They said this was the easiest pick of the four Wild Card games to make, Atlanta would defeat the Cardinals. They said the Cardinals couldn’t run the ball. They said the Cardinals defense wouldn’t stand up to the running game of Michael Turner. They said that Matt Ryan would be the more poised quarterback despite the fact he is a rookie starting his first playoff game and Kurt Warner has been in two Super Bowls, winning one. They said the Cardinals couldn’t beat anyone good.
On Saturday, what happened? Well to answer if they were right on any of those comments, nope, nope, nope, nope, and emphatically – NOPE!
Your Arizona Cardinals have won their first home playoff game in 61 years, defeating the Atlanta Falcons 30-24. You name it, the Cardinals showed up in every fashion. Really for the first time since early October, all phases of Cardinals football showed up at University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday.
Rookie Matt Ryan was the one rattled. An early interception thrown to Ralph Brown set the tone for the game. The interception, which had come after a three and out, set up a spectacular flea flicker play between Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald, pushing the Cardinals to an early 7-0 lead.
The Cardinals eventually took a 14-3 lead after a 71 yard catch and run to Anquan Boldin. It sure seemed it would be the Cardinals day. Then for about a three minute span in the second quarter, the Cardinals played like many thought they would. They started to self destruct. After a missed ball by Jerheme Urban which led to an interception, right after a long scoring drive by the Falcons, all of a sudden it was 17-14. I was beginning to wonder if the expert were right. I stopped myself real quick though. They had already played better to that point than most believed they would. The running game was moving with Edgerrin James. Big plays was what this offense was about in 2008. They had both. Sure momentum had swung to Atlanta, but Atlanta really wasn’t playing very well at that point.
The Cards were booed off the field at halftime and probably deservedly so. I didn’t boo because I realized we still had 30 minutes to play. I couldn’t have been more right. The Cards came out in the second half and immediately created a turnover by forcing a Michael Turner fumble, which Antrel Rolle scooped up and ran back for a touchdown. From there the Cards never looked back. A long 14 play drive and it was all over. Atlanta made some noise at the end, but after Arizona completed a pass to Steve Spach on 3rd and 16, the Cardinals just needed three kneel downs and they were off to prepare for the New York Giants or Carolina Panthers.
What I was impressed with was the fact the Cardinals found a way to tackle on Saturday. This team has at times looked like a 96 year old trying to get out of bed when they attempt to tackle their opponents. On Saturday, although they played loose on the receivers for a great part of the game, they hit and hit hard. That’s NFL Playoff football.
The defense was all over Matt Ryan, forcing three sacks, including a fourth quarter safety. The Cardinals left several sacks out on the field, but the pressure appeared to be more than Matt Ryan could handle most of the day.
Very few mental mistakes. The Cardinals did have a few penalties, but it was Atlanta who self destructed with penalties of their own in the third quarter. The Cards had a couple of plays where it looked like they would lose their heads and to their credit, they kept their cool, a sign the team is maturing.
So, take that so called experts. You know where you can stick your predictions. I’ve been saying all week that the Cardinals were not getting any respect. Some of these experts only see the Cardinals on highlight films. Many don’t take the time to study the character of this team. It’s easy to do because of the Cardinals long time status as league doormat. The only doormat the Cardinals saw today was the one that said, “Welcome”. Welcome to NFL Playoff football and welcome to the NFC Divisional Playoffs.
For a parting shot at the Atlanta-Journal Constitution’s Mark Bradley, who earlier this week said if your destination in the playoffs was Arizona, your prayers have been answered. What he didn’t mention was whose prayers? It seems as if his weren’t answered and the only prayer he should be saying tonight is one hoping the crow he eats comes with ketchup or mustard, otherwise it will end up being as dry as the Atlanta Falcons season has just become.
Topics: Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Edgerrin James, Jerheme Urban, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, New York Giants, Ralph Brown, Steve Spach