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Nfl Week 3

The Schedule

The quicker picker-upper

September 27, 2009|Sam Farmer

It doesn't show up in Arizona's playbook, but it's Kurt Warner's most effective weapon, a factor every time he drops back to pass.

Catch-22. Blitz him, and Warner will find the open man. Drop back and give him some time, and he'll pick you apart.

Jacksonville couldn't figure him out last Sunday, and Warner set an NFL single-game record for completion percentage (24 for 26 passes, 92.3). He also tied a franchise record by completing his first 15 passes.

Tonight, he's the problem of the Indianapolis Colts, who know how valuable it is to have a superstar quarterback. Between them, Warner and the Colts' Peyton Manning have won five most-valuable-player awards, making the game a matchup of two surgeons in shoulder pads.

The caveat about the 38-year-old Warner is he can look either very sharp, as he did against the Jaguars, or old and ineffective, as he did frequently in the exhibition season and in the opening loss to San Francisco. The Cardinals don't have the running game to make up for his having a bad day -- as Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings do -- so as Warner goes, so goes Arizona.

Although Cardinals Coach Ken Whisenhunt calls the plays, Warner has as much input on strategy as any quarterback. And Warner actually prefers that the Cardinals not try to block every blitz, giving him a chance to put the ball where that blitzing defender isn't.

"Three-fourths of the battles in this business is knowing where you need to go with the football and doing it quickly enough that you can react to what a defense does," he said. "Talking about Peyton, he does it as well as anybody.

"You can be talented, but it is hard to decipher things when you get to the top of your drop and you are standing there. You have to have your decisions made and have the ball coming out as soon as you possibly can. I think that is what is different between a lot of young guys or a lot of average quarterbacks and the great ones."

-- Sam Farmer

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