Seahawks coach Jim Mora calls them "Moment of Truth" plays.
They are those times in the game that have nothing to do with strategy or scheming; they’re about one guy physically beating the other guy.
Most often, it’s when the ball is in the air and one player goes up and makes the play.
There are few better in these moments than beastly Arizona Cardinals receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.
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Against the Seahawks, the two have been both truth and consequence. Last November at Qwest Field, for instance, Boldin (13 catches, 186 yards) and Fitzgerald (10-151) buried the Seahawks with a total of 337 receiving yards.
Typically, the Cardinals exploited receiver/secondary mismatches all the way to an NFC championship and a Super Bowl appearance.
Specifically attempting to retool against the Fitzgerald/Boldin threat, the Seahawks picked up free agent Ken Lucas in the offseason, hoping his size and veteran athleticism would give them a physical presence at cornerback opposite Marcus Trufant.
But Trufant has been out all season with a back in jury, and Lucas has missed the week of practice to return to Mississippi to attend services after the death of his father.
So, today, Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner will target those two primary receivers again, but also will have the options of back Tim Hightower (25 catches), Steve Breaston (15.2 yards per catch average) and Jerheme Urban (13 catches) to mix in.
Lucas is expected to be back, but the Hawks also will be relying on 180-pound Kelly Jennings and 5-foot-9 Josh Wilson.
Good luck, guys. The truth sometimes can be painful.
As statistically obvious as the Fitzgerald and Boldin dominance is how the 38-year-old Warner can also be disrupted.
The two-time league MVP has been pounded by defenders in two games this season – San Francisco and Indianapolis – both losses. In those two defeats, Warner was sacked seven times and threw four interceptions and two touchdowns. In the Cardinals’ two wins, he’s been sacked just once and connected on four touchdowns and no interceptions.
The point being: If Kurt Warner is on his back, it doesn’t matter how much bigger Arizona’s receivers are than Seattle’s defenders.
“What can you say about those receivers?” Mora asked. “We have great respect for what they do; we understand the challenge. But our guys are pros as well, and they look forward to it. Competitors love to compete. They love the challenge; it’s tough, and that’s what they like. It’s kind of what their lives are built upon, overcoming challenges.”
Warner spoke this week of the joys of scanning the field and seeing tall, athletic and aggressive receivers.
“It’s an obvious luxury, as a quarterback, to get in one-on-one situations (and) to put the ball up and your guy will get it a lot of the times,” he said. “My guys are as good as anybody going up and getting the football and using their bodies and their size to create mismatches.”
As secondary coach for the Seahawks the two previous seasons, Mora recalled the challenge of facing the Cardinals’ pass attack as being “daunting.”
The cornerbacks have to be good at timing their jumps to the ball and being in the best possible position, he said. “And still that might not be enough against those guys,” he said. “Those guys make spectacular catches game, after game, after game.”
And the demands on guys like Jennings and Wilson?
“They’ve got to play darn near flawless,” he said.
Warner hasn’t made it through 11 seasons without being clever and being able to get rid of the ball as a means of not only success, but also self-preservation.
“… In his whole career, he’s really reacted well to pressure,” Mora said. “He has a way of retreating, or contorting his body, or adjusting his arm to get the ball in the proper spot. I have great respect for him … you wonder how he does it.”
But he can only do it when remaining vertical. And altering that condition will be the prime challenge of the Seahawks today.
“He’s like every quarterback,” Mora said. “If you can get some pressure on him, it has an effect.”
And it’s about the only way to steal moments of truth from Fitzgerald and Boldin.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440