Whisenhunt Bringing East Coast Style West?

Ken Whisenhunt (Getty)

The idea was that Ken Whisenhunt would bring Steelers style football to the West when he took the Cardinals' job two years ago. Run the ball. Dominate with the offensive line. Build a physical defense. But Whisenhunt was smart enough to realize that toughness doesn't come in one style, or one size. He adapted his offense to the Cardinals talents.

On offense, that meant relying on the pass. It was an easy choice, given the club had Kurt Warner at quarterback and Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin at receiver.

On defense, the Cardinals are continuing to mold themselves into the Steelers West. They changed to a 3-4 base defense, but they morph into a 4-3 in many nickel packages.

The Cardinals still don't have a dominant nose tackle, despite trying to fill the spot through the draft. And even the linebackers spot remain a work in progress.

But there has been progress, as evidenced by the Cardinals making the Super Bowl for the first time.

Much will be made of the Steelers defense, and deservedly so. But it will be challenged to stop this offense, which has a wide diversity of weapons.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald set a postseason record with 419 receiving yards in three games. His main motivation is to avoid the wrath of quarterback Kurt Warner.

"I want to make sure I'm accountable," Fitzgerald said, "and if I'm not I get that death-stare from Kurt, and I try to stay away from that as much as possible."

--Running back Edgerrin James is in his first Super Bowl and it comes with the Cardinals, not the Colts, and in a season when he was benched. Would he call that ironic?

"I don't know how you define this season, it's weird," said James. "The thing about it, everything worked out the right way. They could have continued to say, 'Leave Edge over there by the heaters.' But we got serious about playing football."

--Safety Aaron Francisco received a scolding from fellow safety Adrian Wilson after Francisco fumbled on an interception return.

"I told him to hold onto the ball. He thinks he was a running back," Wilson said. "He was holding the ball loose and let a guy come from behind and rip the ball out. Plays like that shift momentum right back in their favor. He made a great play, he just has to finish the play."

--Owner Bill Bidwill usually doesn't hold press conferences unless he's firing a coach. So when a reporter approached him after the game and asked for a few words, Bidwill laughed. "That's what you'll get, a few words," he cracked.

--Receiver Anquan Boldin got into a heated exchange with offensive coordinator Todd Haley during the fourth quarter when Haley called for a personnel group that didn't include Boldin. Boldin didn't stick around for many questions after the game, and Haley dismissed it as a "heat of the moment" flare-up.

We changed personnel groups out there and I put Steve Breaston in for (Boldin)," Haley said, "and he was upset about it."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--TE Stephen Spach is scheduled to undergo surgery on Thursday to repair a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament. Spach was hurt against the Panthers in the divisional round.

--DE/OLB Travis LaBoy suffered a left biceps injury and will undergo an MRI in the next day. The muscle could be torn, which would keep LaBoy out of the Super Bowl.

--WR Anquan Boldin wasn't 100 percent last week, but he played with a strained groin. Boldin didn't sprint downfield much and most of his routes were short, including some screen passes.

--DE Antonio Smith left the game in the second half with a knee injury but he returned to rush the passer in the final minutes. He should be fine for the Super Bowl.

--CB Rod Hood played part of the game with a sprained ankle. He left for a short time but returned to action and should be fine by the Super Bowl.

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