In a game that was an epic offensive battle, leave it to the defense to make the difference in the game with a Arizona Cardinals fumble return for touchdown by linebacker Karlos Dansby. Smell the irony?
The Cardinals defeated the Green Bay Packers 51-45 in overtime on Sunday in what ended up being the highest scoring playoff game in NFL history. How’s that for this first test in defense of an NFC Championship?
The Cards got off to a fast start, taking a 14-0 lead and eventually building a 31-10 lead. Then it got interesting. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers led a furious comeback that eventually had them tie the game twice, including 45-45 with less than two minutes left in the game. The Cards still had one more shot to win in regulation, however Cards kicker Neil Rackers missed a 34-yard field goal with nine seconds left.
In a game that looked like an early blowout, which would have been the fourth of the weekend, it turned out to maybe be the best playoff game in years. Neither defense could make a stop in the second half. Green Bay did have one stop in the fourth quarter that allowed Green Bay to tie it the first time. Both offenses though tried to out-do one another for the rest of the game. All that mattered would be who would have the ball last. In this case, the Cards did in regulation, but failed. In OT, Green Bay won the toss, however the third turnover of the day was what ultimately did the Packers in and sent them home with a crushing defeat.
Cards quarterback Kurt Warner threw for 379 yards on 29-33, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Wow. A rating of 154.1. Can’t get much better than that.
Cards running back Beanie Wells. He rushed 14 times for 91 yards, including a 42-yarder. No touchdowns, however he kept the ball in his hands and his running allowed for a balance of offense that kept drives alive.
Cards receiver Early Doucet. His coming out party was today. Two touchdowns. His second touchdown was a gritty, tough run. That kind of toughness wins championships.
Michael Adams. I realize he is the guy that knocked the ball out of Rodgers hands on the final play of the game, however he was torched for several penalties. Sure a couple were questionable, but he really had a tough day. His game saver took him out of the ugly category though. His performance will need great improvement next week if the Cards expect to have a chance.
Pass defense. Ridiculous. After building a 31-10 lead, a great playoff team does not allow the opposing quarterback in your house walk all over you like they did. Rodgers was great, but the Cards defense left a lot to be desired. Rodgers torched the Cards for 422 yards. Ugly yes. Good enough to win. Today it was. Just barely and that’s all that matters. What happened today makes no difference next week. It’s a clean slate in New Orleans.
I expect another shootout in the Superdome next Saturday. New Orleans will bring a defense that has struggled somewhat as well, however, the task is tougher. This game will be on the road, in one of the loudest environments in the NFL. It’s imperative the Cards keep their focus and not allow the Saints to get a start on them like the Packers did the Cards today and expect to make a comeback like the Packers did. The Saints defense is not as forgiving as the Cards is.
Can’t wait for Saturday. Go Cards!!