|Fancy receivers in Cardinals-Bengals matchup that could hinge on the down-and-dirty|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 15 November 2007 13:57|
Is it Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, a pair of Pro Bowl pass catchers who make everything look so easy?
Or would it be Cincinnati's Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, a pair of complementary players who can change a game as readily as they speak their minds?
``Aw, come on guys! I think we're the best,'' said Houshmandzadeh, who leads the NFL with 68 catches. ``Why would I think any different? But I like the Cardinals receiving corps, not just because we're playing the Cardinals. If I didn't, I would tell you I don't think they're that good.''
These guys are all very good. In fact, they're the best thing going in a reunion of teams that don't get together very often. The Cardinals (4-5) and Bengals (3-6) haven't played since 2003, when Fitzgerald was still in college and the other three were just getting started in the pros.
They've all come a long way. Even Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who disdains the look-at-me mind-set of so many modern-day receivers, had to concede that these guys are something to behold.
``It'll probably be the prettiest group of wide receivers, on both sides of the football, that you'll see in the NFL,'' Lewis said. ``We need our guys to come out and be the best group.''
The Bengals need a lot more than that. The game likely will hinge not on the fast-and-fancy, but on the down-and-dirty. Will the Bengals be able to run the ball?
For the last two weeks, they haven't. They managed only 28 yards on 17 carries in a 33-21 loss at Buffalo that essentially scuttled their season, and followed that with only 70 yards on 34 tries in a 21-7 win at Baltimore. Cincinnati had to settle for seven field goals against the Ravens because they couldn't run when they got inside the 20-yard line.
It was so bad that Lewis suggested the Bengals ``got our butt kicked'' when they tried to run the ball - the ultimate challenge for a blocker.
``We're going to have to move guys,'' left guard Andrew Whitworth said. ``Anytime you get called out by the coach, there's something to prove.''
Arizona remained one game out of first place in the NFC West by making Detroit's running game go in reverse during a 31-21 victory last week. The Lions ran the ball eight times and lost 18 yards, the worst modern-day showing in the NFL.
``I'm surprised when people talk about good defenses, they don't bring up the Cardinals,'' Houshmandzadeh said. ``Because when I watched them on tape, it was, 'Wow.'''
If the Bengals can get any semblance of a running game going to keep that defense from locking in, it could turn into the type of game those four receivers love. The Bengals lost in Cleveland 51-45 in the second week of the season, and the Cardinals wouldn't mind going the same route.
``Every game to me should be a track meet,'' said Fitzgerald, who leads the NFC with 58 catches. ``If we threw the ball 60 times a game, you wouldn't hear any complaints from me.''
Everyone except the Ravens has been able to move the ball on a Bengals defense that has ranked near the bottom of the league for years. One of its worst days came in 1999, when Kurt Warner had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 while leading the St. Louis Rams to a 38-10 victory in Cincinnati.
That was his only career start against the Bengals, who will get to see a Cardinals offense just now rounding into form.
Warner is starting to feel comfortable with the brace he wears to protect a torn ligament in his left arm; he went 26-of-36 for 259 yards and three touchdowns against Detroit. Boldin has been limited to 36 catches and five touchdowns because of a sore hip.
``Kurt is starting to feel better with his elbow and become a little more efficient,'' coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ``So I'm excited that at this time of the year we have a chance to grow as an offense and get a little bit better, which we did last week. Hopefully we can continue with that.''
Cincinnati's offense hopes to become more than the Shayne Graham show this week. Even with No. 3 receiver Chris Henry back from his eight-game suspension, the offense couldn't make much headway when it got close to the goal line in Baltimore.
Henry had four catches for 99 yards, including a 50-yard reception when he simply ran past two defenders to catch Carson Palmer's pass.
``Hopefully I'll be better this week than I was last week,'' Henry said. ``It would be good to get into the end zone.''
It would be a breakthrough.