Some how the worst team in the history of Professional Football is going to the Super Bowl! How on earth did the lousy, losing, stinking worthless Arizona Cardinal make it??? We don't know and we hope they lose there like they always do!
Super Bowl trip -- it's in the Cards!
Mike Tulumello, Tribune Last updated: January 18, 2009 - 6:08PM
Darryl Webb, Tribune
A governor in Illinois must be confessing his transgressions and announcing he is entering the priesthood.
And the Cardinals, one of the all-time underdogs of sports, are going to the Super Bowl.
They pulled off the franchise’s landmark win in their Arizona era, the biggest since they bagged the NFL title in 1947, and probably the most visible win for any team in the Grand Canyon State ever.
They dominated the Philadelphia Eagles early in Sunday’s NFC championship game, misplaced a 24-6 lead, then came up with a fourth-quarter drive for the ages to pull out a 32-25 victory at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Down 25-24 in the fourth quarter, every other Cardinal team would have folded up and congratulated itself on a terrific, surprise season.
These Cardinals are different.
In a drive that will become a legend by itself should they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, they marched 72 yards, eating up nearly 8 minutes, to take back the lead on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Kurt Warner to Tim Hightower.
“That’s the difference between this team and teams in the past,” said running back Edgerrin James, who once again moved the chains with 73 yards.
In the past, “People got down on each other or didn’t really have the confidence. Now … I don’t think there’s too much that could faze us.”
The heroes of these theatrics surely must be described, solemnly, in fearless, confident tones.
Except, well, this wasn’t exactly the case.
After moving the ball at will in the first half, the Cardinals did nothing after the break.
The Eagles’ blitzes, put down easily in the first half with quick, short passes, were now eating them up.
“I probably shouldn't be saying this,” said Mike Gandy, the Cardinals’ sturdy left tackle, “but we kind of didn’t really know what was going on. They showed us a lot of different looks.”
This was particularly true when they faced third-and-goal at the Eagles’ 8-yard line.
Two conservative play calls, runs up the middle by James and Hightower, had produced just one yard.
They called a play where Warner faked a pass to Anquan Boldin, then threw a screen to Hightower, who ran to the left side of the line.
”We weren’t 100 percent comfortable on what we were doing on that play,” Gandy said.
“Luckily we figured it out on the fly. And it worked.”
Hightower followed left guard Reggie Wells, found a hole, then met resistance a couple of yards before the goal line.
Wells said the Eagles brought their defense up, as if to blitz, then pulled back.
“I couldn’t really go after a linebacker. I had to push the defensive tackle,” Wells said.
Hightower put his head down and drove across the line.
“I saw I had blockers,” Hightower said. “I just had to find an opening.”
The Cardinals now led, 30-25, with 2:53 left.
They needed a two-point conversion for a seven-point lead, which would force the Eagles to score a touchdown to send the game to overtime.
Warner found Ben Patrick, an infrequently used tight end, open in the end zone.
“They had two people covering the fullback,” Patrick said. ”That left me wide open.
“I knew he was probably coming to me. I was praying I would catch it and hold on.”
Warner had a near-perfect passer rating of 145.7 by hitting 21 of 28 for 279 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Catching his passes, again, was Larry Fitzgerald. He had nine receptions, three for touchdowns in the first half, for 152 yards. He tied an NFL record for TD receptions in an NFC championship game.
The Cardinals’ defense also came through when it needed to. After holding the Eagles to a pair of field goals in the first half, Arizona surrendered 19 straight points in the second half. But after the Cardinals' go-ahead touchdown with just under three minutes left in the game, the defense held the Eagles to a pair of first downs and forced four straight incompletions to seal it.
The raucous celebration was on. And on.
“We’re going to party tonight,” linebacker Karlos Dansby said. “(Then) we’ll get our minds right."
At the Super Bowl in Tampa on Feb. 1, he pointed out, “We’ll have a tough test” against the Steelers, who beat the Baltimore Ravens 23-14 in the AFC championship.
Pittsburgh opened up as early 6 1/2-point favorites for Super Bowl XLIII.
The matchup vs. the Steelers will be special for Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, who was the Steelers offensive coordinator during their Super Bowl season three years ago but was bypassed for the Pittsburgh head coaching vacancy that went to Mike Tomlin.
“It’s unbelievably special that we’re going to the Super Bowl under any circumstances," Whisenhunt said, "but now to find out that we’ll be playing the Steelers certainly takes it to another level.
"Obviously that organization and the people associated with it hold a special place in my heart. From that standpoint, this is something of a dream scenario for me and many of the other coaches on our staff. ... We’re looking forward to a great matchup in Tampa.”
1st-and-10 at Cards; 28: Edgerrin James off left tackle, loses 1 yard.
2-and-11 at Cards’ 27: Kurt Warner short pass to the left to Larry Fitzgerald for 15 yards.
1-and-10 at Cards’ 42: Warner throws short pass right to Leonard Pope for 9 yards.
2-and-1 at Eagles’ 49: James up middle, loses 2 yards.
3rd-and-2 at midfield: Hightower off left tackle for 1 yard.
4th-and-1 at Eagles’ 49: Hightower around right end for 6 yards.
1st-and-10 at Eagles’ 43: James up middle for 2 yards.
2nd-and-8 at Eagles’ 41: Warner throws short pass right to Fitzgerald for 18 yards.
1st-and-10 at Eagles’ 23: James up middle for 3 yards.
2nd-and-7 at Eagles’ 20: Warner throws short pass left to Fitzgerald for 6 yards.
3rd-and-1 at Eagles’ 14: Hightower off tackle for 5 yards.
1st-and-goal at Eagles’ 9: James up middle for no gain.
2nd-and-goal at Eagles’ 9: Hightower off left tackle for 1 yard:
3rd-and-goal at Eagles’ 8: Warner throws screen pass, middle-left, to Hightower for touchdown.
2-point conversion: Warner over middle to Ben Patrick.
Drive totals: 14 plays, 72 yards, 8 points, 7:52 elapsed
Score: Cardinals 32, Eagles 25
Cardinals fans loud and proud on game day
Gary Grado, Tribune Last updated: January 18
Shane Reichenbacher stomped, danced and exchanged high-fives with anyone with a hand and then fought back tears. That’s what watching your life-long team clinch the Super Bowl will do to you.
The Arizona Cardinals defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 32-25 Sunday in the NFC championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium to advance to the Super Bowl, Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla.
“I can’t believe it,” Reichenbacher said, watching from up high as confetti fell down on the players after the final gun. “This is what this town needs!”
The stands remained nearly full as players accepted their trophy and thanked the fans.
“I’m shocked and pumped,” Alex Kopchynski of Maricopa said.
She and mother Burnie Kopchynski are going to rent an RV and drive to Tampa.
They weren’t this pumped, however, the whole game.
As the Eagles, who were down 24-6 at halftime, chipped away and eventually took the lead 25-24, the anxieties of Cardinals past raised their heads.
“I thought, ‘Not again,’” said Alex Kopchynski.
Whoops, hollers and high-fives were all around when the Eagles failed to convert on fourth-and-10 just after the two-minute warning, thus nearly sealing the Cardinals' trip to the Super Bowl.
That’s when a sea of green Eagles jerseys headed for the exits.
This was the Cardinals' first grab at glory in 60 years, and the excitement of the fans matched the importance of the game and the intensity of the play.
Some fans arrived as early as 8 a.m. for the 1 p.m. kickoff.
Traffic into the stadium was a crawl two hours before the game, and all of the parking lots were full, something that doesn’t typically happen.
The pregame beers, brats and burgers went down quickly as the excitement built at tailgate parties
Loud and proud was the unofficial theme as fans gathered around their barbecues.
Armando Estavillo, 62, the patriarch of his family, sat surrounded by his sons and grandsons with his face painted red and white, donning a Cardinals Santa Claus hat and draped in a red, cotton poncho.
“This is a great time with the family,” he said, pointing at one of his grandsons. “These guys will remember this the rest of their lives.”
His grandsons may be bringing their grandsons if the current championship trend continues for the Cards, who were last in the playoffs in 1998 and haven’t won a championship since 1947.
A season-ticket holder since 1988, Estavillo said before game time he was confident the Cards would win, and he knew it would always come to this.
“It was just a matter of time,” he said.
With the backbeat of rock 'n' roll and the aroma of grilling in the air, long-suffering fans reveled in the moment.
Jim McCubbin of Phoenix, and his “Fro Bro,” Robert Bean of Phoenix, paid $300 each for today’s tickets.
They wore matching, black afro wigs, Kurt Warner jerseys and carried matching Bud Light cans.
McCubbin felt at home among the all the red jerseys, but it wasn’t always that way.
He recalled a 1989 Denver Broncos shutout of the Cardinals when the stadium was filled with orange jerseys and obnoxious fans with orange and blue silly-string.
“I was the only guy wearing a red jersey that day,” McCubbin said.
Money will be no object for McCubbin and Bean. They said before kickoff they would go to the Super Bowl if the Cards win.
“We’ve got redemption today,” McCubbin said.
Aaron Freeman of Phoenix unintentionally created one of the more popular barbecue spots.
Freeman brought a lifelike punching bag and dressed it with a Donovan McNabb jersey and tutu, just for a prop for their party.
“I never thought it would get this type of reaction,” he said as fans filed by taking swats at the dummy, some going so far as getting into a three-point stance and then tackling it.
A massive cheer went up with each contact.
Freeman said an 85-year-old man got a loud cheer when he got out of his wheelchair and slugged the dummy.
If nothing else, people can at least take out their aggressions before they go inside, Freeman said.
The red and rowdy aren’t exclusive, though.
Fans in Eagles jerseys got booed and hissed as they made their ways to their seats.
Jeff Meng and David Debesche, Philly natives and students at Colorado State University, said they jumped at the chance to attend the game once they knew the matchup.
“It’s a great time to live in Philly,” said Meng.
The two men said they doubted the loyalty of the Cards' fans when they saw more than a few jerseys with retail tags still on them.
“We tell them the bandwagon is over there,” Meng said.
As the players were introduced, thousands of white towels waved as one and the noise was like several jets taking off.
With the Cards taking the lead into halftime, fans were in disbelief that their team was only 30 minutes from the Super Bowl and crushing decades of futility.
“The energy here is just amazing,” said Josh Thompson at halftime.
Thompson flew from Dallas for the game.
He attended shirtless, but with a coat of red and white body paint from his waist to his hairline.
“It’s really neat to see,” said Thompson, who has been following the Cards since 1998.
Jesse Hoisington, a sailor in the U.S. Navy stationed in San Diego, said he was not surprised by the Cards' success.
“They’re on fire,” he said.
Cardinals dismiss Boldin-Haley squabble
Mike Tulumello, Tribune January 19, 2009 - 3:56PM
Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin, who argued with offensive coordinator Todd Haley during the team’s game-winning drive in Sunday's NFC title game – and then left the field immediately after the game rather than celebrate with teammates – failed to show to answer reporters' questions today.
Valley Sports Blog: Lucky No. 13
Coach Ken Whisenhunt addressed the subject at his day-after news conference.
“That’s a normal thing that happens,” Whisenhunt said, pointing out that Haley and quarterback Kurt Warner frequently have animated conversations, including on Sunday.
Warner agreed, saying, “My wife tells me every week, ‘What in the world were you and Todd yelling about this week?’”
Boldin did speak with ESPN’s "NFL Live" today, saying he was upset he was not given an explanation on why he had been taken out during the game-winning drive. (He was in the game, however, when Tim Hightower scored the game-winning touchdown on a screen pass.)
"Like any competitor, I wanted to know why," Boldin told ESPN.
Boldin said he had no problem with Haley and that he left the locker room quickly because he didn’t want to answer reporters’ questions.
"I didn't want the story line to be me and Todd getting into it."
Whisenhunt, asked about Boldin’s apparent lack of full participation in the team’s celebration, said, “That’s not for me to regret. Everybody has ways of dealing with success or being happy. I can’t speak for Anquan on that.”
Whisenhunt said he understood the issue was “over with.”
Cardinals cornerback Rod Hood said he spoke with Boldin on Monday.
“‘Q’ is an emotional guy. He plays the game emotionally. You can see that when he makes a play," Hood said.
"I know he’s ready to play in the Super Bowl. He’s happy. He’s excited. We’re behind him.”
Hood said the two didn’t discuss whether he regretted his actions.
“It's one of the things when things don’t go the way you think they should go, it’s tough,” Hood said.
“He wants to win the Super Bowl like everyone else in the locker room. ... You can tell by the way he works in practice that he’s on board.
“When we step on the field for the Super Bowl, I know he’ll be ready to play and give his best effort. That’s all you can ask.”
Cardinals merchandise flying out of stores
Gary Grado, Tribune January 19, 2009 - 4:36PM
Thomas Boggan, TribuneBasic Arizona Cardinals jerseys are passe now that the team is going to the Super Bowl.
Fans showed up early today at sporting goods stores throughout the Valley to get the so-called “locker room” hats and T-shirts that the winning teams don immediately after their respective conference championship games and clinching a Super Bowl berth.
Cardinals beat Eagles, headed to Super Bowl
The hats and T-shirts proclaim the Cards’ championship status and come in black and gray.
And there’s even more stuff coming, probably Tuesday, said Kelly Roberts, owner of Just Sports.
“There’s also a Super Bowl fashion jersey,” he said today, breathless from picking up his merchandise at the airport after the manufacturer worked overnight to get them on the shelves.
The Super Bowl fashion jersey will be a team jersey with a commemorative Super Bowl logo.
Steve Karls, manager of Just Sports at Superstition Springs mall, said his store was swamped when it opened at 8 a.m., two hours before the mall opens.
This afternoon, there were constant lines of three to four customers at each of the store’s two registers.
Karls wiped his forehead as he struggled to stay up with keeping stacks of the shirts in order as customers picked through to find their size.
Cardinals merchandise, particularly jerseys of Larry Fitzgerald, Kurt Warner and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, have been flying off the shelves since the team began its run for the Super Bowl.
“This is great for the Valley, great for the economy,” said John Finley of Mesa. “This puts us in the sports limelight.”
Finley said he went to three different stores only to find out his size was sold out at each and they were waiting for more.
He killed two hours at Superstition Springs waiting for his size at Just Sports.
Gary Robles stood among the racks of jerseys with one of the black locker-room T-shirts he was buying for his daughter in one hand and a cell phone in the other to reach her in California.
“What a game,” he said. “Unbelievable.”
Barry Rinehart was there with his three sons, ages 16, 13, 10, in an exercise of orderly chaos as they chose their T-shirts.
“You want hats,” he asked.
As he left the store, Rinehart had dropped $200 on merchandise for his entire family.
“We’re just supporting the Cardinals; we’re fired up for the Super Bowl,” Rinehart said. “This town’s been dying for a good football team for years.”
Bickley: Win proves timing is vital
Matchup vs. storied Steelers continues big-time foe trend
by Dan Bickley - Jan. 19, 2009 07:04 PM
The Arizona Republic
We are not Titletown. No one calls us the City of Champions. We do not have a Canyon of Heroes.
When we last held a major parade to honor a sports team, a Diamondbacks executive dinged up the championship trophy. We need a lot of sunscreen out here, and sometimes it affects the grip.
But our timing is impeccable. We end up with stars named Curt (or Kurt) who prefer the roof closed on beautiful desert days but love big games and always come through in the clutch. And when there's a major professional title on the line, we sure know how to pick an opponent.
Take Super Bowl XLIII. Though Roman numerals are a new subject for Cardinals fans, the Steelers are not. They are mythical and mighty. They are the Black-and-Gold standard. Beat them in the big tilt, and you've done something your grandchildren will brag about.
Already, the story lines are building. After dispatching every great cornerback thrown his way, Larry Fitzgerald will face his most dreaded opponent ever: media day.
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive-line coach Russ Grimm have a chance to exact eternal revenge on the organization that shunned their job applications, instead hiring outsider Mike Tomlin.
Remember how Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden simulated his old quarterback to perfection in practice, helping his team smother Rich Gannon and the Raiders in the Super Bowl? You wonder if Whisenhunt could do the same to Ben Roethlisberger. You wonder if he knows a fatal flaw.
I know this: One more victory, and Coach Whiz never will pick up a tab in this town again.
Meanwhile, the fiery Todd Haley is getting all sorts of attention. In Sunday's win over the Eagles he called great plays and had heated exchanges with quarterback Kurt Warner and wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
The latter incident has seriously damaged Boldin's image. Confronting the offensive coordinator on the biggest drive in the history of the franchise because his number wasn't called? For many, that makes Boldin no different from the diva receiver he never wanted to be.
Shunning the postgame celebration because of new and/or lingering animosity with the organization? He'll never get that moment back.
Late in Sunday's game, some fool wearing a Tillman jersey and camouflage pants ran onto the field. He was subdued by security and led off the field. He missed the end of the game and the celebration. After all those years of football purgatory he missed the best part. In a way, so did Boldin.
Haley's image is going in the other direction. While Boldin ran off the field at the gun and never returned, Fitzgerald showered the offensive coordinator with praise, thanking him for pushing his potential to the limit.
That's heavy praise, and it makes Haley a hot new commodity. Just imagine him taking over in Dallas, butting heads with Terrell Owens.
"Sometimes you talk about being a parent, with what they call tough love," Warner said. "Sometimes you do things, and your kids can't stand it. And then they tell you that you don't know anything, and you're an idiot. You know in the back of your mind that you're only doing it for their best interests. And you're only doing it because you love them and you want to get the best out of them. I believe you have coaches that are like that, too, and I think Todd's like that."
As you can see, there's plenty inside this matchup to keep the adrenaline flowing. Eventually, it all will lead to the opponent. For they are the Steelers. The gap between Jack Lambert's teeth has become the flowing hair of Troy Polamalu, but they remain symbols of American toughness and football greatness.
We've been lucky this way. The Diamondbacks drew the Yankees in 2001, in the smoldering wake of 9/11, and rallied to win Game 7 against Mariano Rivera. The Suns battled Red Auerbach's Celtics and Michael Jordan's Bulls. Though they lost both times, they were part of the Shot Heard 'Round the World and the last NBA Finals staged at Chicago Stadium.
Now the Cardinals will test themselves against the Steel Curtain. Win, and it will leap off the pages of the record book. That's forever.
Reach Bickley at email@example.com or 602-444-8253. Check out his online column at bickley.azcentral.com.
Outburst to hurt Boldin's reputation?
by Kent Somers - Jan. 19, 2009 04:39 PM
The Arizona Republic
Wide receiver Anquan Boldin spent six years in the NFL building a reputation a tough, team-oriented football player, not a diva.
But that image might have suffered some damage Sunday when television cameras caught Boldin in a heated argument with offensive coordinator Todd Haley during the team's winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
Boldin didn't stick around to celebrate the NFC Championship Game victory with his teammates.
Boldin didn't make himself available to reporters during media availability on Monday but he did talk to ESPN's NFL Live. Cardinals officials had no prior knowledge of that interview.
"I was not given any explanation why I was taken out," Boldin said in the interview. "Like any competitor I wanted to know why."
Boldin said he had "not a problem at all," with Haley. "I'm committed to this team ... one goal in mind ... to win the Super Bowl. That's why I came back early from the facial injury. You don't get this opportunity all the time."
Haley said Sunday evening that he called a play with a personnel grouping that didn't include Boldin. That prompted Boldin's outburst.
With Boldin unavailable Monday, coach Ken Whisenhunt and teammates were left to answer questions about the incident.
Whisenhunt said sideline flare-ups are normal in the NFL. "It happened in the first quarter with Todd and Kurt (quarterback Kurt Warner)," he said. "It happened with a couple of our defensive players and defensive coaches. It's an emotional game."
Whisenhunt didn't expect the incident to have lingering effects. "From my understanding, it's over with," he said.
Asked about Boldin not participating in the postgame celebration, Whisenhunt said: "I think everybody has ways of dealing with success or being happy. I can't speak for Anquan on that."
Teammates dismissed the idea that the incident was an indication of deeper problems with Boldin.
"During the heat of the moment, tempers get riled up," cornerback Rod Hood said. "Q is an emotional guy. I talked to him today and I know he's ready to play in the Super Bowl."
Cards 6˝-point underdogs in Super Bowl
by Oskar Garcia - Jan. 19, 2009 01:37 PM
Associated Press Writer
LAS VEGAS - Las Vegas oddsmakers aren't buying into the Cardinals, no matter how many times they win as underdogs this postseason.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were favored by 6 1/2 points in most sports books to win the Feb. 1 Super Bowl after beating the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday to set up the showdown for the NFL title, according to Las Vegas Sports Consultants.
"Beating Baltimore is a little more impressive," oddsmaker Jason Been said.
Las Vegas Sports Consultants provides betting lines for roughly 90 percent of sports books in Nevada.
The Cardinals - 45-1 longshots to start the season and 40-1 to win it all when the playoffs started - aren't getting much respect from oddsmakers but seem to be building a last-minute fan base among bettors, said Jay Kornegay, executive director of the race and sports book at the Las Vegas Hilton.
"I'm not sure how big this bandwagon can get, but it's growing by the minute," Kornegay told The Associated Press. "The history of losing can really appeal to a lot of fans."
Kornegay set the Hilton's line at 7 points, meaning Steelers bettors would need their team to win by more than one touchdown in order to collect.
The Cards - a No. 4-seeded NFC team playing in its first Super Bowl - are the first nine-win team to reach the big game since 1979, when the Rams lost to the Steelers. Arizona beat Philadelphia 32-25.
But even though the Cardinals have scored at least 30 points in each of three playoff wins against the Eagles, Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons, oddsmakers largely feel they have yet to beat a defense as good as the one they face in two weeks.
"The AFC has a little more respect as far as the way they play power football," said MGM Mirage Inc. Race and Sports Books Director Jay Rood, who set lines in his books at 7. "They just seem to be the better league at this point."
Pittsburgh, which started the playoffs as the No. 2 AFC team behind the Tennessee Titans, had a first-round bye before beating the San Diego Chargers and Ravens.
"You got one of the more popular teams in the NFL versus a true Cinderella team, and that makes for a very intriguing Super Bowl this year," Kornegay said.
Boivin: Stories make win sweeter
by Paola Boivin - Jan. 18, 2009 08:18 PM
The Arizona Republic
Why did the Cardinals close the roof on Sunday?
To keep out all the airborne swine. Duh.
Man walks on moon. Arizona storms into Super Bowl. In the realm of improbable events, the Cardinals' 32-25 victory over Philadelphia in the NFC title game ranks up there.
The postgame scene was unbelievable. Defensive end Travis LaBoy's mom, Angela Curley, was lying on the ground making snow angels, sans the frozen precipitation. The speakers blared Queen's We are the Champions. A woman waved a sign that said, "We are who nobody thought we were" and safety Adrian Wilson, the team's longest tenured player, nodded his head at fans who shared this journey with him.
"If I could capture this moment in my mind and just remember it for the rest of my life . . . " Wilson said.
The victory wasn't about big plays, it was about the stories behind those plays. It wasn't defined by luck or bounces but by the two-a-days, the locker room camaraderie and the staff's coaching chops.
With 9:28 remaining in the first quarter, Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald connected on a 9-yard scoring pass, the first points of the game.
On the awards podium after the victory, Fitzgerald sought out offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
"Thank you," he said, "for keeping your foot on my throat for two years."
The comment hit Haley in the gut.
"It's why you coach, to see players succeed after they trust you and believe in you," he said.
With three Pro Bowl selections to his credit, it's clear Fitzgerald has talent. The staff thought he could give more. Fitzgerald thought he could give more. He took it to heart when friend and former NFL standout Cris Carter told him great players step up in big games.
He improved his work ethic and is one of the stars of this NFL postseason.
Less than two minutes into the second quarter, Warner pitched to J.J. Arrington, who threw a lateral back to Warner, who hit Fitzgerald for a 62-yard scoring play.
Arrington has played a sporadic role. Earlier this season, he spent four weeks on the inactive list as the team used Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower. Arrington waited patiently until the Cardinals discovered he had improved as an inside runner and was a weapon on screen passes.
The Cardinals have had that flea flicker in their playbook since last year and brought it out again in practice this week because of the Eagles' propensity to blitz. They trusted Arrington to help execute the play flawlessly and Arrington was happy to oblige.
"That's the thing about this staff," he said. "They let you know where you stand. They were never misleading. I knew my chance would come."
On first and goal at the 1-yard line late in the second quarter, Warner opted to throw to Fitzgerald and extended the Cardinals' lead to 21-6.
Warner, 37, has heard it all. He's washed up. He holds onto the ball too long. Ignoring the skeptics, he reinvented himself. He worked out aggressively in the off-season. He respected Haley's wish to work on drills that involved ball security.
He lost little physically and improved mentally. He had complete and utter confidence that the pass from the 1-yard line was the right call.
When he woke us this morning, he quickly slipped into his no-nonsense mode.
"He was crabby," his wife, Brenda, said after the game. "He was in his zone, but he was crabby."
The Eagles had a chance to shift momentum in the opening drive of the second half but Wilson sacked Donovan McNabb on third and 8, forcing a fumble that Bertrand Berry recovered at the Philadelphia 43.
Wilson has been on this team for eight years, longer than any other player. While others couldn't wait to leave and trash the team on the way out, Wilson stuck around and spoke of how he would like to help the Bidwill family win a championship.
He was classy to the end Sunday, making sure the first thing he said when he stepped up to the podium after the game was praise for the Philadelphia players.
It was his leadership that served this team well both on and off the field. If there's anyone who represents the die-hard Cardinals fans, it's Wilson.
And Richard Hayden. The Tempe resident, 72, is one of the few who were there in 1947 when this organization played the Eagles in the NFL title game at Comiskey Park.
He was there Sunday, too.
"It was wonderful," he said. "I can't believe what I just saw."
Neither can a lot of fans. But it's real.
Reach Boivin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 444-8956.
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