|Cardinals test passing game in rare matchup against Ravens|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 23 September 2007 08:10|
BALTIMORE (AP) - The development of Arizona quarterback Matt Leinart and his esteemed receiving corps will be tested Sunday against a defense the Cardinals know on reputation alone.|
When Arizona last faced the Baltimore Ravens in 2003, rookie Anquan Boldin caught six passes from Jeff Blake in a 26-18 defeat. At the time, Leinart and Larry Fitzgerald were still playing college football.
Leinart, Boldin and Fitzgerald have since tormented several outstanding defenses. But they've never collectively faced the Ravens, who finished No. 1 in the NFL last year and are recognized as one of the stingiest units in the league.
``It's a huge measuring stick for where you are as a team, as an offense,'' Fitzgerald said. ``So it's really important for us to go out and play well against these guys.''
Boldin knows something about going up against the Ravens, but he's never played in Baltimore. He does, however, have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
``We have to do a really good job of making Matt feel comfortable, because we're going to be in a hostile environment,'' he said. ``It's going to be crazy there against a great defense.''
Like the Cardinals (1-1), the Ravens (1-1) are facing an unknown entity. Cornerback Samari Rolle has been in the NFL for 10 years, but this will be the first time he's faced either Boldin or Fitzgerald.
``I train with Anquan during the offseason. He's a great athlete and works hard. Fitzgerald has probably the best hands in the NFL,'' Rolle said.
Cardinals first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt saw plenty of the Ravens as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also watched film of Baltimore's game last week against the New York Jets, when the Ravens yielded 176 yards passing in the fourth quarter of a narrow 20-13 victory.
If Jets quarterback Kellen Clemens could do that in his first NFL start, then wouldn't it make sense that Leinart, Boldin and Fitzgerald would do even better? Perhaps, but Whisenhunt isn't counting on another letdown by Rolle, cornerback Chris McAlister and Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed.
``My experience with that secondary is they're very good football players,'' Whisenhunt said. ``I haven't seen any dropoff in the number of times I have played them, and I'm certainly not expecting that when I come in there Sunday.''
The Ravens were very defensive in the aftermath of their fourth-quarter meltdown. McAlister refused to address any questions about New York on Wednesday, saying only, ``I'm not talking about the Jets. This is about Arizona.''
So what about the Cardinals?
``We'll have a different set of challenges for us this week with Boldin and Fitzgerald, two guys who are definitely two of the bigger receivers we'll face this year in a tandem,'' McAlister said. ``Strong, physical guys - both Pro Bowlers. They have a lot of attributes besides being able to get open, get off the press (coverage). They're great blockers downfield. They're a complete package.''
In last week's win over Seattle, Leinart went 23-for-37 for 299 yards. Fitzgerald had a team-high seven catches for 87 yards and Boldin had four receptions for 83 yards. If Edgerrin James can't run against the Ravens, then Leinart knows who to look for when he drops in the pocket.
``It makes my job a lot easier. I know I can go to either one of those guys, even when they're covered. I know they're going to make a play for me,'' Leinart said. ``You've got a guy like Larry who can go up and get the ball, probably against anyone, because he's so big and he's got great ball instincts. Then you've got a guy like Anquan who runs good routes, who's physical. The thing is, we're all still very young. We're all just growing together.''
The Cardinals think they're man enough to beat the Ravens in Baltimore. Boldin, who reached 300 receptions faster than any player in NFL history, says bring it on.
``They probably have one of the better defenses in the league and it's been that way for a while,'' he said. ``That's one thing that they pride themselves on: defense. It's a challenge that we're looking forward to.''
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