In what’s already been a turbulent season for the Arizona Cardinals, a Week 6 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks could be a defining moment in the 2009 campaign. The winner of Sunday’s tussle will have the inside track on catching and potentially overtaking the San Francisco 49ers who currently sit on top of the NFC West standings.
Both Arizona and Seattle are coming off wins last week, but they took drastically different routes to victory. The Cardinals jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead against the Houston Texans and needed a late defensive touchdown from CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to secure a 28-21 win. Meanwhile, the Seahawks dominated the Jacksonville Jaguars to the tune of 41-0.
The Arizona offense looked substantially better than the prior week’s showing against the Indianapolis Colts. However, the Cardinals’ running game is still a major question mark through the first quarter of the season. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt vowed to do a better job of establishing the run game but that notion may be far fetched. Outside of two kneel downs by QB Kurt Warner to end the game, Whisenhunt called just two rushing plays in the second half a week ago despite being up 21 points.
Another factor undermining Arizona’s decision to abandon the running game last week was the Texans inability to stop the run. Houston ranks 26th in the NFL allowing over 140 yards per game but the Cardinals were only able to accumulate 44 yards on the ground. Things won’t be any easier for Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells as Seattle is giving up 107 yards per contest. Last week against the Jaguars, the Seahawks limited RB Maurice Jones-Drew to only 34 yards on 12 carries.
Warner has reverted back to Pro Bowl form but will need adequate time in the pocket against a quick and aggressive Seattle pass rush. DE Patrick Kerney is known as one of the league’s most tenacious pass rushers and has compiled two sacks along with rookie LB Aaron Curry. Second-year DE Lawrence Jackson leads the team with four sacks, which ties him for fourth in the NFC.
After missing two games due to injury, QB Matt Hasselbeck returned for the Seahawks last week and went on to toss four touchdown passes. Given the inconsistencies the Cardinals’ secondary has demonstrated early on, Hasselbeck may be primed for a similar performance. The Arizona defense currently ranks dead last in the NFL allowing 303 yards per game through the air.
For Seattle, Sunday’s game is an opportunity to reassert themselves as a contender in the NFC West. The Seahawks struggled mightily last season and managed just a 4-12 record. The Cardinals, on the other hand, are still out to prove last year’s historic playoff run was no fluke. Following this week, one team will be back in the thick of things in the divisional race while the other will be left still searching for answers.
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