Cardinals Fail Final, Season Grades Should Make Faithful Proud

Scott Z BradyCorrespondent IJanuary 19, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 16:  Quarterback Kurt Warner #13 of the Arizona Cardinals looks on dejected from the bench in the second half against the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Louisana Superdome on January 16, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Ok, it’s quite clear the Arizona Cardinals had anything but an easy go of things in the Big Easy. If you saw the game (and I assume most have), then you know as well as I do how that game, on that day, turned out grade-wise for our gridiron hero’s.

It would look something like this: Cards rushing/First 30 seconds- A+, Cards rushing/Rest of the Game- F, Cards passing- D, Cards rushing defense- D, Cards passing defense- F, Coaching & Special Teams- D, Overall- D.

I know you’ve come to expect more from me, but lets be honest. There really isn’t a whole lot to say, good or bad, about Saturday’s game in New Orleans.

After RB Tim Hightower ripped off a 70 yard touchdown on the game’s opening play from scrimmage, the Saints took all of four minutes to show that their rest and rehab theory worked a whole lot better than Packers coach Mike McCarty’s play-a-meaningless-game-like-it-means-everything theory.

After the Saints matched sevens on the scoreboard, Cardinals QB Kurt Warner threw a nice pass over the middle to fifth-string (and soon-to-be-a-non-Cardinal) Jerheme Urban, who was promptly separated from the ball. The Saints recovered the fumble, scored a couple minutes later, and it felt right there that this was NOT going to be a good day for the Cards...or the faithful.

And it wasn’t. It never got any better than that seven-point deficit, and got a LOT worse as the game wore on. Cardinals players were getting carted off the field (cornerback Dominique Rodgers Cromartie), or left limping on their own (safety Antrel Rolle) early in the first quarter. Never to return.

Warner was drilled on an interception when he was blindsided by the Saints' Bobby McCray as he was trying to position himself to make a tackle, and after a few uneasy moments while he laid on the ground, was seen walking off the Superdome field and into the locker room. Backup Matt Leinart was inserted, and ineffective.

Things got progressively worse. Hope for victory turned into hope for making it home safely. The only positive after halftime was that I was positive the game was over midway through the 3rd quarter after Reggie Bush returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown, and a 45-14 lead that never changed.

That I thought it was “four down territory” on that fateful 4th and 1 and down 24 points, coach Whisenhunt decided to kick the ball to Bush. Game over. Season Over.

But there are some things every Cardinals Fan can and should be proud of. The Cards accumulated 11 wins, including playoffs, and their second-straight NFC West Crown. They earned the respect of the league, and the nation. And they made it as pleasure to wear their colors around town, or around the country.

These things may not seem like a real big deal in Pittsburgh, or Dallas, but they mean a lot of Cardinals fans. One year ago, the Cardinals were a quasi-decent team that played in a lousy division, backed into the playoffs, beat Atlanta at home, got lucky against Carolina on the road, and had a date against the Philadelphia Eagles for a chance to make it to the big dance.

Few outside of the Valley gave them any credit for anything.

But then they beat the Eagles handily, and gave the Steelers their run for their money in what many consider the best Super Bowl in history. They ended up 0:35 seconds shy of winning it all. And in doing so, they changed the face and the perception of the Arizona Cardinals. They gave us all a team we could truly be proud of.

So mourn this loss briefly, but don’t let it get you down for long, Cardinals fan. This is a team that can and should be good for a while. Consider this a bad final test within a season of top notch quality, excitement and an overall very good grade as they move forward.

The Cards graduated into "elite" status once they beat Philadelphia that fateful January day a year ago. But they proved in 2009 that they truly belong there.

I’m putting together my Cardinals 2009 Season Report Card, and will have it up for you all to digest in a couple days. Thanks to all of you for joining me and us here at BleacherReport, SportsFanLive, and blitz this season! We aren’t going anywhere, so stick around! As you know, the NFL season never ends. For that, as can ALL be thankful!