Arizona Cardinals Defeat Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles, 32-25

Paul F. VillarrealCorrespondent IJanuary 18, 2009

For the Super Bowl-bound Arizona Cardinals, Sunday's NFC Championship against the Philadelphia Eagles could not have started any better.

The Cardinals, who will be making their first-ever championship game appearance, methodically drove 80 yards on their first possession against the vaunted Eagles defense. Long runs by Edgerrin James were interspersed with passes to both Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Fitzgerald eventually scored on a nine yard toss from Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner.

Philadelphia answered with a David Akers 45 yard field goal on their first offensive series of the match-up. The Eagles caught a break when the Cardinals' Neil Rackers sent his kickoff out of bounds. The resulting penalty gave the Eagles starting field position at their own 40 yard line.

Philadelphia received a measure of good fortune on their next possession. Following a Donovan McNabb interception, rookie DeSean Jackson tracked down Arizona defender Aaron Francisco during his return. Jackson caused Francisco to fumble and the Eagles recovered and were awarded a fresh set of downs.

Arizona came back on the following series with a one-play touchdown drive. A pass back from the Cardinals' running back to quarterback Kurt Warner resulted in a 62-yard strike to Larry Fitzgerald for the score. Arizona led 14-3.

The Cardinals continued their strong first half following a second David Akers field goal. Arizona scored their third touchdown before intermission courtesy of Larry Fitzgerald's own third score of the first 30 minutes. At this point in the game, Arizona was consistently and easily beating the Eagles' feared blitz packages. The Cardinals led the contest 21-6.

Arizona added a field goal as the half concluded to make the score 24-6. At the time of the break the Cardinals had amassed 260 yards of offense to the Eagles' own 170.

The Eagles began the third quarter with the ball and in need of some quick points. Instead, Donovan McNabb was sacked close to midfield and fumbled the football. Arizona recovered, and it appeared as though the tone had been set for the remainder of the contest. That perception, though, would prove most inaccurate.

It was McNabb's third mistake of the game up to this point. His interception and fumble joined an earlier intentional grounding call against the Eagles signal caller.

The Cardinals, however, could not capitalize on the Philadelphia misfortune, and the Eagles responded with a touchdown to draw back to within 11 points, 24-13.

Following another sustained Philadelphia drive and score, the contest tightened to 24-19. The Eagles missed the point after attempt.

After another stalled Cardinals possession, the Eagles scored on a long touchdown pass from McNabb to DeSean Jackson. They failed on the ensuing two point attempt but still led 25-24 in a shocking second half turnaround.

The Cardinals, however, would not be denied.  Following the Philadelphia score, Arizona marched down the field and scored their own touchdown to take back the lead. The resulting two point conversion gave the Cardinals a 32-25 advantage. The score was Arizona's first since intermission.

Following a fourth and 10 dropped pass, the Cardinals took over and all but ran out the clock on the Eagles season. Philadelphia had a last gasp with nine seconds left but could not produce the necessary points on a haphazard lateral play.

Kurt Warner played perhaps his best football of the 2008-2009 campaign during the contest. Warner completed 21 of his 28 passes for 279 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. His quarterback rating was a remarkable 145.6, and it came against an outstanding Philadelphia defense.

With the loss, the Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb-era Eagles fall to just 1-4 in NFC Championship games. The only time the Eagles have made the Super Bowl during that stretch was following the 2004 season.

That Philadelphia squad was defeated by the New England Patriots, 24-21. Super Bowl XXXIX featured the dramatic return of Philadelphia wide receiver Terrell Owens from a lower leg injury. Ultimately, however, Owens' 122 receiving yards would prove insufficient to turn back the dynastic Patriots and Tom Brady.

The Cardinals both exacted revenge for their earlier 48-20 loss to Philadelphia and they secured their first-ever Super Bowl birth. On a winter's afternoon replete with the swirls of change billowing throughout the nation, hope now exists in the desert of Arizona.


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