Cardinals, Steelers have deep bag of tricksTrickery has a place at the Super Bowl, and the Steelers and Cardinals aren’t above using it to win. Yes, both teams’ repertoires are spiced with shenanigans. The Steelers prefer to smash opponents into submission, but the biggest play in their most recent Super Bowl victory was an end-around pass for the clinching touchdown.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Trickery has a place at the Super Bowl, and the Steelers and Cardinals aren’t above using it to win.
Yes, both teams’ repertoires are spiced with shenanigans. The Steelers prefer to smash opponents into submission, but the biggest play in their most recent Super Bowl victory was an end-around pass for the clinching touchdown.
The Cardinals are very comfortable with the unorthodox, too. They used a 62-yard flea-flicker from Kurt Warner to J.J. Arrington, back to Warner, and then downfield to Larry Fitzgerald, for a touchdown in the NFC championship game win over Philadelphia.
“I’ve used them everywhere I’ve been,” Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley said Wednesday. Everywhere means his stints with the Jets, Bears and Cowboys. “I think we were almost 100 percent (successful) with trick plays in Dallas.
“These plays are important because the players have fun with them when you practice them. It’s not the usual bread and butter.”
One key Arizona player would prefer to stick with the tried and true: Warner.
“I want to throw them out every week,” Warner said. “As a quarterback, you always want to be in control. With trick plays, you are not in control. They are hit or miss.”
But when they hit ...
The Steelers, leading the Seahawks 14-10, were at the Seattle 43 with just over nine minutes remaining. Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt — yes, the Cardinals’ current coach — ordered up a wide receiver pass.
Ben Roethlisberger handed off to running back Willie Parker, who previously had broken a 75-yard scoring run. So Seattle’s secondary was wary of Parker and took the bait.
Then Parker handed off to wideout Antwaan Randle El, a quarterback in college. Randle El ran to his right and hit Hines Ward for the long TD pass. It was the first Super Bowl touchdown pass by a receiver.
“Coach Whis was always good at drawing it up,” Roethlisberger said. “If you catch it at the right time, it’s kind of a big lift for the offense and the team.”
It’s particularly effective when the team trying the trickery is one so steeped in the basics of the game: outhitting and outblocking the opponent.
Does that mean the Cardinals should be prepared to stop something that looks strange?
“If they read their keys, play sound football and make sure their eyes are where they belong,” Cardinals defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said, referring to his defenders, “they can handle the gadget plays. You hope they are in the right position when they do one. The eyes are the keys to hopefully being able to defend it.”
Sometimes a defensive back does almost everything correctly and still gets burned. That happened to Eagles safety Quintin Demps in the NFC title game.
Demps was running downfield covering Fitzgerald when Warner’s rainbow set sail. When Demps turned to find the ball, he stumbled and fell.
Fitzgerald, an All-Pro who needs no such aid, caught the pass and trotted into the end zone.
“Usually, people get into a panic mode,” said Ike Taylor, Pittsburgh’s best cover cornerback. “(Demps) was in position, but then he fell. Guys who can maintain being cool and calm are able to cover plays like that.”
Against Atlanta in the wild-card round, Fitzgerald outjumped two defenders to score on a 42-yard flea-flicker from Warner. Taylor is certain that every team enters a game expecting the unexpected.
“Every game, you are looking at what they have on tape and thinking they will have a few trick plays,” he said. “Heading onto the field, we even talk about it.”
The trickery doesn’t take up a lot of work time during the week, either. The Steelers will walk through some of them, and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will pick out two or three that might be used, then get in a few repetitions in practice.
He’s less likely to do it now without Randle El, although Ward played some quarterback in college and has long been among football’s most versatile players. Arizona has wideout Anquan Boldin, who also played some quarterback at Florida State.
The deceptions are not limited to non-quarterbacks throwing the ball, or double reverses. Pittsburgh tried a fake punt in the playoffs against San Diego. It flopped.
Arizona faked a 39-yard field goal at Carolina on fourth-and-14, and holder Dirk Johnson hit Jerame Tuman for a 10-yard gain. Another flop.
“Every time you call one,” Arians said, “you hold your breath a little bit.”