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Redskins Could Provide Clues to a 'Super' Victory


For the second year in a row, the Redskins played both of the eventual Super Bowl combatants during the regular season.

In Week 3, the Redskins defeated the Arizona Cardinals 24-17 at FedExField.

Six weeks later, the Redskins were stymied by the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 23-6 loss, also at FedExField.

Both of those games could provide clues in how to defeat each of the Super Bowl teams.

The key to the Super Bowl could be how Pittsburgh's top-ranked defense--and in particular their No. 1-ranked pass defense--matches up against Arizona's potent offense.

In Washington's game against the Cardinals, the Redskins' front seven focused on pressuring quarterback Kurt Warner while cornerbacks disrupted the pass routes of dynamic wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

"You have to make [Warner] uncomfortable at the line of scrimmage first, and then you have to jam the receivers at the line of scrimmage," Fred Smoot said before the game. "You have to make them do what they don't like to do.

"Big, strong receivers like to get on into their routes. When receivers aren't as fast as a guy like Santana [Moss], you can get in between them and the ball. Then you can make a play."

Coverage was a strong suit for the Redskins all season long, and the Redskins' strategy against the Cardinals worked most of the game.

Warner completed 16-of-30 passes for 192 yards. He was sacked twice and under pressure four more times.

Fitzgerald made his share of plays. He finished with seven catches for 109 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown catch in which he sped past Carlos Rogers and put a double move on Reed Doughty to get open downfield.

Boldin, covered tight by Shawn Springs, had three catches for 25 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown grab.

Warner made a critical mistake in the fourth quarter, as Rogers made a diving interception on a deep pass downfield. Rogers returned the interception 42 yards to help set up the Redskins' game-winning score.

Pittsburgh would appear to have the defensive personnel to pressure Arizona's offense as well.

In Week 9, a Monday Night contest at Washington, Steelers' cornerbacks Ike Taylor, Deshea Townsend and William Gay limited the Redskins' wide receivers to nine catches for 55 yards.

Jason Campbell was under pressure most of the night by the Steelers' front seven, and he was forced to target Chris Cooley and Clinton Portis on short and intermediate passes.

Cooley had eight catches for 78 yards and Portis had seven catches for 73 yards.

The Redskins could not muster any offensive momentum until the fourth quarter, when they spread out the Steelers' 3-4 defense and passed the ball on every down.

They still couldn't produce any points, though.

Campbell absorbed seven sacks, including two by linebacker LaMarr Woodley. Fellow linebacker James Harrison had 1.5 sacks.

In Super Bowl XLIII, Arizona could try to spread out the Steelers' defense earlier in the game.

That could open up zones for Fitzgerald, Boldin and third-year receiver Steve Breaston. Once the Cardinals get in rhythm, they can be dangerous.

Warner lacks mobility, so he will need to get rid of the ball quickly against Pittsburgh. He may not have time to throw to his second, third or fourth options.

Running back Edgerrin James has proven to be an adept pass-catcher for Arizona, so he should be Warner's first outlet as Pittsburgh brings pressure.

Tight ends have not been a big part of Arizona's passing game this season, and that could prove to be a detriment as Warner is pressured.

If Pittsburgh's secondary can jam Fitzgerald and Boldin and disrupt their pass routes, they should minimize their opportunities for big plays downfield.

And with tight coverage, the Redskins have shown that Warner can be vulnerable to hard hits--and ultimately a critical mistake.

Pittsburgh should claim its sixth Super Bowl crown with a 28-20 win.

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