The Morning After: The Arizona Cardinals Survive
By Erich Becker
An absolutely amazing game, the Arizona Cardinals now get a favorable match-up on the road where they are 7-1.
If you’ve ever watched the television show Survivor, the Arizona Cardinals entered a tribal council with all the confidence in the world of moving on, got nearly blindsided and were saved by an immunity idol from another player. This player was Larry Fitzgerald and he saved this game, and the team’s season with two critical catches in OT building off of a great second half performance after only one catch in the first 30 minutes.
Make no mistake, this is the match-up the Cardinals wanted moving on to the NFC Championship game, we wanted Seattle out, at the expense of a home game, and had no fears about traveling to Carolina where the home team has been propped up with a three point advantage, because, home team. But we’ll get back to that in a minute.
For a Saturday in Glendale for the ages, this game had just about everything, and for someone who was in the stands, me, it was an emotional roller coaster that drained every part of me from the beginning to the end. From frustrating offensive struggles, to defensive lapses and being unable to deal with an uptempo offense, the Cardinals were a mess and all over the board for the entire game. After a beautiful defensive stop and a turn over on downs, they give up, basically, two hail mary passes to nearly seal their demise.
An awkward coin flip later, two wins of that coin flip, and three passes were all that it took to put the game away and steal victory from the jaws of defeat, but after the expectations were set high after what was thought to be an abnormal Week 17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the team not coming out and tuning up Green Bay with 30 points in the first half was seen as a disappointment.
There is no other way to describe this game when I go back and think about it, it really boils down to several freak plays, the tip TD to Floyd, the two completions to Jeff Janis to end regulation, and two completed passes to Larry Fitzgerald that ended up totaling 80 yards and a victory. That’s about three minutes of actual gameplay, the other 57+ minutes were forgettable but something that will need to be looked at.
The top two seeds in the NFC face off next weekend, and its the match-up we all wanted, as I previously mentioned, a Carolina team that, until beating up on Seattle in the first five minutes, then 30 minutes, then puckering up for the next 30, they hadn’t beat a quality team. They beat Seattle early in the season when they weren’t the Seahawks that we all know, and the NFC had been up and down all year, aside from Arizona and Carolina themselves.
Now it comes down to the top two MVP candidates, two Heismann Trophy winners, two first overall picks going at it in Carolina a place the Cardinals have won in the playoffs before (2008) and lost (2014), but that last game was the Ryan Lindley show after both Palmer and Drew Stanton were ruled out with injuries.
Don’t forget, besides some lethargic play and questionable throwing decisions in two of the team’s three losses, the Cardinals were very close to being 15-1 themselves. So now the two best teams in the NFC go after each other for a trip to Santa Clara and Super Bowl 50.
But that game on Saturday, that game was just nuts.
If you’ve ever been to game you know it can get loud, and during this match the internal meter seemed to peak near 115 decibals. It was loud, it was the loudest as Larry weaved through traffic in OT, we all thought he would make and he was one high-step away from doing so on that one run. You could see that Palmer was trying to give the rock to Fitz to let him finish the job, and the way the game ended was fitting for a player many left for dead after last season.
Larry may not be able to string together a post season like he did in 2008, of which the records still hold up, with one less game in the mix, but if he can play like that on Sunday, we can all book our tickets to Northern California.
Just remember that the Cardinals are 7-1 on the road and 5-0 in Prime Time games this season, pressure isn’t something this team feels. Bring on Carolina, bring on the kitty.