|Whisenhunt, Cardinals face tough home opener against 3-time NFC West champs|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 13 September 2007 15:17|
The stakes won't be nearly as high, but the task probably will be tougher, when Arizona plays the Seahawks on Sunday in the Cardinals' first home game under head coach Whisenhunt.
``They have changed some people, but they still play confident,'' Whisenhunt said. ``They still play fast and they still are aggressive. You can tell that it is a team that has had a lot of success and believes in what they are doing.''
The Seahawks have won three straight NFC West titles. The Cardinals have had one winning season since 1984. Whisenhunt is the eighth coach to try to escape that sad history since franchise moved to Arizona in 1988.
His team lost its opener Monday night in San Francisco 20-17 in classic Cardinals' style. With Arizona leading 17-13, the 49ers' Arnaz Battle fumbled the ball into the Arizona end zone after catching a pass over the middle. The Cardinals' Eric Green was first to the ball, but it scooted away from him and the 49ers recovered. One play later from the 1, Battle scored the winning touchdown on an end-around.
``Obviously, the last game leaves a bad taste for all of us,'' quarterback Matt Leinart said, ``but you have to move on. There's nothing we can do about it. It's only week one.''
The Seahawks won their opener at home 20-6 over Tampa Bay on Sunday, but their only visit to the Cardinals' new stadium, a year ago, was an unpleasant one. Arizona won 27-21, one of only five victories in coach Dennis Green's final season.
The defense Seattle will face is essentially the same because Whisenhunt retained defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. It's a defense that relies on speed and unpredictable schemes.
``I think it's an all-day sucker preparing to play the Cardinals' defense,'' Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said. ``They do a lot of things. They're very aggressive. They have good team speed, and they have a couple of special players.''
That aggression has worked against Arizona in past meetings. Shaun Alexander has had more success against the Cardinals than against any other team.
In nine games against Arizona, he's gained 962 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He's scored 15 touchdowns against the Cardinals and had four 100-plus-yard games.
``The one thing about Shaun is you have to be very disciplined,'' said Bertrand Berry, Arizona's veteran outside linebacker/defensive end. ``He's a very disciplined runner. He's also an opportunistic runner. He takes advantage of what you give him. A lot of times, he uses the cutback a lot more than most running backs. So it's up to the backside help to be very disciplined in what we do.''
Seattle brings an experienced offensive line, while the Cardinals are young and just learning to work together. Lyle Sendlein, an undrafted rookie out of Texas, will start at center in place of injured Al Johnson. The right tackle is rookie first-round draft pick Levi Brown, while the right guard Deuce Lutui is in only his second pro season.
Arizona, in a reversal of previous fortunes, moved the ball on the ground but had trouble with the passing game against San Francisco. Leinart was just 14-for-28 for 102 yards with two interceptions, one on his first pass, in the debut of his sophomore NFL season.
``Obviously, we're a little disappointed,'' wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said, ``but we're not going to get down on each other. We went out there and worked hard (this week) and we're going to fix the things that need to be fixed. We're going to be a good team this year. We're confident in that.''
The Cardinals will face a tough Seattle defense, led by a standout linebacking corps. Two of them, Julian Peterson and Lofa Tatapu, have a combined five Pro Bowl selections. Both were picked for the game last year. The third, Leroy Hill, has not practiced this week because of a foot injury.
``They have good speed,'' Holmgren said. ``I think they're smart guys. And all of them, even our middle linebacker, have good pass rush ability. They're very much a key to our defensive success, and they got off to a good start. They had a good game against Tampa Bay.''
The game is sold out, and the Cardinals want it to be loud, the kind of home-field advantage the Seahawks and many other teams already enjoy.
``We've got to gain the home-field advantage when people come to play in our stadium,'' Leinart said. ``We've got the fans and we've got the edge. That's what so many of these teams, for example Seattle, have. When they go to their home stadium, they've got an edge, because that 12th man is huge.''