Arizona Cardinals Soar in 33-13 Beatdown of Panthers

Bryan HollisterAnalyst IJanuary 11, 2009


That's it in a nutshell, really. Anything else is simply words.

For the sake of the article, I'll try my best.

Kurt Warner looked ageless, Larry Fitzgerald continued his penchant for pulling in passes like a black hole sucks in light, and the Arizona Cardinals blew the Carolina Panthers out of the stadium with a 33-13 victory Saturday night in Bank of America Stadium.

So much for the home field advantage as the Tennessee Titans suffered a similar, if not  a more closely-contested fate, earlier in the day when they lost to the Baltimore Ravens.

Carolina came out like gangbusters in the first quarter, quickly driving down the field to put the Panthers up 7-0. That was the end of the offensive effort for the Panthers.

After punting on their first possession, the Cardinals put to rest any doubts that they could play, and win, on the east coast. Scoring on five consecutive drives, Kurt Warner and the Cardinals scored 27 straight points to lead 27-7 at halftime, and the game was as good as over, even though no one knew it yet.

Warner and Fitzgerald continued to amaze, hooking up for 166 yards and a touchdown through the air. Including a couple more catches by Fitzgerald that are destined for the highlight films. Tim Hightower and Edgerrin James combined for 145 combined yards—in the air and on the ground—and one touchdown each.

Capping off the scoring effort was kicker Neil Rackers, who made kicks from 49, 30, and 33 yards, missing only once from 53 yards. Rackers' longest field goal this year was from 54 yards, but he came up just short as the first half drew to a close.

The defense did the rest.

Not given a snowball's chance in a microwave, the Cardinals defense was unbelievable, picking Jake Delhomme off five times and forcing one fumble. Delhomme was directly involved in every Panthers turnover of the game.

Steve Smith may as well have sat this game out. He had two catches for 43 yards, and only scored at the end of the fourth quarter once the game was well in hand for the Cardinals.

The Panthers' league-leading running attack did not fare well, either. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were limited to 75 yards on 15 carries, with Jonathan Stewart seeing the end zone once on the first drive of the game.

Arizona now goes on to face the winner of Sunday's contest between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles. Their win over the Panthers puts them in their first  conference championship game in the modern era.

Established in 1898, they are the oldest operating football franchise in America, but have been to a grand total of one NFL Championship game.

They won that game in 1947, 20 years before the first Super Bowl was ever played. They haven't been back since.

The news gets better for the Cardinals. If the Philadelphia Eagles are able to overcome the defending champion New York Giants on Sunday, Arizona not only will be playing in the first NFC championship game in franchise history, they get to host it.

The team they beat in the 1947 championship? The Philadelphia Eagles.

But these Cardinals don't care one iota where the game is played. Home or away, in two playoff victories they have made one thing perfectly clear.

They are in this to win it all.