Every year a team seemingly comes out of nowhere, that nobody talks about, finds a way to not only win in the postseason but make histroy by doing it. The Cardinals, who are the NFL's oldest franchise and one of six teams to have never played in a Super Bowl will be going to the NFC Championship Game for the first time ever.
The Cardinals dominated the Carolina Panthers 33-13, as they tormented Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, picking off the quarterback five times and stripping him for a fumble. As a result, the Cards scored 23 points off Carolina turnovers on the evening and look like world beaters after everyone counted them out before the playoffs started.
If you need to know how much the Cards were expected to lose today, in the New York Post the paper listed the betting lines to win the Super Bowl for each of the remaining eight teams; the Cardinals were 35-1!
After a quick start by Carolina, the Cardinals settled down and set the tone. The Cards answered Carolina's opening score with a score of their own as Kurt Warner hit Tim Hightower for a three yard touchdown to tie the game at seven. Before that TD, Warner hit Larry Fitzgerald for 41 yards down the sideline to set up the tying score.
Minutes later, the Cards took control. Delhomme was stripped of the football by Araon Smith, who recovered it at the Panthers 11 yard line. Edgerin James took up the middle from four yards out to give the Cards a 14-7 lead.
Later in the second quarter with Arizona up 17-7, Delhomme hurried his throw and was picked off by Gilbert Hayes, setting up the Cards nicely at midfield. Three plays later, Warner found a wide open Larry Fitzgerald near the one yard line from 29 yards out. Fitzgerald made the catch then stuck the ball over the pylon to give the Cardinals a 24-7 lead.
It was a dominating performance for Arizona. Warner completed 65 percent of his passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns. For Warner, this is the second time he is taking a woebegone franchise to the NFC title game. In 1999, he took the miserable St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl victory over the Tennessee Titans. As for Fitzgerald, he had a huge day for the Cardinals when he recorded eight catches for 166 yards and a TD. Fitzgerald did a great job in picking up his game for the injured Anquan Bolden.
The Cards are moving on to the NFC title game for the first time ever. This is the best story in the league right now; no one thought the Cardinals would be here, and they deserve all the credit and attention that they should get this week in preperation for the Giants or Eagles. If Philly wins tomorrow in Giants Stadium, the Cards could be favored to go to the Super Bowl.