Arizona has managed to do something that young teams usually aren't very good at doing - flipping the switch when necessary. Remember, they didn't have anything to play for after Week 14. As soon as the playoffs started, they ramped it back up again.
The team we saw down the stretch after they clinched was a very different team than the one we saw prior to that. I think if people are going to look at regular season statistics, I think they should focus solely on the numbers the team put up before they clinched
Before they clinched, they were 7-6, having beaten SF twice, Miami, Buffalo, Dallas, Seattle, and St Louis.
Not to nitpick, but they beat St. Louie twice to give them an 8-5 record when they clinched.
Yeah, it's not exactly the murderer's row of games that Pittsburgh faced, but they beat who was on the schedule to clinch, then they shut it down, going 1-2 over their last 3.
Again, as I mentioned in another thread that I can't find ATM, I think their big turnaround in the post season has everything to do with good gameplanning and the fortune of playing teams that are pretty one dimensional.
As good as Ryan was for the Falcs this year, puttin it on his shoulders and asking him to win his first playoff game is a tough task. That's pretty much what Arizona did. They sold out to stop the run.
After that first drive against the Panthers, they did the same thing to them. They dared, baited Delhomme to throw the ball. He did and made several critical mistakes. That took the ground game completely out of the plan, they became one-dimensional and it snowballed.
They did basically
the same thing against Philly. They made sure that BWest wasn't going to have a big day and they put it on McNabb to beat 'em. Philly was sorta forced into that anyway after falling behind early. Mistakes hurt again, but as many as they made, McNabb still had several opportunities to pull it out. He just fell short.
That's why I think Pittsburgh has an edge, offensively (as compared to their previous opponents), in this game. They've been inconsistent; they've sputtered; but, they have the ability
to kill you on the ground or through the air. Arizona isn't going to be able to sell out to stop one or the other. They're going to have to play a balanced defensive game to stop Pittsburgh. And frankly, I don't think they have the ability to do that, but it doesn't mean it can't (obv).
There are a few, fairly obvious things that could throw things really outta wack and make life difficult for the Steelers though:
(1) Arizona gets up early - negates the effectiveness of the ground game. This scenario would obviously have Ben slinging it 30+ times.
(2) Turnovers that may or may not lead to (1).
(3) Arians shows up in Tampa with his head still stuck up his ass.