SANTA CLARA – Vic Fangio spoke in the media tent Friday afternoon. Here’s what he said about the Arizona Cardinals offense.
What do you see in the Cardinals and what are the biggest challenges for you guys going into this game?
“Well, number one, when you think of the Cardinals you’re going to think of [WR] Larry Fitzgerald, obviously. And he’s one of the top receivers in our league, if not the best receiver in the league. Future Hall of Famer and justifiably so, and he’s a tough guy to handle. He’s big. He’s fast. He’s strong. He’s tough to tackle after he catches it. So, him in and of himself is a tough chore.”
You always talked about Fitzgerald being a good receiver. But, guys under the radar like WR Early Doucet and WR Andre Roberts, what have you seen of those two receivers?
“Their whole receiving corps is a good group. They’ve really done a good job putting together a good receiving corps. They’ve got good tight ends, also. [TE Rob] Housler was a real threat in the passing game. And 36, [RB LaRod Stephens-] Howling’s coming out of the backfield is a good threat in the passing game. They’ve got a lot of threats in the passing game. And [QB John] Skelton’s a big strong-armed guy that can make all the throws. So, they’re real challenging to play against in the passing game.”
You talked about Fitzgerald. How big a part, percentage-wise, or however you want to quantify it, is he of that offense. What you try to focus in on as a defensive coordinator?
“Well, he’s one of those guys that’s a big part of that offense even when the ball’s not being thrown to him because the defense is always aware of where he’s going to be. He draws a lot of attention from everybody they play. So, even when other guys are catching the ball, he has an indirect effect on that. So, he’s the huge part of their offense, even if it’s not getting thrown to him.”
Last year’s game in Arizona was marked by a lot of big plays that they had in the passing game. You guys seemed to eliminate a big portion of those this year. What are you doing this year that wasn’t happening last year?
“Nothing tangible that I can tell you. We’re playing a lot of the same stuff that we played last year. I think it’s just a product of our guys being more comfortable in the system this year. Playing that little bit better that I told you they would play just by being in the system. But, we’re not doing anything drastically different than we have in the past.”
Is it better tackling?
“That’s part of it, better tackling. But, I think it’s just better overall awareness of what we’re doing.”
With how big the difference, the two quarterbacks, one from the other, do they do the same kinds of things?
“Yeah, they run the same offense with [QB Kevin] Kolb as they would with Skelton. The difference is Kolb’s more of a scrambler, a runner. But, they both are strong-armed guys. And when they’ve had to go in between both guys due to injuries, their offense really hadn’t changed a whole lot.”
Is there any danger facing a team that’s given up a lot of sacks? The guys who you count on to pressure the quarterback get so focused on that part of it that they let other areas slip during the course of a game?
“No, we try hard to tell our guys you can’t get a sack on a running play. So, we’re not just going to be flying out of the shoots assuming every play is a pass. We’ve got to earn the right to rush the passer. And you earn the right to pass the passer by stopping the run and getting them into obvious passing situations.”