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News » Gadget plays keep Cards' foes guessing

Gadget plays keep Cards' foes guessing

Gadget plays keep Cards' foes guessing
TAMPA, Fla. ? Whether or not the Cardinals had their momentum ? three consecutive playoff victories ? stopped because of a bye week before Super Bowl XLIII remains to be seen.

So does the idea that they used the extra time to slip a few more gadget plays into the playbook.

"Coach Whis (Ken Whisenhunt) loves to use the trick play," Steelers receiver Hines Ward said. "He'll have something in the bag. Maybe we can make a big play off their big play."

Why wouldn't the Steelers expect some trickery come Sunday at Raymond James Stadium?

Whisenhunt's goal is to catch over-pursuing defenses off guard ? make 'em bite, then burn 'em. It's worked before, in a variety of ways.

In fact, Whisenhunt and Cards' offensive coordinator Todd Haley have let punters, receivers and running backs throw passes with no reservation.

Whisenhunt seems to know when to strike, when to pull the rabbit out of the hat.

Using a play dubbed "Philly Special," the Cardinals caught the Eagles napping in the NFC Championship Game. Kurt Warner threw short to J.J. Arrington, who lateraled back to Warner. The veteran quarterback then hit Philly with the punch line ? a deep spiral to Larry Fitzgerald for a 62-yard scoring play.

"We really don't practice a lot on those plays," Arrington said. "We happened to work on the play three times that week, and then it worked to perfection in the game."

Arizona also used a flea-flicker in a 30-24 win over Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs. The result was a 42-yard touchdown to Fitzgerald.

"I think the thing that we do the best job of, and that we have in the past, is having the criteria for (the trick plays)," Whisenhunt said, "Down-and-distance situations and waiting patiently for that time to come. I think that's the most important thing."

Warner is glad to see a trick play produce a touchdown, but he would rather keep the offense simple.

"(Trick plays) are nice when they work, and when you can set them up and have playmakers go out and make plays," he said. "(But) I would have never called them myself."

Fitzgerald said he loves trick plays.

"You have no idea. Coming out of the huddle and knowing that your number is called, it's like opening up gifts on Christmas," Fitzgerald said.

Still, Fitzgerald doesn't think the Cardinals will get many opportunities to go razzle-dazzle on Sunday.

"Pittsburgh is not going to allow me to do the things I did in the past," Fitzgerald said. "Pittsburgh is a different monster. It's like the bully in the school yard. You gotta go and face him, or he'll take your lunch."

The Steelers aren't exactly known for getting burned by gadget plays. The occasions when a receiver has gotten past the Steelers secondary for a touchdown - think about the 41-yarder from the Chargers' Philip Rivers to Vincent Jackson early in the AFC divisional playoff game ? have been surprising enough.

That wasn't a trick play, but it hushed the crowd and showed the Chargers weren't afraid to put the ball in the air.

The Cardinals will likely try to do the same thing Sunday ? establish early on that they aren't gun shy.

And a trick play would be the perfect way to gift-wrap the message.

The Steelers haven't been done in by a gadget play since Week 13 of last season against the Patriots. Tom Brady lateraled to Randy Moss, who pitched back to Brady. The quarterback then launched a 56-yarder to Jabar Gaffney, creating a highlight of the 34-13 Patriots' win in a game better known as the Anthony Smith Guarantee Bowl.

"As coach LeBeau said, just key your read," Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor said. "You know it could happen. When it comes to (trick plays), your eyes can be your best friend or your worst friend."

The most notable gadget play used by the Steelers in recent history came in Super Bowl XL when Antwaan Randle El zipped a 43-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward off a fake reverse.

That play, which capped the Steelers' scoring in a 21-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks, was courtesy of Whisenhunt, the offensive coordinator who designed and called it.

"We're not worried about any trick plays," Steelers linebacker James Harrison said. "If you play defense the way you're supposed to play it, and you see what you're going to see, then the trick plays shouldn't hurt you."

Whisenhunt's fingerprints are all over the one for the thumb.

They may also be smeared across the Cardinals' first title ? even if he has to fool his old buddies to make that happen.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 31, 2009

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