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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

September 8, 2012 at 5:51 AM

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Keys to Sunday's game

Three keys to Seahawks victory

Seahawks Stay composed.
Seattle is starting a rookie quarterback, and Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton came from the Pittsburgh Steelers so he's steeped in all sorts of ways to apply pressure on quarterbacks. Quarterback Russell Wilson can't be rattled no matter the number of snarling defenders blitzing at him because this Seattle team is built to win wars of attrition, and it absolutely can't tolerate turnovers. Arizona forced 19 turnovers last season, tied for sixth-fewest in the league.

Seahawks Don't get greedy.
Coach Pete Carroll has been known to get impulsive - or "hormonal" as he put it last year -- and eschew short field-goal attempts to try and smash the ball into the end zone. This is a game when discretion is going to be the better part of valor. Arizona's strength is its defense. Same for Seattle. Carroll has to be prepared to exchange body blows for four quarters with these Cardinals, and if a field goals is what's available than it's a field goal Carroll should opt for.

Seahawks Don't let Patrick Peterson return a punt.
That's a direct order. Boot it out of bounds. Kick it so high he has no choice but to fair catch. Just don't go and give him the ball and room to run because he showed last year that what he can do, returning four punts for touchdowns. That's an excellent career total for most any other NFL players, but for Peterson, it was just his rookie total. Seattle can't afford to let him add to it.

Three keys to Cardinals victory

car-mark-1-cl.gif Stop the run.
The Cardinals have all sorts of plans to blitz the bejeezus out Seattle's rookie quarterback, but those plans won't amount to much if Wilson doesn't have to throw it all that often. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 941 yards over the final nine weeks of the season, most of any NFL player in that time. The problem is Lynch isn't certain to play after sitting out the last two exhibition games with back spasms. If he's not able to play, rookie Robert Turbin will start, and while Seattle is better prepared in terms of depth, losing Lynch would be a big blow.

car-mark-1-cl.gif Take care of the ball.
Arizona committed 32 turnovers last season, fifth-most of any team in the league. Not only that, but Seattle became one of the best teams in the league at taking the ball away from opponents, forcing 20 over the final eight games. Seattle's first-unit defense scored as many touchdowns as it allowed during the four exhibition games so if Arizona starts giving up field position, this game could turn into a blowout.

car-mark-1-cl.gif Stifle the Seahawks' outside pass rush.
Not only is D'Anthony Batiste starting his first game in five seasons. He's starting at left tackle following the season-ending triceps injury to Levi Brown. He's going to have his hands full with Chris Clemons - who has led the Seahawks in sacks the past two years - and Bruce Irvin, the rookie first-round pick who'll be a big part of Seattle's pass-rush packages. The Cardinals allowed 54 sacks last season, second-most in the league, and they can't afford to let John Skelton become a pinata on Sunday.

Matchup microscope
WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. CBs Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner.
After years of starting small cornerbacks like Josh Wilson and Kelly Jennings, it's tempting to talk about how much better Seattle is prepared to defend a receiver of Fitzgerald's stature with the 6-foot-3 Sherman and 6-4 Browner. Except then you look back and see Fitzgerald caught nine passes for 149 yards in Arizona's overtime victory last year in the regular-season finale. That was the second-highest yardage total Fitzgerald has had in 16 career games against the Seahawks.

Series history
Seattle has won three of its last four games against the Cardinals, however, it is 1-5 on the road against Arizona since the team moved into its new stadium in 2006. Three of the past four games between the teams have been decided by three points or fewer. This is the first time the two teams have ever played each other in a regular-season opener. Carroll is 4-2 as an NFL head coach in season-openers, Ken Whisenhunt is 3-2.

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