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

December 8, 2012 at 9:19 AM

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Keys to the game: Cardinals at Seahawks

Keys to Seahawks victory

Seahawks 1. Stymie Arizona's pass rush.
The Cardinals sacked Russell Wilson three times in the season-opener, but that doesn't really illustrate the constant pass pressure the Cardinals applied. The pressure came up the gut, and the Seahawks have to find a way to protect the passer from a formidable pass rush led by linemen Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell.

Seahawks 2. Don't let Larry Fitzgerald catch fire.
That requires limiting the number of footballs he'll catch. He was targeted 11 times in the season-opener against the Seahawks, but caught only four passes for 63 yards. In the 17 games he has played against the Seahawks in his career, it was Fitzgerald's fifth-lowest single-game receiving total. He has caught five passes -- total -- over the previous three games.

Seahawks 3. Fire up the pass rush.
The Seahawks have managed only a single sack over the last two games. In a related fact, Seattle has forced just one turnover over the past two weeks. Now Seattle returns home, hoping to step on the gas when it comes to the pass rush. The Seahawks have 17 sacks in their five home games compared to 12 in the seven road games. Defensive end Chris Clemons has just one sack over the previous six games while rookie Bruce Irvin has a total of one assist in the previous two games combined.

Keys to Cardinals victory

car-mark-1-cl.gif 1. Take the ball away.
The Cardinals the only team in the NFC that has a positive turnover ratio and a losing record. They've forced seven more turnovers than they've committed over the course of this season, but that hasn't stopped Arizona from losing eight in a row. Wilson has thrown 117 passes since he was last intercepted, but Arizona's defense remains one of the most opportunistic in the league. Arizona has not scored more than 20 points in any of its past eight games.

car-mark-1-cl.gif 2. Don't underestimate Russell Wilson.
The Cardinals may have played the Seahawks earlier this season, but Arizona hasn't faced this Seattle offense. Wilson is more experienced, more poised in the pocket and the offense has become more aggressive. Want proof? Wilson completed exactly one pass of 20 or more yards in Week 1, and that was a 27-yard pass to tight end Zach Miller. He has completed four passes of 20 or more yards in each of the past four games.

car-mark-1-cl.gif 3. Find different ways to score.
No team has gained fewer yards than Arizona this season. No team has scored fewer points than the Cardinals. The Cardinals have one of the league's most dangerous punt returners in the league in cornerback Patrick Peterson, who has yet to run a punt back for a score this year after scoring four touchdowns as a rookie.

Matchup microscope

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Seattle CB Richard Sherman.
Fitzgerald may be one of the best receivers in the league, but he hasn't been among the most productive. At least not recently. He has been held to a single reception in two of the past three games. Fitzgerald has finished among the league's top 10 in receiving yardage in four of the previous five seasons. He currently ranks No. 39. However, the Seahawks are missing starting cornerback Brandon Browner, who has begun a four-game suspension, which puts Sherman in the spotlight in stopping a player, who in spite of his stats, is unquestionably one of the league's very best receivers.

Series history

Arizona has won five of the past eight games in this series, but only two of those wins were in Seattle. The Seahawks have won seven of their last nine home games against the Cardinals.

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