Our Dueling Scribes Feature continues between myself, Scott Z Brady, and Chris Farmer
SZB: Ok Chris, now it's your turn. We all know of the injuries to key players that happened last week in a game that the Cards were clearly not trying to win. Fitz got his career best 13th touchdown in the fourth quarter. What do you think of coach Whisenhunt's decision to let the first stringers play so long in a blowout?
Chris: On the one hand, my gut disagrees with the move—just like I disagreed with the Colts' decision to pull Peyton Manning and the rest of the starters against the Jets. I also don't understand Whisenhunt's fence-sitting, but I am sure he doesn't view it as fence sitting, just as Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell did not.
If the main goal is to rest key players, then I would have liked to have seen our starters (especially our stars) pulled very early or not played at all. If the goal was to keep some degree of momentum, then I can get with playing the starters longer as the Packers did. It is the in-between business that I don't like.
That said, I give Whisenhunt a free pass until his bad decisions pile up and start the team towards spiraling downward. I don't agree with all of his moves, but many of them are spot on, and you can't argue with the overall results. In three short seasons he is already the best coach in Arizona Cardinals history.
He gave his reasons for keeping some of the stars in the game, and the players are content at the moment with his decision, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt even if it does make me scratch my head a little bit.
SZB: I'm not ready to offer a free pass. That there weren't more serious injuries than what unfolded is pure luck. I agreed with you re: "It's the in-between I don't like". I understand and like that guys get a chance to top a certain number of receptions or TD passes, but football is the ultimate team game. Play to win, or rest your key guys, no in-between.
How would you have done things differently?
Chris: If it were my team, I would have played backups as much as possible, OR played all out intent on winning the game and getting that 11th victory. No mixture.
SZB: Many of the national 'experts' continue to say the Cardinals are a one dimensional team. The Packers have one of the top run defenses in the NFL. Are the Cards one dimensional? And/or will their second half production (approximately 120 yards per game) show up?
Chris: The Packers are stout against the run, but that doesn't scare me. The Cardinals were stout against the run too—ranked first against the run for the first half of the season—before they faced the Panthers and we know what happened then.
The Vikings were supposedly the Williams' Wall and all that, and Arizona was able to go over the century mark in total ground yards that day. So although the Packers pose a challenge in that regard, if Beanie and Hightower come out inspired we should be able to do enough on the ground to take the pressure off of our passing game.
No, Arizona is not a one-dimensional team anymore. They were last year during the regular season, but one of the big keys to their postseason success was their ability to create more balance. This year they are ahead of the curve in that they have already demonstrated the ability to run the ball well before the playoffs.
I like our young RB tandem a lot as you know, and I do not doubt them. Both of our guys can be beasts to tackle and they will be a challenge for the Packers.
SZB: Who will win, and what one thing do you think will stand out as their key to the victory or loss?
Chris: The trenches will dictate the scoreboard. I know that is a boring answer but I don't see any way around it.
Warner has to have time to throw. I hope Whisenhunt approaches this game as he did the Vikings game, by giving Jeremy Bridges blocking help against Clay Mathews in particular. On the flip side, Darnell Dockett must lead the charge of the D-line and LB corps, to get to Rodgers early and often. Sacking and pressuring the QB has been a key to our success all year, and to win here they will need to bring some serious heat.
I think the Cardinals will win because psychologically everything is playing directly into their hands. They love to be made to feel like they have something to prove. The entire nation seems to be predicting a Packers win.
The Cardinals have not gotten a chance to truly play the Packers man to man, yet have suffered two blowout losses to them this season in meaningless games. The starters have had to watch this from the sidelines, powerless. They have had to watch the Packers celebrate as if they'd won something. I see the Cardinals coming out fired up and stomping throats.
SZB: Player of the game?
Chris: It is so impossible to pick out one guy. Warner is an obvious choice. The savvy vet who always plays well in playoff games, Kurt is simply one of the best ever. Beanie Wells, we all know he has the physical tools to dominate and if he gets warmed up it might be a nice surprise attack that Green Bay will be unprepared for.
I also like Early Doucet in this one. The last few games he has played his best pro ball to date. Even if Boldin plays, it is clear he likely won't play his usual amount of snaps, and Doucet looks primed to make a statement of his own.
Defensively, any number of our guys could play huge games as well. Picking just one player is tough!
SZB: Thanks again Chris, and RISE UP, RED SEA! It's PLAYOFF TIME!
SCOTT Z BRADY & CHRIS FARMER
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