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Rushing To Make a Difference

Cardinals-Colts game may hinge on protecting, disrupting quarterbacks

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 Center Lyle Sendlein (63), guard Deuce Lutui (76) and the Cardinals' offensive line must protect quarterback Kurt Warner Sunday.
 
 
A game between the Cardinals and Colts will be a rush to judgment.

It's the sort of game dependent on one phase of the game no matter who has the ball. If Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning rank among the best quarterbacks in the league not only throwing the ball buy dissecting  a defense, the men charged with getting to them must do just that.

 "You need to have some type of disruption, since both offenses are based off timing," Cardinals linebacker Bertrand Berry said. "Sacks aren't necessarily the main thing, but disrupting your timing and getting in his face and making sure he doesn't get clear looks down the field. You want to get sacks – they are helpful – but you want to make sure you're just making their plays unsuccessful."

From the Cardinals' perspective, the theme comes with two sides. On one it's the defenders trying to get to Manning. On the other it's an offensive line charged with slowing Colts Pro Bowl defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

The ability for the Colts to often win both aspects is a main reason they have piled up so many double-digit victory seasons.

Cardinals right tackle Levi Brown struggled in the home opener against 49ers pass rusher Parys Harelson. Now he will line up against Mathis most plays, and he acknowledged the Freeney/Mathis duo is among the best in the game.

"It seems like most of time they are playing pass-first, run-second anyway," Brown said. "They get a good jump and if it ends up being a pass, it seems like nine times out of 10 they beat the (blocker). Those guys are great athletes and they change up their rushes to keep you off balance. It's a tough battle."

The Cardinals' offensive line played much better in Jacksonville than it did against San Francisco. That'll be important again, especially on the edges. Brown did sprain his ankle against the Jaguars but expects to be OK, while left tackle Mike Gandy will deal with Freeney.

The quick passes the Cards used against the Jaguars could also help alleviate some of the concerns.

"A lot of their defense is dictated by those two guys getting pressure," Warner said.

Finding a way to get Berry's desired disruption on Manning may be equally difficult. The Cards have done a good job pressuring the passer – they have eight sacks in two games, and blew at least four others when they couldn't haul down David Garrard – but Manning's style is unique.

Cardinals defensive coordinator Bill Davis said the Colts benefit from having the same scheme and many of the same coaches for almost a decade. Like Warner, Manning usually knows exactly where he wants to go with the pass before the snap.

His accuracy parallels Warner's, Davis added, and "if you make a mistake, Peyton always finds it."

"He gets rid of the ball fast and doesn't get sacked very often," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "He senses the blitz and attacks hot routes, and he's so smart, it's hard to get back there on him.

"But you've got to try."
 
 

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