The Cardinals' offensive line must protect Kurt Warner well Sunday for Arizona to have a chance to beat the defending Super Bowl champion Giants.
The Cardinals like to pass. On that subject there is no argument.
But to pass, quarterback Kurt Warner must have time to throw – and that, more than any other factor, may determine the winner when the New York Giants visit Glendale Sunday.
"There is no question they put pressure on a quarterback," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We all remember the Super Bowl where it was noticeable on a national stage."
In that Super Bowl, held at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Giants pulled off what some considered the greatest upset in NFL history because of the heavy pass rush on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
This year, despite the retirement of Michael Strahan and the season-ending injury of Osi Umenyiora, the Giants are third in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt. Warner, meanwhile, has been sacked just six times in the past six games and has completed 71 percent of his passes this season.
"We're not worried about sacks; we could care less," Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "It's about hits on the quarterback.
"We want to rattle (Warner). Obviously he's a veteran and it's going to be hard. But if you hit somebody often enough and hard enough it'll make him a little nervous."
Battling the Giants up front will be "a great challenge," guard Deuce Lutui acknowledged. But both Whisenhunt and Lutui said the offensive line's continuity – the Cards have had the same starters every game this season – is making for a better unit.
"Continuity plays a big part," Lutui said. "Week in, week out, we are trying to mirror each other. The more we play with each other, we have a feel for that. Without even communicating on the field, we can figure things off just with body language. That's the communication that has been instilled on this offensive line."
RETURN TO THE SCENE OF THE SHINE
The Cardinals feel great when they play at home, and have already posted some emotional and significant victories (Pittsburgh, Dallas) at University of Phoenix Stadium. But it still doesn't match the emotional and significant victory the Giants have in the same building, thanks to New York's 17-14 win over New England in Super Bowl XLII in February.
"I think everybody knows it will be a very different feel this game," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. "We're going to be the away team. Arizona's home stadium should be loud and everybody will be against us. Different feel, different game, different team.
"It won't help us out any. It's all going to be a matter of execution and playing great football."
Before the Super Bowl, the Giants practiced at the Cards' Tempe complex and moved into the Cards' locker room.
"We're not reflective in any way about that," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "I don't think we can afford to be."
The Cardinals have won seven straight home games, an impressive feat that is the franchise's longest at home since 1925. But the Giants are working on a nice streak of their own, having won 14 of their last 15 games not played at home, including the Super Bowl win and their playoff run.
"When you have won that many games on the road, you have to be tough mentally, because you have had to overcome some things," Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin said. "It's not easy to go someplace else and win a football game."
Manning said he wasn't sure exactly why the Giants have been so good away from home, other than understanding each game will be difficult and to not give up.
"Some of those games haven't been pretty," Manning said. "But we've learned to make plays in the fourth quarter and … find ways to gut it out."
Cornerback Rod Hood missed a third straight practice tending to family matters after a funeral, but his ribs injury may have made this week difficult to play anyway. Whisenhunt said Hood still had a chance to play Sunday, but the situation doesn't look promising. Officially, Hood is listed as questionable, as is linebacker Clark Haggans (foot) – who sat out practice yet again Friday – and DE/LB Travis LaBoy (ankle).
LaBoy at least got some limited work in at practice. DT Darnell Dockett (ankle), T Mike Gandy (ankle) and CB Eric Green (knee) all practiced fully and should play.
For the Giants, starting running back Brandon Jacobs (knee) practiced full and should play. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress sat out a second straight game and is questionable.
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 11/21/08.