Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC West [Print without images]

Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Mailbag: Cardinals fan from Allentown

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Rob from Allentown, Pa., writes: Mike, I am a lifelong Cardinals fan who has been living about an hour north of Philly for the last 2 years. This weekend, I'll be flying out for the game, and sitting in the End Zone. I still can't believe the Cardinals are in the NFC Championship game, at home no less!

So far everything I've read has the Cardinals with no chance against the Eagles. Do you think that actually gives the Cards an advantage? See the last 2 weeks when NO ONE gave the cardinals a chance at winning and how the team responded. Look for a sea of RED on Sunday! Go Cards!!!!!

Mike Sando: What a great trip for you, and better yet if the Cardinals find a way to win.

I do think the mindset you described is helping the Cardinals focus and stay true to their assignments. It helps create an us-against-the-world mentality, and that is usually a good thing.

The Eagles' defensive personnel is the key variable in this game, in my view. I think Philadelphia is set up to make the Cardinals work hard for their yards. The Eagles have the ability to pressure the quarterback. I thought Carolina's defensive line had problems getting pressure. The Panthers' blitzed infrequently.

Kurt Warner has been very effective against blitzes this season. However, I think the Eagles will be confident enough in their blitz packages to take their chances that way. If that happens, the Cardinals will have to do a very good job picking up blitzes. That might allow for sending fewer receivers into their routes. The Eagles have the ability to cover down the field. A team strong in blitzing and coverage creates problems for offenses. Are the Cardinals good enough to move the ball anyway?

The Cardinals' running backs haven't been air-tight in protection on a consistent basis, including a couple of times when Edgerrin James appeared to miss blocks against the Falcons. When the Cardinals protect well -- see J.J. Arrington's block to set up Warner's 29-yard touchdown pass against the Panthers -- the Cardinals' passing game can have its way.

I do wonder how consistently well the Cardinals can pass protect against the Eagles. The Cardinals' offensive staff will need the right plan.


Josh from Delaware writes: With the NFC Championship game in Arizona (I'm as shocked as anyone), does that give more credibility to a "poor" NFC West or do we chalk this up to the Cards coming together at the right time?

Mike Sando: The national view will favor the latter, most likely. The NFC West has won more playoff games over the last four seasons than all but two divisions. But let's face it, the records weren't very good this season.


Bronson from East Helena, Mont., writes: Love your blog, keep up the good work... Have you heard any more news on the Niners OC search? Are they leaning one way or another? Also i would love to see a good DT in the draft or FA, what do you think?

Mike Sando: Thanks, Bronson. I know we've written a lot about Scott Linehan, but I think Rob Chudzinski is an intriguing candidate. The Browns had a down season, but I've spoken with some in the league who think Chudzinski might have a future as a head coach.


Dave from San Francisco writes: Are the Niners going to purse a interview with former Seahawks OC Gil Haskell? I mean it seems a natural fit, he coached the running talent of Shaun Alexander to MVP when he was with him and has been to the Playoffs four of the the last five years. In addition, he is local talent that's got history and I'm sure he's a season ticket holder ! Any hope to bring some local talent home for a interview? Dave

Mike Sando: I wouldn't be surprised if the 49ers interviewed him. General manager Scot McCloughan knows Haskell from their days in Seattle and Green Bay. Right now, however, I have no indication the 49ers are seriously considering him as a candidate for the job.


Tanner from California writes: Hey Sando. Do you think Jim Mora will be reunited with DeAngelo Hall this offseason?

Mike Sando: Probably not, but that's something to ask Mora. I'm on my way out the door for Mora's first news conference as Seahawks head coach.