The Arizona Cardinals are the NFC representatives in the Super Bowl. Six days have passed since they beat the Eagles and it still feels weird. Having lived in Arizona for a little over a decade I seemed to know the science of the Cardinals.
Preseason- Excitement brewing, people believe the Cardinals can take the division title.
Week Two- Have a very impressive win that reassures Cardinals fans and there is now a strong feeling of hope.
Week Five- Usually at this point they are coming off a loss that they absolutely should have won and there is skepticism.
Week Eight- Good Bye Cardinals fans! All of a sudden you don't hear from them nearly as much. Talk has moved to other NFL teams and Fantasy Football, if someone didn't know they were in Arizona though they would probably notice with all of the excessive the mocking of them and talk of a Mickey Mouse organization. (Apologies to Wayne Gretzky.)
The season seemed all according to plan, the Cardinals had a potentially explosive passing game to once again excite fans. After opening the season with a road victory against the 49ers, they absolutely murdered the Dolphins at home.
I thought nothing of this. I've read this script before; the very next week at Washington the tide turns on a tipped interception in the fourth quarter, and then we all know about the Meadowlands Massacre the following week.
Two games altered this script though, the first one home against Dallas. Their offense came alive in the second half of that game, they dominated Dallas' offensive line that featured three Pro-Bowlers from last year, they blew a 10-point lead late but that was forgotten when they won the game in overtime.
Not only did they show just how lethal they could be at home, that they could beat a talented team, but most importantly that they could win this type of game. It was a game that they would have lost every time in the past and it showed that this was a better and more mature team than they've had in at least a decade.
The second game was at St. Louis, you were probably thinking "What did that prove? St. Louis is terrible!" They did catch St. Louis when they were playing well, fresh off a coaching change they played well three weeks in a row.
The Arizona Cardinals not only showed that they could dominate on the road but it was really the game where the NFC West seemed out of reach.
But while people consented that Arizona would be in the playoffs, people started to think that would be one and done after the Thanksgiving game, things were not looking good in Arizona.
From Weeks 12-16 they lost four of five, and lost three of those by three TD's. (Including a home game against Tarvaris Jackson.)
Their one win by the way was against the St. Louis Rams again, who were back to being murdered every week. The blow-out in Week 16 prompted me to write this about the Arizona Cardinals-
"-The Arizona Cardinals have won two road games outside of the division dating back to 2004. They beat the Miami Dolphins in 2004 on a last minute TD, the year Ricky Williams quit on the Dolphins to get high. They also beat the Bengals last year by eight, the game that Antrel Rolle was an unsportsmanlike penalty away from 3 INT returned for touchdowns.
They are 10-30 total on the road since that win, 2-23 outside of the division! That is absolutely pathetic, you name a team and they have lost to them just about all of them. The Indianapolis Colts resting their starters Week 17, David Carr led Houston Texans, the Andrew Walter led Oakland Raiders, the Brad Johnson led Minnesota Vikings, the Michael Vick led Atlanta Falcons in an epically bad 6-3 loss, and the Joey Harrington led Lions TWICE! And if you think it has gotten better this year with them being division champs, think again.
They have lost three of their five road games outside of the division by at least three touchdowns. Oh and they are 2-7 against teams with a winning record. So what am I trying to say? They stink. I'm sorry Cardinals fans, I live in Arizona, I've watched them all year, and they stink. I give them a marginal shot at winning one playoff game only because they will be at home but no more."
It's really hard to believe that they have come this far. And my opinion certainly of this team was not any different from the majority. People thought the same thing- the Arizona Cardinals are awful, they are in the playoffs by default and are most likely one and done.
And this sort of talk fueled them, they truly were the team that nobody believed in. And even after they beat the Atlanta Falcons at home, people weren't very surprised, after all they were at home facing a team with a rookie QB.
I for one though, saw enough to pick them against what I thought to be a very overrated Carolina Panthers team. If you don't believe me just read my article...Ok I didn't write an article so you will just have to take my word for it.
Arizona did exactly what I thought they would do, they threw all over a suspect Carolina defense and their defense forced Delhomme into turnovers.
Arizona showed that they have the heart and the character to win these playoff games, and even though I picked them to beat Philly as well I am still surprised and impressed with just how far they have come.
On Tuesday I went into work at Blockbuster and saw the store manager named Kris, he had put money on the Cardinals losing every round and while I didn't ask, my guess is that he is wagering against them again.
I made a joke about how much money Arizona is costing him and he said, "This is ridiculous, I saw this team getting embarrassed by quality teams in the regular season. This is the same team, they aren't good. Don't you agree that they aren't the best team in the NFC?"
Are they the best team? I don't know. Would the Arizona Cardinals have won in the Meadowlands? Would they even beat Philly if they matched up again? I don't know, but quite frankly it doesn't matter.
The Arizona Cardinals are in the SB for one reason, because during the playoffs they have played like the best team in the NFC. That is all that matters, they have earned it and the Steelers ought to know at this point that if they don't play a great game, their 6th Super Bowl title is going to be put on hold.
Like Kevin Garnett, the Arizona Cardinals have proved that anything is possible. They weren't supposed to make it this far, they are a very stubborn team evidently. The Arizona Cardinals have played with the heart of a champion, are a symbol of why I love sports, of why I love the National Football League.