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Cracking the Patriot Defense

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 Jerheme Urban heads for his 50-yard touchdown catch against the Vikings last weekend, the Cardinals' only offensive score.

Kurt Warner has plenty of experience going against Bill Belichick's defenses – most notably when Warner's Rams couldn't get their offense going in an upset loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI.

The Cards' offense has not been as potent the last three games as it had been, averaging 304 yards and 15.7 points generated from the offense after soaring to 428 yards and 26.8 points in the five games before that. Warner said he doesn't think defenses have caught up to the Cards as much as it is lesser execution on Arizona's part.

Dealing with the Patriots' complex defenses won't help.

"It is typical stuff you expect to see, typical stuff which is a lot of different stuff," Warner said. "You look at the breakdown of their coverages, and you have two of these and two of these and three of these and two of these and four of those. It's not like it is the same thing and that's what you expect.

"You have to be ready to adjust on the move and be ready for something you may not see on film."

The Patriots, known for keeping bulletin board material to a minimum, have been effusive in their praise of the Cardinals' passing game. Cornerback Ellis Hobbs called slowing the Cardinals through the air one of the Patriots' biggest challenges of the year.

"It's one of those things where you know what they are trying to do, they know that you know, and are you going to be able to stop it?" Hobbs said. "The guys they have out there are definitely among the top guys in the league at their positions. It's going to take an 11-man effort (to stop them)."

The Cards' offense would be hampered if wide receiver Anquan Boldin and running back J.J. Arrington can't play with their injuries.

The Patriots' defense has not been overwhelming this season; it ranks in the middle of the NFL overall and against both the run and pass. Assessments of their secondary have not been kind.

Mixed in with what stands to be a weather-influenced game, however, and the Patriots can cause problems.

"They will have something for us, and it will come down to our ability to adjust for that," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "Overall, they change week to week. They will view you on tape and attack what they perceive your weakness to be."

BOLDIN, ARRINGTON QUESTIONABLE; LABOY OUT

Wide receiver Anquan Boldin (shoulder) missed practice again Friday and Whisenhunt said Boldin will be a game-time decision in New England. The same goes for running back J.J. Arrington, who was extremely limited with his sore knee.

DE/LB Travis LaBoy (ankle) is already listed as out for the game. The others on the Cards' injury list – safety Adrian Wilson (toe), wide receivers Sean Morey (shoulder) and Early Doucet (hamstring) and linebacker Pago Togafau (knee) – are all expected to be available to play.

HAGGANS TO INJURED RESERVE

The inevitable came Friday when the Cardinals put linebacker Clark Haggans, who is suffering from a LisFranc sprain of his foot, on injured reserve to officially end his season.

Replacing Haggans on the active roster is tackle Elliot Vallejo, who was promoted from the practice squad.

THE MYTHICAL PATRIOTS

Pro Bowl special teamer Sean Morey, drafted by the Patriots and a Massachusetts native, knows all about the reputation of his former team.

"I think everyone in the league sort of looks at them like a blueprint for success," Morey said.

But despite the Patriots' ongoing success, Whisenhunt said their residence in the AFC tends to dull any intimidation factor.

"The only time we see New England is when they are on TV or the Super Bowl and the playoffs (and) we know they are good," Whisenhunt said. "I don't think as much is made of it as it would if it was somebody in your conference that you saw a lot and you knew how difficult they are.

"We know New England is a difficult team. We understand we have to play good football to be in this game and that's what our focus is."


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 12/19/08.

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