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Three Keys: Acing the Cards

Of course there are no real three keys to this game or any game. Winning only requires one key, outscoring your opponent, and there is no end of ways to do that. But here are three things we should expect Seattle to do if they are going to win.

  • Convert Third And Short
    The Hawks offense converted only 4 of 12 third down attempts against the Bucs. Shaun Alexander was particularly bad, in two of his five third and short (less than 3 yards to convert) rushes he was held to no gain. In two others he lost three yards apiece including one where he fumbled. Seattle overcame this weakness with a few big plays and a dominating defense, but for the offense to get off the ground it must be able to sustain drives and that starts with converting third and short.
  • Protect Kelly Jennings
    The Cardinals' most advantageous mismatch is bruiser Anquan Boldin squaring off against the slightly built Jennings. In three of his last four seasons Boldin has topped 500 yards after catch.  Boldin doesn't run away from guys like fellow king of the YAC Steve Smith, he runs over guys. Jennings is an underrated tackler. He squares up his man and gets get good body contact, but form and heart only go so far when you're barely a buck seventy. Protecting Jennings is about keeping pressure on Matt Leinart, keeping linebackers in his passing lanes and Brian Russell providing deep support so that when Boldin clowns Jennings someone is there to minimize the damage.
  • Don't Let Ken Whisenhunt Outsmart You
    Playing a Whisenhunt coached team means facing a playbook rife with dirty tricks: the shotgun draw, the end around, the direct snap and the option pass could all be employed Sunday. Two Hawks must be more aware than most: Middle Linebacker Lofa Tatupu and Strong Safety Deon Grant. Tatupu is the defensive QB, but not only must he be able to spot potential trick plays, he must be able to avoid biting on them himself. Tatupu's aggression came at a price last season. He bit on misdirection, found himself out of position and then had trouble fighting back through traffic to get back into the play. Grant perfectly read a Buccaneer end around last week, an encouraging sign for a team whose safeties the past few seasons have been all athleticism and zero awareness. The trick play is flashy when it works, but properly anticipated it can backfire like a zip gun.