It has become rather common for teams facing the Indianapolis Colts to lean heavy on their running game. The object being, of course, to eat up clock and keep Peyton Manning and the Colts high powered offense off the field as much as possible.
What's scary is when you gather your teams brain-trust, spend endless hours plotting, finally adopt that game plan, then run it to near-perfection, ..and still end up getting your backside handed to you!
Ask the Miami Dolphins.
In the 28 hours or so that Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner basked in the warm glow of his record setting act of efficiency, ..his through accuracy, Colts QB Peyton Manning was preparing for his own brand.
Despite the Dolphins 239 yards on the ground... despite the Miami offense (and thus, the Indy defense) spending over 45 minutes on the field, Manning and company used that relative pittance of unused clock to upend the frustrated Fish at home.
Teams using this method haven't had a whole lot of success, although the premise makes sense. Very few teams in the league have the guns to get into a shootout with Payton Manning and company.
The Arizona Cardinals just happen to be one of them.
With all the local commotion in the Valley of the Sun over the Tim Hightower vs Beanie Wells 'Who should start?" debate growing each day, and head coach Ken Whisenhunts Pittsburgh roots dictating a strong running game, you (me, the Colts) can expect to see this plan of attack come Sunday evening at UoP Stadium.
If Beanie Wells manages to send a check for, ...say, $600 or less to the agreed charity that teammate safety Adrian Wilson induced earlier this week, and he tucks the ball without any issues in practice this week, the Cardinals will try to utilize this potentially explosive combo against the Colts defense.
Wilson 'challenged' (a kind of forced challenge) Beanie to hold onto the "Beanie Ball", with the rookie RB agreeing (whether he liked it or not) to pay $200 anytime that ball escapes Wells' grasp. A-dub also promised to be creative in his (and others) attempts to lighten Beanie's bank account as the week goes on.
But then, this isn't a gameplan set up specifically for the Colts. They would have the same game plan against anyone's defense. While Warner, Whiz, and everyone else in Cardinal-land 'knows' that this is a pass-first team, they will try to run the ball.
The general consensus around the Valley is that Wells should start. While I believe that a rookie has to earn playing time, and until Beanie can wipe away his growing reputation for unintended fumble-rooski, Hightower should start, ..most polls are running about 2-1 in Beanie’s favor. And against me.
Anyway, no matter how many times Manning and the Colts see it coming, they have no interest or desire to gameplan against it. They just play their game. And their game has worked quite well for them this past, ..oh, decade or so.
Asked about this, Manning responded "We just do what we do."
"We do have a mindset to stay on the field and not to have third-down stops, where we have to punt," Manning said. "That’s the emphasis any offense should have, to stay on the field. It’s your job to go down there and score more points. It’s a team game, and all you can control is what you do when you’re on the field."
Manning and the offense averaged almost two points per minute that they were on the field on Monday night. To say they made efficient use of their time goes without saying. "It’s up to us when we’re on the field to stay on the field and not to go three-and-out. That affects the amount of time you have it also. The offense has to do their part," he added.
The Cardinals will face running backs Joseph Addai and rookie Donald Brown, another rookie running back the Cards had their eye on in this past April's draft.
In Wednesday's post practice presser under the tree in Tempe, Coach Whiz propped Brown's running between the tackles, his running outside, his play while staying in for protection, his catching the ball and making plays, as well as his power, strength, 'burst' and vision. He probably would have propped his lasagna recipe and taste in shoes too, if it came up.
But try as either team might, they are what they are. Manning and Warner are among the most efficient QB's in NFL history because they know what they're going to do just before each snap. Both are excellent at reading the defense as they tuck their hands under the center’s fanny, and making quick reads and adjustments on the fly.
Whisenhunt thinks that Warner's ability to do this so well can only help his defense against a guy like Manning. They practice against a guy everyday that is as close as their opponent as there is in the league in this regard.
Both are notoriously accurate passers, and both have pro-bowlers on the receiving end. Both have taken many hits, but both have dished out many more. Both are winners. Both believe in the passing game more than the running game.
And both would be lying if/when they tell you otherwise.
While there will be attempts to (all together now) 'establish a running game' out of both offenses, the chances are very good, in my humble opinion, that both will end up lighting up the desert sky with an aerial attack that could end up a classic.
While most teams try and establish the run to open up the passing game, these are two teams, two quarterbacks, that love to throw the pigskin around to set up the run. Or not set up the run.
So we can look for each team to try to run the rock. "Three yards and a cloud of dust", and all that. But when it comes down to it, neither team will amass that Miami-like ground game unless and until pigs fly in Cardinals Stadium Sunday night.
You won't often get a chance to see pigs fly like they could be flyin' around Sunday with these two at the helm. You definitely don’t want to miss it.