A team with a history of losing seasons since coming to the valley in 1988, one would think it very hard to come up with games that are remembered. But the Cardinals have given us a few memorial games. Here is the countdown.
5. First playoff win since 1947 championship
The Cardinals hadn’t been to the playoffs in a non-strike season since 1975 (they went in 1982). But that’s nothing compared with this: they hadn’t won a playoff game since the NFL championship game in 1947. At the time, the Cowboys had beaten the Cardinals three times in a row and 16 of past 17 before this playoff game. Jake Plummer burned the heavily favored Cowboys with two touchdown passes in a runaway 20-7 Wild Card victory on the road in Texas stadium.
Dallas, champions of the NFC East with a 10-6 record — and no losses in the division, beat the Cardinals twice in the regular season. But Plummer showed no playoff nerves in the third meeting. Arizona, which led 10-0 at halftime, shocked the playoff-hardened Cowboys to start the second half on a 74-yard run by Adrian Murrell, followed by a three yard touchdown pass by Plummer to a wide-open Larry Centers. The run was the longest against the Cowboys in their 52-game playoff history.
4. “The Block” October 12th, 2008 Cardinals 30, Cowboys 24
2008 featured the first winning season by a Cardinals team in the last decade, and also the eventual playoff run. One of the biggest games of the year for the Cardinals outside of the playoffs was its week six match-up against the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas was one of the better teams to start the season, and many discredited much of the Cardinals early success.
The Cardinals began the game with a kick-off return for a touchdown, setting the tone for the entire game. A shootout between both teams would eventually need to be decided in overtime after the Cowboys hit a game-tying field goal. The Cowboys won the toss but were stuffed by the Cardinals defense and were forced to punt. We all know what happened next -Sean Morey and Monty Beisel broke through the Cowboys line, blocked the punt, and ran the ball into the end zone in spectacular fashion.
This was a pivotal game for the Cardinals in 2008, and may go down as one of the most memorable plays in Cardinals history. It helps that it’s against the dreaded Cowboys again.
3. “The Big Road Win” January 10th, 2009 Cardinals 33 Panthers 13
After winning in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, the Cardinals were forced to travel to Carolina to face the Panthers. Many gave the Cardinals no chance to win on the east coast, a place where they had drastically struggled in years past. On the Saturday night stage, the Panthers leaped into action, scoring the game’s first touchdown and supporting the critics’ claims that the Cardinals season would end that night.
Instead, a rejuvenated Cardinals’ defense picked off Carolina’s quarterback Jake Delhomme five times, and also forced a fumble. The Cardinals offense continued to roll, dropping 33 points on one of the leagues best defenses. The Cardinals won and would later move on to the NFC Championship Game.
2. “The NFC Championship Game” January 18th, Cardinals 32, Eagles 25
The Cardinals had hosted the NFC Championship game at home after upsetting the Panthers the previous round. The Cardinals were ready to shock the world, and I believe the players knew it would happen. The game began with Larry Fitzgerald continuing his amazing run, scoring the games first three touchdowns.
Much like the previous playoff game, the Cardinals got off to an early lead, up 24-6 at the half. Unfortunately, they kept most fans in cardiac arrest, when they allowed the Eagles to comeback and take a 25-24 lead in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals would begin their next drive with 10:45 left in the game, and it would end when Kurt Warner threw a touchdown pass to Tim Hightower for the lead with 2:53 left on the clock.
The Eagles made every attempt to tie the game, only to be stopped-short on 4th down. The crowd erupted, confetti fell from the sky, and the tune, “We Are the Champions!” could be heard throughout the stadium. The Cardinals had just made their first ever Super Bowl. This could have easily been number one, but number one is one for the ages.
1. The shootout playoff game 2009 Cardinals vs Packers
Old veteran Kurt Warner and playoff newcomer Aaron Rodgers staged a passing clinic that could rival any the NFL has seen. And when the highest-scoring postseason game in league history was finished, it had scored a total of 96 points and combined for 1,024 yards and 13 touchdowns (which is a NFL post season record). With quarterback Kurt Warner contemplating retirement and Anquan Boldin sidelined with ankle and knee injuries, Warner threw two touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald, two to Early Doucet and one to Steve Breaston, who caught seven passes for 125 yards.
But the irony of this offensive gem was that defense would be the key to the outcome. Karlos Dansby showed signs of having a defensive impact throughout the game that set up his winning play. Dansby broke up Rodgers’ opening pass and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie intercepted. The next time the Packers got the ball, Dansby stripped Donald Driver and Arizona’s Alan Branch recovered.
Then the climax, Mike Adams off the edge, hit Rodgers and caused a fumble and the hero dirty bird Dansby was opportunistic and took the fumble in for a game winning touchdown. And the sea of red stadium went crazy. Probably the best win in team history.
One more game gets honorable mention but it came in a loss, and that is the Super Bowl loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008. It was a heartbreaking way to end a fantastic run. Most of the critics gave the Cardinals no chance to even stay in this game, yet they played themselves 2:31 away from a win. If we can change things and put the 2011 defense under Ray Horton in that Super Bowl with 2:31 left, no question that would be the best in Cardinals history because it would have been their first and only Super Bowl win.