Cardinals-Panthers: Warner, Arizona Crush Carolina En Route to NFC Title Game

Vincent JacksonCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2009

If you had the Arizona Cardinals beating the Carolina Panthers on the road after losing 22 of their previous 25, being winless on the East Coast, against a Carolina team undeafeated at home, please raise your hand.

Yeah, didn't think so.

Kurt Warner threw for 220 yards two touchdowns as the Arizona defense forced Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme into a postseason career-worst five interceptions and one fumble on the way to a shocking 33-13 victory.

Delhomme finished 17 of 34 for 205 yards, with one TD and the five picks.

Many analysts did not give Arizona much of a fighting chance, but they were quickly silenced after Larry Fitzgerald caught a 29-yard touchdown to make the score 27-7 near the end of the first half.

A stunned Bank of America crowd could only look on helpless as Carolina made mistake after mistake.

A Panthers-Giants rematch for the NFC Championship was penciled in by many when it was revealed that Arizona would travel to the East Coast, where they had been abysmal this season, giving up at least 40 points in each game.

Apparently, Arizona didn't get the memo. After Carolina jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead off of a Jonathan Stewart nine-yard run, the Cardinals made sure that would be the last time the Panthers stepped foot in the end zone.

Arizona then scored 27 unanswered points on two Warner touchdown passes, a Tim Hightower run, and two Neil Rackers field goals.

Without the services of Anquan Boldin (hamstring), Fitzgerald picked up the slack and finished with a franchise postseason record 166 yards receiving and a score. 

The Cardinals held the running combination of Stewart and NFL rushing touchdown leader DeAngelo Williams to 68 total combined yards and the lone touchdown. 

Arizona has now held two of the top three rushing attacks in the NFL to under 100 yards in the postseason.

Steve Smith added a touchdown with under a minute left in the game but the outcome was already decided.

Arizona now heads to its first NFC Championship game in franchise history and can potentially host the game if Philadelphia upsets the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.