exploit this weakness on the Cardinals defense. The Cardinals need to contain the Seahawks passing game if they want a chance in this one.
Play smart despite the conditions - Qwest Field is never an easy place to play at, and the Cardinals notoriously struggle on the road. It's going to be loud, and it's also forcasted to rain. We may see more then the occasional false starts we're used to seeing this Sunday. We also may see Kurt Warner, a quarterback who doesn't play well in outside conditions, struggle to not turn the ball over. The Cardinals must overcome these conditions, and not become susceptible to poor decisions.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie vs T.J. Houshmandzaheh - DRC will continue to make the keys to the game each week until he can show us that we can trust him. He showed signs last week, when he sealed the win with a pick six in the fourth quarter. DRC has been picked on so far this season, and there's no reason to think that Matt Hasselbeck won't try and do the same. The good news is that Rodgers-Cromartie picked off Hasselbeck twice in Seattle last year, essentially winning the game for the Cardinals then.
Seahawks pass rush vs Cardinals offensive line - This key will likely be a key to every game this year. The Cardinal can't afford to allow pressure on Kurt Warner. Although he benefits when opposing defenses bring the blitz, he can get mistake-prone when he gets rattled. The Seahawks have a pesky pass rush and feature a healthy Patrick Kerney - a player who has given us problems in the past. In the second half against the Texans, their defense was able to pressure Kurt for the entire half, now allowing one scoring drive. The Cardinals offensive tackles will have to support the edge if Warner will be able to get the ball out in enough time.
ESTABLISH THE RUN! - I've said it before and I'll say it again - The Cardinals can't consistently win games if they can't establish the run. The Cardinals are a pass-first team, and that's something that won't change. They do however, need to start scheming to incorporate the run as much as possible. It makes winning a game, or keeping a lead that much easier. Seattle won't have to worry much about the Cardinals rushing game, and frankly I don't mind. A lot of opposing defenses attention goes towards the Cardinals receivers, which should allow the Cardinals to pick up a running game. That's not to say the Seahawks won't be able to defend it, but it should provide a change of pace to the offense.
That's it for this week, as the Cardinals hope to get back to the top of the division. Winning these keys to the game are important, but the Cardinals will wan't to do more on Sunday. Perhaps being the most criticised team(Super Bowl hangover, worst team in the Super Bowl, last year was a fluke) is motivation enough to prove that they are one of the elite teams in the league. Those are my keys to the game, what are yours?