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Wolf: The anatomy of identity

The Arizona Cardinals have been looking for an identity on the offensive side of the football for the better part of 7-months. When Kurt Warner stepped to the microphone and said “no more,” the Cardinals had to rethink how they were going to move the ball, score points and win games.

This has not been an easy transition. Warner resurrected the Greatest Show on Turf in Arizona, throwing the ball with malice and impunity, scarring defensive-coordinators for life. He was the Cards identity. With Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston, Warner was a spread the field, everybody out in the route kind of guy a, daring the defense to blitz. In a gross oversimplification, this was how the offense moved the ball, scored points and won games.

All good things must come to an end and the Cards need a new face.

If you’re looking for silver linings to Big Red’s quest for offensive rhythm, timing and identity, look no further than the 5:03 mark of the third-quarter. The Cardinals may have found pieces to assemble, a ghoulish collection to build Frankenstein’s Offense.

On 1st & 10, the Cards got in Regular People (2-RB, 2-WR, 1-TE) ran play-action and bootlegged Derek Anderson out of the pocket to his right. He hit Ben Patrick in the flat for a gain of 8.

On 2nd & 2, out of 12-personnel or Detroit as the Cards call it (1-RB, 2-WR, 2-TE), the Cards gave the ball to Beanie Wells for a nominal gain, bringing up a 3rd & 1 from the Cardinals’ 41.

They got in the “I” formation with Pair-Personnel (2-RB, 2-TE, 1-WR) and ran a strong side Iso, with the FB blocking the plug-backer. Beanie Wells ripped it for a gain of four.

On the fourth-play of the drive, 1st & 10, the Cards ran a version of the power – one of the most rudimentary and savage plays the games knows (and loves) – and ripped it for 9-yards, bringing up a 2nd & 1 at the Raiders 45.

Out of 11-personnel (1-RB, 1-TE, 3-WR) the Cardinals ran play-action and rolled Anderson out to his right, again, on a bootleg to the trips side of the formation. Stephen Williams cleared the area with a go-route down the field, Larry Fitzgerald ran a deep drag on the backside – working his way towards Anderson, Ben Patrick slammed the DE play-side and worked his way to the flat and Steve Breaston ran a deep out in the area that Williams had just cleared. The play worked like a charm and the Cards had a 24-yard gain.

On 1st & 10 from the Raiders 21-yardline, the Cards ran a strong side Iso and Tim Hightower ripped it for 13-yards.

On 1st & 10 from the Raiders 8-yardline, the Cardinals got into 11-personnel with Fitzgerald and Breaston on the same side of the field. They motioned Larry behind Breaston and “stacked” them in the formation. This motion, combined with how the Raiders adjusted, told the Cards they had some form of zone coverage as they watched the Raiders secondary adjust.


Breaston cleared the area and Larry trailed behind him. The Raiders had 4 to cover 2. But the Japanese Fighting Fitz sat down on the goal-line, found the soft part of the coverage and Anderson executed a perfect 5-step drop and delivered a strike to Larry for what would prove to be the game winning TD.

If you’re looking to find an identity for the Arizona Cardinals offense and hope for a better way to move the ball, the answer is out there. It’s in the books:

4-power running plays
2-play-action bootlegs
1-five step straight drop back
1-Game winning TD

And as far as silver-linings go, try being 2-1.