Today and for the next two weeks, I’m going to be an Arizona Cardinal fan.
Since there is nothing more to be said about what the Lions should do in the draft concerning free agency or who coordinators' new head coach Jim Schwartz should hire, I want to focus my attention on the underdog of all underdogs.
Who would have ever thought these Cardinals would ever make it to the big dance? We Detroit fans often forget that it is these Cardinals that have had a longer title drought—10 years. That’s right, these Cardinals beat the Philadelphia Eagles way back in 1947 for their one and only NFL Championship.
Who would have ever thought Kurt Warner would make it back to the Super Bowl with the Cardinals?
Enough of the questions because despite the perceived unlikeliness of the Cardinals being in the Super Bowl, all answers point to one thing: They are a pretty damn good football team!
I was sure the Atlanta victory was going to be as far as they were going to go. They played a great game and the defense confounded rookie QB Matt Ryan into making the type of mistakes he had not made all year long.
But that’s what the playoffs will do to a team. It will make teams change directions, take chances, and find a running game.
The Falcons were expecting a pass-happy offense and instead they got a heavy dose of Edgerrin James.
Ok now, on to the Panthers. Not a chance against this Carolina defense, right? West Coast teams had not won in the Eastern Time Zone all year. Why should this be any different? Bang...out comes Warner hitting Larry Fitzgerald, who despite being double and triple covered, managed to make catches that no human being has a right to.
Alright, alright, the stars had aligned not once but twice for the Cardinals. The Panthers may have scored first but the Cardinals responded with 30 unanswered points.
The story of this game was the defense. They intercepted Jake Delhomme five times—the most damaging was Dale Brown’s fourth quarter interception in the end zone—killing any chance that the Panthers had to come back.
So the Eagles, who had pulled an upset of their own by beating the New York Giants, went out west to put the Cardinals in their place—not so with Warner and Fitzgerald hooking up for three TDs in the first half—the best being the 67 yard flea flicker that Fitzgerald made a great adjustment on, kept his balance, and waltzed into the end zone.
So why do I think the Cardinals have a good chance against the Steelers—the final drive of the game. The Eagles had basically owned the second half—scoring 19 points to take a 24-25 lead. But Warner took over with 10:45 left in the fourth quarter, took 7:52 off the clock including a great 4th-and-2 call that Hightower took right, and secured the first down.
A few plays later, Hightower took a screen pass eight yards into the end zone and Warner calmly hit Ben Patrick for the two-point conversion.
The Eagles attempted to perform a 93-yard hook-and-ladder—hoping for a miracle by making several lateral passes in search of an open receiver but Arizona’s DT Darnell Dockett intercepted a lateral pass and the celebration in the desert began.
That last drive showed the Cardinals have heart, guts, leadership, determination, or whatever you want to call it. They have shown they can win on the road and compete with the best—scoring 32 points against the third ranked defense in the NFL.
My prediction for the Super Bowl: Arizona 28, Pittsburgh 24.