Game Scout: Cardinals at Titans

Larry Fitzgerald (Getty)

The Arizona Cardinals look to exploit the Titans struggling pass defense when the two teams face off this Sunday in Tennessee. Here is a look inside the camps, keys to the game and a prediction.

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Arizona Cardinals (7-3) at Tennessee Titans (4-6)


GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/29/09
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX (Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan, Charissa Thompson)
PREDICTION: Cardinals 30-20

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cardinals expect QB Kurt Warner to play after leaving last Sunday's game following a blow to his head. If he plays, Arizona will attack the league's second-worst pass defense with a bevy of three- and four-receiver sets. Tennessee has 25 sacks, but pressure from the front four is inconsistent at best. Titans QB Vince Young is showing growth as a passer in addition to simply avoiding turnovers.

The Cardinals will still attempt to control RB Chris Johnson and then bring the heat on Young. The Titans' ability to win a fifth straight game will hinge on controlling the clock, protecting their defense and punctuating drives with touchdowns.

FAST FACTS: Warner is the first Cardinals quarterback with three consecutive 20-plus touchdown seasons. ... Arizona is 5-0 on the road.

PERSONNEL NEWS

Cardinals:

--OLB Chike Okeafor has practiced this week after missing two games with a back ailment. Okeafor has been limited in practice but it appears he will play against the Titans. Bertrand Berry is his backup.

--K Neil Rackers has a groin strain and has been limited in practice this week. He is expected to play on Sunday.

--LB Monty Beisel, signed earlier this week, should be able to make an immediate contribution. As a member of the team from 2006 through 2008, Beisel is familiar with the defensive system and can also play special teams.

--CB Bryant McFadden, who suffered a knee contusion last week, has practiced this week and should be able to play on Sunday.

--QB Kurt Warner took a normal amount of snaps in practice this week and is expected to play Sunday, a week after suffering a concussion.

Titans:

--WR Justin Gage did not practice on Thursday as he tries to make his way back from fractured transverse process bones in his back. Gage has already missed two games with the injury.

--DT Jason Jones sat out practice on Thursday with a nagging shoulder injury that has had him in and out of the lineup all season. Jones is still tied for the team lead with four sacks.

--DT Sen'Derrick Marks was out of Thursday's practice but he did some running on the side after injuring his ankle in the second half of Monday night's win at Houston.

--LB Colin Allred was limited on Thursday after sitting out Wednesday with a hamstring injury that kept him out of Monday night's game in Houston.

--LB David Thornton, who has been bothered on and off with a hip injury, was limited in Thursday's practice. He did not play Monday night in Houston, as Gerald McRath started in his place.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Titans:

Just from quirks of the schedule, Sunday will mark the first time the Tennessee Titans have gone against Kurt Warner since Super Bowl XXXIV, when Warner led his St. Louis Rams to a 23-16 victory in one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever played.

"I hope the fans appreciated a couple of those matchups, particularly the Super Bowl matchup. It was a great football game," Warner said, noting that the Titans had defeated the Rams in the regular season in 1999 in his only other visit to Nashville. "That's what you want to be a part of. I've been a part three great Super Bowls. That's what you want the game to be is down to the wire, great players competing on the greatest stage. That's what that game was."

Since that time, Warner has bounced from the Rams to the New York Giants and finally to Arizona, where he has resurrected his career to the point that he is now considered a potential Hall of Fame quarterback once his career his done.

But Warner, now 38, will always be remembered by Titans fans as the quarterback of the Rams, who set a Super Bowl record with 414 yards passing that day, including the winning touchdown bomb to Isaac Bruce that was on an underthrown ball from Warner as Jevon Kearse came within a split second of getting a sack.

Both players remembered the play this week as their respective teams prepare for each other.

"He hit me right as I was throwing it. It may have knocked the ball back a little bit or stopped it from going quite as far," Warner recalled. "I was pretty much in to my throw before I hit him. I know I couldn't follow through. How that or if that affected the ball I can't be certain. If it did, I appreciate it because it worked out in our favor. I don't know one way or another."

Kearse is more certain that perhaps his rush on that play was a bit too good, as the underthrow worked in the Rams' favor.

"I think I was too close. That's one of those plays I wish I could take back. If the ball wouldn't have been underthrown, it would have been defensed great by (Denard Walker)," Kearse said. "But that's just how the game goes. But everything that season was just a reminder that football is a game of inches. The Music City Miracle was probably within an inch of being a forward pass. The Kevin Dyson thing (at the end of the game).

"I hit him, and he couldn't release the ball all the way. As soon as he let it go, we clapped hands and the ball came up short."

On Sunday, the players are likely to be in very different spots. Warner is still slinging the ball around the great aplomb, working with star receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and is coming off his third career Super Bowl appearance last year.

Kearse, meanwhile, is in his second tenure with Tennessee, but that stint has decidedly taken a downturn for the veteran defensive end, who has now been inactive for six straight weeks, since leaving after the Titans made him a healthy scratch against Indianapolis on Oct. 11. That would not appear to change any this week when Warner and the Cardinals visit Tennessee.

The playing time has gone to second-year man William Hayes, who has ascended to the starting lineup, while the veteran Kearse watches in street clothes. Unfortunately for Kearse, his only chance of getting off the bench appears to be if those ahead of him suffer an injury.

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