Cardinals Defense Lets Arizona Down

Eric SalomonContributor IFebruary 2, 2009

After Larry Fitzgerald scored a go-ahead touchdown with 2:47 remaining in Super Bowl XLIII, I said to my co-workers watching with me at work, "It ain't over yet." I'm not calling myself psychic or even an expert, but I've been watching football for 20 years, and I know that three minutes is plenty of time for a lot of things to change. 

The Cardinals did everything they had to do in the 4th quarter to win the game. The defense pushed the Steelers against their own goal line and forced a safety (albeit on a penalty). The offense then did everything they needed to do to score. Fitzgerald found himself enough real estate to build a second home for himself and Kurt Warner delivered the ball right where it needed to be.

Then, Arizona's defense did everything it needed to in order to lose the game. 

The Steeler offensive line is too good, their receivers are too fast, and Ben Roethlisberger is too good a quarterback for defenses to relax or play loose.

What little pressure the Cardinals got on Roethlisberger during the final drive was ultimately contained by the offensive line or evaded by Roethlisberger himself. The secondary did little to help as Roethlisberger led the offense 72 yards in under two minutes, going 6-8 for 83 yards. 

That is not to take anything away from Santonio Holmes, who played an outstanding game and won the MVP hands-down. He displayed terrific field presence by knowing where the defenders were at all times and knowing where the sideline was in the most crucial of situations. 

In my mind, the Cardinals lost the game just as much as the Steelers won it. The Cardinals defense will need to be much more disciplined if they want to make it to Miami next February. They will also need to convince Kurt Warner to return. It is unclear which will be the bigger task.