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Key to the Game: Bengals pass defense must contain Cardinals pass offense

Sunday's game is being touted as the battle of the wide receivers. Combined, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin have 94 receptions for 1,191 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Boldin's numbers are slightly misleading having missed three games earlier this season. In week 3, at Baltimore, Boldin did all he could in a 23-26 loss. He had 14 receptions for 181 yards and two scores. During a two game stretch between week four (Pittsburgh) and five (St. Louis), Fitzgerald caught 19 passes for 236 yards. Fitzgerald and Boldin average 6'2" with a combined weight of 443 pounds. These guys are really good and really big.

Bengals? We have the advantage. Combined, Chad and T.J. have 119 receptions for 1,571 yards and 13 touchdowns. They are a bit shorter with a combined weight of 391 pounds. No, this isn't a boxing blog.

In pretend world, let's say all four receivers cancel each other out. Which team has the superior #3 threat? The Bengals have Chris Henry. The Cardinals have a combination of Bryant Johnson (6-3, 213 pounds) and Leonard Pope (6-8, 258 pounds). Pope vs. Bengals secondary = Oh, no. Pope's biggest contribution is near the endzone -- all four touchdowns are inside the redzone, two were against Detriot last week and three were scored in the past three games.

I believe that the talent of Deltha O'Neal, Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall could contain the Cardinals receivers. Read that again, I believe that the talent could. I did not say they would -- quickly Joseph is becoming that other guy in the Michael Jordan slam dunk posters. He's better than he's shown this year. His talent, as seen in 2006, with the combination of Leon Hall, made me believe we could have two young cornerbacks that would hold their own allowing the defense to do more. I'm still convinced Joseph isn't fully healed and won't be until next season. And I still think, with time, our cornerbacks could rival any in the league as they gain experience. However...

  • The youth and inexperience means, burnt toast and broken coverages.
  • We don't play a lot of man. We just leave wide open gaps in zone coverage.

The latter should concern you. Unless the Bengals get pressure on Kurt Warner -- pressure on quarterback is so not our specialty -- then he'll pick us apart with the zone coverages.

The Bengals have the best #3 receiver in the land. But that might not matter if the Bengals 28th-ranked pass defense can't step up.

Player Rec. Yards TDs
Larry Fitzgerald 58 811 3
Anquan Boldin 36 380 5
Bryant Johnson 26 283 0
Leonard Pope 14 147 4

Why is -18 rushing yards by Cardinals defense is misleading: Lions' receiver Shaun McDonald took an end around losing 15 yards last Sunday. Of the Lions' 65 offensive plays, only eight were rush attempts -- one of which was a four-yard touchdown run by Kevin Jones. It's not like the Cardinals stuffed the entire Lions rush offense -- as the stats prove otherwise. That was just an example of Mike Martz doing what Mike Martz does.