By Wayne Lin. (Editor at Football Maniaxs)
Arizona 33 Carolina 13: Maybe it's not a good thing to have a first round bye.
The Titans and the Panthers both fell today, but the Panthers fell harder, losing in less than stellar fashion after starting out with the right foot.
Jonathan Stewart scored from nine yards out, capping a three-minute 50-yard opening drive.
DeAngelo Williams, who had a key 31-yard run in that drive, finished the game with 63 rushing yards and didn't find the endzone. Stewart totaled 12 yards on the ground and 39 receiving.
Surprisingly, the Arizona defense netted five interceptions and allowed only 75 yards on the ground.
That is uncharacteristic of this Carolina team that was 8-0 at home this season. It was an embarrassing loss for the Panthers who came in as heavy favorites.
Couple that with today being Jake Delhomme's 34th birthday. The veteran threw five interceptions, had a fumble, and only one TD on 205 yards, most of them in the second half.
Muhsin Muhammed had 55 yards to lead the Panthers' receivers. Steve Smith who didn't have a catch until the waning seconds of the third quarter, scored a late TD with 57 seconds left in the game. Smith finished with 43 yards on two catches.
The Panthers scored on only two drives today; the opening and closing ones.
In between, they went 56 scoreless minutes allowing the Cardinals to score 33 unanswered points, 23 of them off turnovers.
Arizona, on the other hand, proved that they can play without their 1-2 punch. Anquan Boldin was held out the game once more and could be out for the NFC Championship. Arizona is now 4-1 without Boldin in the lineup.
Larry Fitzgerald had a monster day catching the ball. He had eight receptions for 166 yards, a playoffs' franchise-high. The last time Arizona played a second playoff game, it was 10 years ago at Minnesota.
A 15-year old ball boy named Larry Fitzgerald was on the sidelines that day. The next closest receiver for the Cardinals was Steve Breaston with 28 yards.
Arizona's running game was vital in keeping the Panthers defense guessing all game. Edgerrin James rushed for 57 yards and scored once, while Tim Hightower ran for 76 yards and scored on a three-yard pass from Warner.
Kurt Warner threw for 220 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception in a well balanced run-pass play calling.
Five different players recorded an interception on the Cardinals' defense.
Rookie Dominique Rodger-Cromartie, who has now picked a pass in three straight games, Gerald Hayes, Antrel Rolle (two straight games with INT), Roderick Hood, and Ralph Brown all took turns in ruining Delhomme's birthday.
The Cardinals will play either the Giants at the Meadowlands or the Eagles at home.