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Something Has Got To Give

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Kurt Warner and the Cardinals' offense, ranked second in passing in the NFL, will be tested by the Panthers' defense this weekend in Carolina.

There were times when he played with the Rams during their "Greatest Show on Turf" days when Kurt Warner thought his offense "literally felt unstoppable."

Chasing that ideal isn't easy. Even now, leading a Cardinals' team that leads the NFL in points per game and is second in passing offense, Warner isn't willing to be as bold.

"I would say I have had moments where I felt the same, where I felt they can't stop us," Warner said. "I have had those moments, but the key is to go into every game feeling the same way, and I don't think we're there yet."

The Cardinals must deal with the league's fifth-ranked defense Sunday in Carolina, a unit that is ranked second against the pass – and one that reduced red-hot Saints quarterback Drew Brees to a no-touchdown performance in blowing out New Orleans last weekend.

The clash would seem to be a classic irresistible-force-versus-immovable-object situation.

Maybe the Cardinals aren't putting up the video game stats of Warner's St. Louis days, but they are carrying around confidence.

"You look at our games and when we haven't produced are the games where we have a lot of turnovers, a lot of penalties and a lot of missed assignments," tackle Levi Brown said. "The games where we were on the same page, we were pretty much rolling."

The Cardinals should only become more potent offensively if Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin is able to return from facial surgery. Already receiver Steve Breaston has emerged as a more dangerous piece than anyone expected. Running back J.J. Arrington has also become part of the offensive equation, and that doesn't even include the improved level Larry Fitzgerald – already a Pro Bowler – has reached.

The Panthers, meanwhile, are frequently able to pressure the passer with just four rushers, leaving seven in coverage. They haven't allowed a 100-yard receiver. They haven't allowed more than 231 yards passing in a game.

Inevitably, there will be a give-and-take. This even Warner understands.

"Our offense, as much as it is based on the quality of players that we have, I think just as much is based on doing or taking what the defense gives you," Warner said.

"But (feeling unstoppable) has to be the mentality of every great offense. We don't care what the defense does, we will be successful anyway. It doesn't always hold true, but that is the mentality you have to take."

For example, Warner said when he is running the no-huddle offense and calling plays in that formation, he will have some receiver come open if he calls the right play against the coverage. If no one is open, Warner figures, it's because he called the wrong play – not necessarily because the defense couldn't be cracked.

"I think Kurt is looking like he did when he was rolling with the Greatest Show on Turf," Carolina coach John Fox said.

Seeing defenses as a overall group usually isn't the idea. All those meetings the players have during the week is all about breaking down the opposition, Brown said, and the offense will find the strengths and weaknesses of the other side.

The idea is to exploit the weaknesses, while hopefully engaging your team's own strengths often.

This may be arguably the toughest defense the Cards will face; they see the New York Giants in Week 12. But while Brown insists the offense can't get complacent, the fact is the Cards on offense have morphed into a unit with which other teams must be wary.

Unstoppable? No. But the Cards can be scary.

"That's how I feel all the time," Boldin said, "that if we take care of us, we'll be all right. And I think everyone on the offense sees it the same way."


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 10/22/08.

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