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Old 01-29-2009, 06:34 PM   #1
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Default Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Steelers CB Ike Taylor

Matchup of the day
Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Steelers CB Ike Taylor

By Matt Sohn
Jan. 29, 2009

This is the fourth of a five-part series analyzing the individual matchups in Super Bowl XLIII. Today we examine the battle between Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald and Steelers CB Ike Taylor.

He doesn’t demolish team chemistry like Terrell Owens. He doesn’t demand trades like Chad Ocho Cinco. He’s never been involved in gunfire investigations like Marvin Harrison. He’s never been accused of dogging it on the field like Randy Moss.
Steelers CB Ike Taylor, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald

And, at just 25 years old, Larry Fitzgerald plays the WR position better than all of them. The long-haired, long-limbed Fitzgerald proves that one can be a dominant receiver in the NFL while channeling the dramatics to his acrobatic catches, not touchdown celebrations.

What Fitzgerald has accomplished in his first career trip to the postseason is the stuff legends are made of. He exceeded 100 yards in each of the Cardinals’ three playoff outings, with his 419 yards already topping Jerry Rice’s previous NFL record for receiving yards in a single postseason. He also has five touchdowns to his credit, three of which came against the Eagles’ tremendous secondary in the NFC championship game.

If the Cardinals are to pull off the improbable Sunday in Tampa, the smart money says Fitzgerald needs to dominate, one more time.

In terms of his entire skill package, Fitzgerald is peerless at the NFL level. T.O. is as big and strong as the 6-3, 220-pound Fitzgerald, but he lacks the Cardinals wideout’s uncanny body control when going airborne for the ball. Harrison’s hands are just as vise-like, but the Colts stalwart won’t outwrestle the opposition for contested balls with such routine success. Moss can be counted on to snag passes in traffic and sky for receptions as effortlessly, but he can’t power through tackles as ruggedly as Fitzgerald.

So maybe he doesn’t boast the pure track speed that burners such as Ted Ginn Jr. or Santana Moss do, but he’s as lethal as anybody down the field because of his pigskin magnetism.

Because Anquan Boldin — quite possibly the league’s only receiver more bullish after the catch than Fitzgerald — is capable of dominating on the opposite side, the Steelers don’t have the luxury of consistently rolling coverage to Fitzgerald’s side. Double-coverage help will certainly come from either OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley or safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark a healthy portion of the time, but the primary task of slowing the dreadlocked express falls on Ike Taylor’s shoulders.

While he won’t draw comparisons to the league’s elite cornerbacks, Taylor is enjoying his finest season since joining the NFL ranks in 2003. A blend of strength — he packs a punch in his 6-2, 195-pound frame — and good enough speed, he’s among the key reasons the Steelers were so outstanding defending the aerial attack this season. Their league-best pass defense allowed 22.8 fewer yards per game than the Ravens, who ranked second in that department.

The Steelers don’t employ a uniform coverage scheme, so they should be comfortable experimenting with multiple tactics early to see what works best. What works significantly to their benefit is Taylor’s versatility. In press coverage, he consistently gets good pop in his effort to disrupt the receiver’s release. If Pittsburgh is able to get good pass-rushing pressure and hurry Kurt Warner into making early throws, slowing Fitzgerald’s release even a little bit could work heavily in the Steelers’ favor. Additionally, Taylor’s a good enough tackler that he could have success limiting Fitzgerald’s yards after the catch on the quick outs when Taylor is backing off the line.

The leak in Taylor’s game? Ball skills. And when operating against one of the best receivers of this decade in tracking and adjusting to the ball in mid-flight, that deficiency could prove debilitating. Taylor has a tendency to lock in on the receiver rather than using his peripheral vision to keep tabs on the wideout and the ball. Even if Taylor’s able to limit Fitzgerald’s yards after the catch, it will only act as a Band-Aid for a bullet wound if the reception is made 30-40 yards down the field.

Advantage: Fitzgerald

Friday's matchup of the day: Steelers WR Santonio Holmes vs. Cardinals CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Stay with ProFootballWeekly.com all week long for continuous coverage of Super Bowl week, featuring daily analysis of key individual matchups, features, columns, notebooks, Q&A's, blogs and handicapping perspectives. Click here to check out our blogs — Super Bowl XLIII, Around the NFL, and Covering the Spread will all deal with the big game for the next week.
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Old 01-29-2009, 07:22 PM   #2
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Default Re: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Steelers CB Ike Taylor

I see this happening on sunday. On fitz' only catch

Advantage: Fitzgerald
Yeah, we'll see about that....
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Old 01-30-2009, 10:41 AM   #3
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Default Re: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Steelers CB Ike Taylor

This, Warner and Whiz are the 3 stories they've run with. What's funny is that the game hasn't been played yet, but you'd think from the hype that Fitz has already caught 12 passes for 250 yards and 4 TD's.

I think he'll probably see the endzone as much as once. The Cards will probably score up to 2 TD's and maybe a FG, but I have them topping out at 17 MAX (And if things start going south for them, maybe only 7-10 points). Fitz will catch about 5-6 passes, which sounds high, but I figure since they can't run against the Steelers, they'll probably throw about 50 times.
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Old 01-30-2009, 02:05 PM   #4
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Default Re: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Steelers CB Ike Taylor

Fitz is a great player, however I amore concerned about Breaston. Fitz will get his catches but Breaston is a different story, not too many 3rd receivers get 1000 yards.
As long as we are physical with the recievers it should be a cake walk.
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