View Full Version : Momentum, experience play big roles for Super Bowl teams

01-20-2009, 09:42 PM
Momentum, experience play big roles for Super Bowl teams
Jan. 20, 2009
By Charley Casserly
CBS Sports

The Arizona Cardinals are this year's New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts -- past Super Bowls teams that got on a hot streak at the right time. The Cards played their best game of the year against the Carolina Panthers, who were undefeated at home and with Arizona going into that playoff game 0-5 on the East Coast this season.

There a number of reasons the Cardinals hit their stride at just the right time. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has handled the situation perfectly. Kurt Warner, who won in a similar situation in 1999 with the St. Louis Rams, has been exceptional in the playoffs not only as a player but as a leader.

The Rams had been the worst franchise in the 1990s going into the 1999 season, when they became a dominant team overnight. Warner went on to lead the Rams to the Super Bowl championship that season.

Warner knows how difficult it is to get to the playoffs and how hard it is to win there. He also knows that the toughest loss in football is in the Super Bowl, which happened to him the last time he was in the big game, against the New England Patriots. He will have that on his mind as motivation going into this game.

One area the Cardinals have improved is their running game. They have put more emphasis on this, dating to their last regular-season game against Seattle. Edgerrin James has looked fresher than he did earlier in the season. The time he spent on the bench during the season has given him fresh legs in the playoffs.

The final ingredient has come from the defense, where rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has played very well down the stretch. Other Cardinals who have stepped up on the defense are Darnell Dockett, Antonio Smith and Bertrand Berry.

Experience in a Super Bowl can be helpful, but sometimes when a team gets on a roll it can just ride the momentum right through the pressure. That is what the Cardinals have done on their way to the title game in Tampa. Part of that ability goes back to Whisenhunt and assistant Russ Grimm's experience with the Steelers' Super Bowl win over Seattle three seasons ago. I do not think the Cardinals will be affected by the pressure of the Super Bowl.

The Steelers have played a tough schedule this year, facing six playoff teams in the regular season as well as playoff-caliber teams like New England and Dallas. They went 8-3 in those games, including the postseason. They had a number of playoff-type games in the regular season, and with the number of players they have left from the Super Bowl win a few years ago, they will not be intimidated by the pressure of this challenge.

One another point that will be talked about a lot will be the fact that the Steelers passed over both Whisenhunt and Grimm, in favor of Mike Tomlin, for the head coaching position when Bill Cowher retired. There certainly will be a lot of motivation on both coaches' part to win this game. I am sure that was the case last year, too, when the Cardinals upset the Steelers in Arizona 21-14.

One other aspect of this game is the coaching trees. Tomlin represents the Tony Dungy coaching tree and Whisenhunt represents the Cowher coaching tree. But ultimately it is how the players play the game and who has the better players. Pittsburgh has the better players in this game.

The players have to adjust to many things when preparing to play in the Super Bowl. One is the distractions before the game, including travel and tickets for friends and family. How both teams handle this is important. Also how the players handle the week of the game is critical. Do the players focus on the game or are they just happy to be there? We don't know how they will handle it until the time comes.

Arizona offense vs. Pittsburgh defense

Having an extra week to prepare for Pittsburgh's blitzing schemes will be helpful. Whisenhunt and Grimm led practices against it in Pittsburgh, and having played the Steelers last year will also help the offensive line.

The player who will be most helpful against the blitz will be Warner. Throughout the playoffs he has done a good job of reading the blitz and picking it apart. He also has the big physical receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin who can catch those quick passes in traffic and break tackles to gain yardage.

One aspect of the Cardinals' game I will be interested in seeing is their three-receiver package matched up against the Steelers defense. This is the way to attack the Steelers. By spreading them out you open up running lanes, make it easier to read the blitz and expose the Steelers' cornerbacks to more one-on-one situations, where the Cardinals receivers have the matchup advantages. One guy to watch is third receiver Steve Breaston. He has been a pleasant surprise this year.

The Steelers defense plays very well as a team. They have been tough to run on all year, but with the Cardinals in a three-receiver package I think they can cause some problems for the Steelers, especially with rookie running back Tim Hightower.

The Steelers will blitz Warner like they do every quarterback. The Steelers' outside linebackers will cause problems for Cardinals tackles Mike Gandy and Levi Brown with their quickness and movement. Warner will do a good job reading the blitz and getting rid of the ball. The key for the Steelers will be to do a good job tackling the Arizona receivers. Every team I talked to this year who played the Cardinals emphasized that as the most important thing to do when playing them.

Pittsburgh offense vs. Arizona defense

The Steelers have been balanced on offense in the playoffs, able to run and throw effectively. Ben Roethlisberger has played very well. He does not seem to be bothered by the pressure. He is able to make all the throws, short and long, which causes the defense to defend the entire field.

The toughest part of Roethlisberger's game to defend is in his ability to keep plays alive; with his size and strength, he is so tough to sack. Every team I talk to coaches their players to wrap him up -- but most teams do not execute that. This will be something I watch for. The ability of the Cardinals' defenders to sack Roethlisberger will be a key for them in this game. With the blitzing schemes and the play of Berry, Dockett and Smith up front, the Cardinals will get defenders free on Roethlisberger.

I think the Steelers will move the ball. The area I would be most concerned about if I was the Cardinals would be my secondary. Rodgers-Cromartie has played well but I would be worried about the matchup of Roderick Hood and the backup corners against the Steelers receivers.

Just as the Cardinals have an effective third receiver in Breaston, the Steelers have a dangerous third receiver in Nate Washington. He has deceptive speed to get deep. He represents a matchup problem for the Cardinals and he is a player to watch in this game. Tailback Willie Parker has also been effective in the playoffs.

The Steelers are the better team with more playoff experience and have played better throughout the year. They should win the game. But the Cardinals have a chance and it comes down to executing a couple of things. They must score, and to do that they are going to have to have big games from Warner and Fitzgerald.

The unsung group will be the offensive line coached by former Steelers assistant Russ Grimm. I would love to be in those meetings this week and next. They have done a good job in the playoffs protecting Warner.

On defense the Cardinals will give up yardage but if they can control the big plays and sack Roethlisberger when they get the chance, they can win this game.

The Steelers will win this game because I think Roethlisberger will make more plays against the blitz than Warner will.

01-21-2009, 06:05 AM
Wow another article on how Kurt Warner can read blitzes and knows how to throw the ball away. Yes I realize Warner has faced the Panthers and Eagles defense, but let's not forget he will now be going up against the #1 NFL defense which utilizes the zone blitzes. And the media tools can say all they want about Grimm and Whiz knowing the Steelers, but sorry LeBeau and Tomlin will have something special just for that team.

01-21-2009, 08:09 AM
I like articles like this. It gives all the hope to the cardinals and it makes the Steelers sound almost average at best.

01-21-2009, 09:07 AM
Yes Warner can read blitzes, yes Warner knows when to get rid of the ball, but Warner is a gunslinger throws a good ball but sometimes not well advised into double coverage. Watch some Warner game tape he plays great against the blitz but he gets confused by a deceptive Defense (like the Steelers) and has been his whole career Second Warner is 37 and is not a mobile QB so lets not blitz the edge go right up the gut make the interior line men work hard and make Warner leave the pocket and scramble a bit, and last don’t give Fitz anytime to get open jam him hard at the line tug on his jersey in the clinch and keeps you hands active on him all game long frustration will set in and Warner will make mistakes, and I think if myself being just a high school D Coordinator can see that LeBeau defiantly will and more.

01-21-2009, 09:19 AM
One guy to watch is third receiver Steve Breaston. He has been a pleasant surprise this year.

I actually like the matchup of Breaston and Townsend. Deshea is a smart player, and IMO can nuetralize Breaston. My worry is Clark being in position for a long pass.

Did anyone pick up on the D package with Troy playing the WR at the line with the DB playing deep? I like that, it allows Troy to roam closer to the LOS.