Kurt Warner connected with seldom used tight end Stephen Spach, on a critical third-and-16 with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, to help the Arizona Cardinals win their first home playoff game since 1947 over the Falcons in their NFC Wild Card match-up, 30-24.
Warner completed 19 of 32 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns, and was not sacked. He was given great protection by the offensive line against a ruthless Atlanta pass rush, featuring the NFL's third-ranked sack leader in John Abraham. Abraham finished with two total tackles and zero sacks.
The Cardinals wasted little time in starting the game off with a bang. Off of a flea flicker, Warner found Larry Fitzgerald in double coverage in the end zone for the game's first score. On the very next drive, Warner hit Anquan Boldin for a 71-yard catch and carry touchdown.
The Falcons responded with back-to-back touchdowns and took a 17-14 lead into halftime. Rookie quarterback Matt Ryan (26/40, 199 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT), completed 17 of 21 passes in that span on the two drives, and capped off by a seven-yard Michael Turner run and a two-yard pass to Justin Peele, respectively.
The pass to Peele was sparked by an interception by Chevous Jackson on the previous drive.
But things turned sour in the second half for Atlanta. After a timeout by Arizona that seemed to take the life out of a would-be 80-yard touchdown run, Turner fumbled the next snap to Antrel Rolle who took it 27 yards for a 21-17 Arizona lead.
Late in the fourth quarter, Warner went four-for-four on third down, including a 14-yard pass to Steve Breaston, which allowed Time Hightower to run it in from four yards out to increase the lead to 11.
Ryan was then sacked in the end zone for a safety, but a touchdown to Roddy White cut the lead to six with just over four minutes left. Needing to get off the field for a chance for the offense to win the game, Kieth Brooking jumped an underneath route on the game's key play, and Warner found Spach for 23 yards and the final first down.
Ryan's 26 completions are an NFL record for a rookie quarterback in his debut playoff game, breaking the original record of 19, set by the late great Sammy Baugh. Unsung hero Edgerrin James, ran for 73 yards on 16 carries.
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