The Super Bowl Game Plan
by Rick Rockwell
First, let’s get this straight: this writer bears the Arizona Cardinals no ill will. Sure, they wrecked my prognosticating record in the post-season. But if you dare to predict games of the National Football League (NFL), you have that coming.
Sure, they also wrecked the chances of my Hero Team, the Philadelphia Eagles to get to the Super Bowl. But again, the Eagles let them do that. They had no answer for the Kurt Warner to Larry Fitzgerald passing combo in the first half of the National Football Conference (NFC) Championship game.
I have no allegiance to the Cardinals’ opponent in Super Bowl XLIII, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hey, my prediction was the Indianapolis Colts would be here, not the Steelers.
This is all to say, take what follows with advisement. First, because my heart is with the Cardinals. This writer actually has a long sordid history with the Cardinals, which we won’t explore. But any team which hasn’t won a championship since 1947 should get your vote of support. Or at least a beer-induced cheer.
And what’s not to like about the Cardinals this year? They not only have my favorite down-trodden quarterback Kurt Warner, a quick release machine with a football who has been discarded by too many teams to count (he’s had so many comebacks, newspaper writers think they’re cliché to mention now) and the Cardinals are the favorites of my top sportswriter Norman Chad.
But my head tells me it’s the Steelers who will win.
This year’s prognostications aside, this column’s Super Bowl predictions are worth a read: last year the column provided a near-perfect preview of the game plan that beat the New England Patriots. (Steve Spagnuolo who drew up that plan is the newly installed head coach of the St. Louis Rams, after his time as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. Does this mean we should ditch writing and go into coaching? Would Spagnuolo even take our calls? Not likely. We won’t quit the day job.)
So how can the Cardinals beat the indomitable Steelers?
Somehow, they will have to catch the Steelers sleeping.
The truth: the Steelers have the top defense in the league. The Steelers blitz from all angles. Even though Warner is tops against a blitzing defense, when the Eagles got serious about stopping him and started charging harder, they slowed the Cardinals’ offense to a crawl. Yes, Warner and Fitzgerald still beat the Eagles, but it was a tough match-up. And the Steelers’ defense is a notch better than the Eagles. If the Steelers use the Eagles’ second half blitzes as a blueprint, the Cardinals will be in a sorry state.
The only chance the Cardinals have to win is if they change the equation. That means they will have to do more to keep their rushing attack going. Somehow they managed to revive running back Edgerrin James and his career during these playoffs. They will have to do that and more. They will have to design some pitch-outs for James and running plays that force Warner to move, which will set up roll-out passes. Not known for his mobility, Warner will have to use a floating pocket to stay upright to throw against the Steelers' onslaught.
The real key will be the Cardinals defense. They will have to bother and blitz Steelers’ quarterback Ben “Big Ben” Roethlisberger. They will have to force him into a mistake (which is unlikely because he is strong under pressure). They will have to sell out on pounding Big Ben and hope they get some turnovers. Otherwise, it will be the pounding of running back Willie Parker all day up the middle and Big Ben heaving bombs. And it could get ugly.
The Steelers are likely to win by more than a touchdown unless the Cardinals somehow find some inner resolve to play beyond their talents. Of course, the Cardinals have found a way to do that at least twice already during the postseason. Three times would really make them charmed.
Super Bowl XLIII Office Pool Predictions
Steelers vs. Cardinals (Steelers)
Two Weeks Ago: .500
2008 Playoffs .400
2008 Season: .611
Playoff TV Schedule:
For other blogs calling NFL games, please see:
Super Bowl XLIII
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The Super Bowl Game Plan