|Written by Chris Coleman.
The good thing about having a veteran quarterback at the helm of your squad is early stumbles dont end up scaring fan bases or coaches all that terribly.
With quarterbacks who have played in two of the last three Super Bowls, that was likely the case for the Indianapolis Colts and the Arizona Cardinals, teams that started the year not looking quite as sharp as many expected.
Peyton Manning shrugged off an average week one performance to bring his Colts from behind on Monday night in Florida to beat the Dolphins. And, though, Kurt Warner was decent in his teams Week 1 loss to the 49ers, throwing for almost 300 yards, he was absolutely sublime in Week 2, as he completed all but two of his passes and threw for two touchdowns in the Cardinals win against Jacksonville.
Sunday night in Arizona, fans should expect an offensive explosion as two of the games best quarterbacks square off.
As he did when putting up MVP numbers in St. Louis, Warner is blessed with amazing receivers. Last winter, the Cardinals shocked the world, as they marched to the Super Bowl, carried by Warners deep threat capabilities with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Bouldin split out wide. The two are back this season, after some fears they may lose one or both, and they are the best tandem in the game. With the Colts relying on a quick pass rush from an undersized line, expect Warner, who has proven that he will take what offenses give him, to take advantage of wide receiver screens that can utilize his receivers size advantage.
If the Colts want to keep the scoreboard from exploding, they are going to have to try and make the Cardinals run the ball more, by dropping linebackers into coverage and containing the short ball. The Cardinals have been miserable on the ground so far this year, much as last year, averaging less than four yards per carry. Of course, the Colts small line has not done much to contain the run this year, so it may be a question of which is worse, the Cardinals rushing or the Colts ability to stop the run. The Dolphins punished the Colts for almost 250 yards rushing, and if the Cardinals can get anywhere near only 100 yards on the ground against the Colts, they should have an easy victory.
If the Cardinals use bubble screens and deep balls to strike early, as they often do, they will get in a rhythm that is terribly hard to disrupt. Just ask Jacksonville. The Colts defense is likely exhausted after spending of the game on the field last Monday night. The Cardinals fun and gun is much, much better than Miamis slow moving, tricked-out offense. If they let the Cardinals offense spend 45 minutes on the field, they may give up 50 points.
Combine the time they spent on the field last week with a short week, a desert road game on the West coast and the fact that the Cardinals arguably need this game worse than the Colts, and you have a recipe for disaster.
The Colts will spend most of their time worrying about stopping the Cardinals offense, because when it comes to their own, they know they can rely on Manning, especially in a televised night game.
Although the Colts only had the ball three times in the second half against the Dolphins, they scored every time they had it, and nobody was surprised to see the Colts orchestrate their fourth quarter comeback.
Manning will need his line to provide better run blocking this week than last, however. With only 61 yards on the ground last week, the Colts rushing attack was putrid. If the Cardinals, who are only allowing 56 yards a game on the ground, can keep full coverage on the Colts receivers and bump them off their routes with their large DBs, Manning may need to rely on the ground game more than he would like.
But the Cardinals will have to be responsible on defense. If they think they can blitz Manning and rattle him, they will be sorely mistaken and badly burned. Manning is unshakable, and seems to always have one drive left in him.
Comeback drives can only be executed when a team is within striking distance, however, and I think Warner and his posse of talent will get out early and put too much distance on the scoreboard between the Cards and the Colts.
Last updated on September 26, 2009.