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News » Jimmy, Howie on the big game

Jimmy, Howie on the big game

Jimmy, Howie on the big game
Jimmy Johnson knows a thing or two about Super Bowls, having won two of them as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He puts that big-game experience to use as he breaks down what he sees as the keys to Super Bowl XLIII.

The extra week off could prove to be a very good thing for the Arizona Cardinals. The added time should help them a great deal in figuring out protections for Pittsburgh's blitzes. I think their offensive line and Kurt Warner's ability to get rid of the football quickly has been solid in the playoffs. The added time should really help them prepare for the Steelers.

The Long of it

There is no doubt that at the start of the season, no one was picking Arizona to be in the Super Bowl. I'm sure a lot of people would rather have New York, Dallas or someone else in this game. Fans and a lot of people didn't consider the Cardinals to be a quality team. But their win over the Cowboys in October was a quality win. They played very well in that game and it had to give coach Ken Whisenhunt's team a lot of confidence.

However, they did finish with a 9-7 record and I bet coaches like Bill Belichick are wondering how they got to the Super Bowl and his team, one that whipped the Cardinals, didn't even make the playoffs. But when the Cardinals lost that game, everything was going against them, mainly the snow and the cold weather.

The thing about the Cardinals is that we know their receivers can make plays. And all the reports have Anquan Boldin a lot healthier than he was against the Eagles.

I'm not the greatest of pickers, but I am giving the Cardinals a chance because they had a great game plan against the Eagles on a short week. Warner had his pass patterns down and he was throwing to the blitz side all game long. The unblocked rusher was right in his face and he knew when to get rid of the ball. He will be facing similar blitz tactics although James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley are playing at a very high level right now.

The other thing is that Warner seems to be protecting the ball a lot better, too. I was surprised at how easy he made the game look against the Eagles.

Points could be at a premium in this game. Pittsburgh doesn't score a lot of points on offense and relies on its defense to win games. The Cardinals are all about giving Warner time. If they do, Arizona is going to score some points.

If this was a regular-season game or a cold-weather game, I would say it would be an easy Pittsburgh win. But these two weeks between games should offset a West Coast team going to the East Coast factor. The two weeks may even help Arizona's defense, which has been very good against the run in the playoffs. I'm saying all this while I know that Pittsburgh is the better team.

I hear that Hines Ward practiced on Thursday, but not on Wednesday. You hear he has a bad knee sprain and also that he will be fine come Sunday. All I know is that Ward is a crucial part of their offense. He's saying he will be ready to go on Sunday, but really how effective is he going to be? Remember, he played a major role in Pittsburgh's last Super Bowl victory. He's the kind of player who bails out a struggling offense because he can catch, throw and block.

Fans must understand that we are talking about conflicting styles in these two teams. Pittsburgh relies on its defense to make plays while determining field position throughout the game. Somehow, the Cardinals have to neutralize Pittsburgh's defense in order to have a chance.

The Cardinals, however, rely so much on turnovers and takeaways on defense. In three playoff games, I think they had 15 takeaways. The takeaways hide a lot of their flaws on defense, and if they don't get them against the Steelers they could be in for a long day. I'm sure Pittsburgh believes it can run all day on Arizona.

Arizona's defense did have a few great games early in the season against Miami and Dallas when the Cowboys were still a really good offensive team. But for the most part they have been inconsistent and not overpowering.

We raved about Clancy Pendergast in previous years about his coaching. He had the defense playing very well, but the offense couldn't do enough in previous years to make them a playoff team. But now with Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Warner playing so well, everything seems to be clicking.

The other coordinator, Todd Haley, really has Arizona's offense clicking. The results in the playoffs have been very impressive. Obviously, he has some talent to work with, but I think he did a good job of utilizing those players and managing the game in the playoffs, particularly at the end of the Philadelphia game.

Even if the Cardinals don't win this game, I think there is no question what they have to do. They have to sign Warner and bring him back. I'm not saying it has to be a long-term deal. But they may have to overpay him for next year in order to bring him back. I'm not sure if he will be a hot commodity on the open market. He's 37 and he doesn't have a lot of time left. But I don't think Arizona wants to risk losing him even if there won't be a lot of teams beating down his door.

For the coaches, I figure playing Pittsburgh will give both Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm a tremendous amount of motivation because both of them lost out on becoming the next Pittsburgh coach when Bill Cowher retired. They were on the staff when the team won Super Bowl XL. But I'm not sure that they have a tremendous amount of insight on the Steelers for it to be any big advantage.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 31, 2009

Reggie Brown Name: Reggie Brown
Position: WR
Age: 27
Experience: 4 years
College: Georgia
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