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News » FALCONS IN THE PLAYOFFS: Five trumps to top Cards


FALCONS IN THE PLAYOFFS: Five trumps to top Cards


FALCONS IN THE PLAYOFFS: Five trumps to top Cards
Arizona is not exactly coming into Saturday's first-round NFC playoff game against the Falcons with a full head of steam. The Cardinals finished 9-7 playing in the weak NFC West division.


They wrapped up a playoff berth early and then went in the tank. Before closing out the season with a 34-21 victory over Seattle on Sunday, the Cardinals had dropped four of their previous five games. They also gave up an average of 41.7 points in the losses.

The Cardinals calling card is a prolific offense. They scored 427 points this season, setting a franchise record. The game will pit Arizona's No. 2 passing attack in the NFL against Atlanta's No. 2 rushing attack.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups:

STOP Cardinals AIR SHOW

The Cardinals boast three 1,000-yard receivers --- Larry Fitzgerald (1,431), Anquan Boldin (1,038) and Steve Breaston (1,006). Fitzgerald and Boldin are headed to the Pro Bowl. Quarterback Kurt Warner joins them after completing 67.1 percent of his passes and throwing for 4,583 yards, 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The Falcons secondary figures to have a tough time. Right cornerback Chris Houston has been targeted late in the season, but left cornerback Domonique Foxworth and nickel back Chevis Jackson will also be tested. Safeties Lawyer Milloy and Erik Coleman will have to help over the top on deep routes.

PLAY KEEP AWAY

Running the ball will help the Falcons take time off the clock and keep its secondary off the field. The Cardinals have a solid run defense which ranks 16th in the league. Their defense is led by former Auburn star linebacker Karlos Dansby and Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson. The Falcons counter with Michael Turner, who ran for 1,699 yards in the regular season and is still running strong. Jerious Norwood appears to have recovered from a rib injury that slowed him in the second half of the season.

WHITE LIGHTNING

Pro Bowl receiver Roddy White has to get open if the Cardinals commit eight players up front to stop the run. White is one of the team's playmakers, but he didn't do much in three wins over Tampa Bay, Minnesota and St. Louis down the stretch. White did not have more than 61 yards receiving in the final three regular-season games and scored only one touchdown. White set a team mark for most yards receiving in a season with 1,382 and scored seven touchdowns.

TAKE OFF THE EDGE

The Cardinals finished dead last (32nd) in the NFL in rushing yards. The Falcons have had their moments stopping the run. They held San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson to 24 yards on 14 carries. They held Minnesota's Adrian Peterson to 76 yards on 22 carries. However, they have also gave up a big game to St. Louis' Steven Jackson (161 yards) in the season finale.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt knows that he needs a better running game in the playoffs. He turned to veteran Edgerrin James in the season finale against Seattle. James had his second 100-yard game of the season. Before the Seattle game, James carried only 11 times in five previous games and didn't play at all in three other games. His 35-yard gain against the Seahawks was the Cardinals' longest run from scrimmage this season and James' longest in three seasons in Arizona.

COVERAGE UNITS

The Falcons punt and kickoff coverage units will have a tough task in containing punt returner Steve Breaston and kick returner J.J. Arrington. The punt coverage unit set a league record for fewest yards allowed in a season with 49. Field position will be key as the Falcons' defense tends to give up yardage (347.9 yards, 24th in the league), but not points (20.3, 11th). The coverage units need to create long fields for the Cardinals. The punt team, which gave up two blocks this season, must protect first. Arizona's Sean Morey, a Pro Bowl pick as a special teamer, blocked a key punt against Dallas.

* No. 5 Falcons at No. 4 Cardinals; 4:30 p.m. Saturday; NBC, 92.9 FM



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 30, 2008

Dan Kreider Name: Dan Kreider
#35
Position: FB
Age: 31
Experience: 9 years
College: New Hampshire
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