By Bryan Mongeau-Eastmond
GLENDALE, Ariz. (RushPRNews) 01/19/09- Unlike last week, Eaglesâ€™ Donovan McNabb did not get a chance to make flight reservations over the phone on the opposing teamâ€™s bench. Not this time. But if he is lucky, perhaps Kurt Warner and company might send him a long awaited post card from Tampa Bay, home of Super Bowl XLIII.
For the first time in franchise history, the Arizona Cardinals are headed to the big dance after beating the Philadelphia Eagles 32-25. Although the defense and Edgerrin James, responsible for providing the birds with a descent running game, have finally made their presence felt, it all comes down to one man. One man has decisively made a difference. Iâ€™ll give you a hint: he wears number 11 and makes spectacular catches despite double coverage in virtually every playoff game. Yes, Iâ€™m referring to Larry Fitzgerald.
After a monster start in the playoffs, Arizonaâ€™s offense revolves around one guy and one guy only. There is no question that the Cardâ€™s play calling is somewhat predictable and lacks imagination. But why wouldnâ€™t it? In the last three games their 6-3, 225-pound receiver has been a nightmare for opposing defenses racking up 23 receptions for 419 yards with 5 touchdowns. Itâ€™s hard to imagine a receiver racking up these kinds of yards, especially when defensive coordinators prepare for him all week. Ok, maybe shutting down one of the leagues most dominant players is rather optimistic; however, limiting the damages is surely reasonable one would think.
Well think again. Against a tough and physical Eagles defense, not much has changed concerning Fitzgeraldâ€™s success and the play calling. Fitzgerald finished the game with 9 receptions for 152 yards and three first-half touchdowns. The Pro Bowler set a single playoff record with 419 receiving yards, exceeding the great Jerry Rice.
His toughest challenge awaits him as he will face the AFC champs and the number one ranked defense overall in the Pittsburg Steelers in the Super Bowl on Feb. 1.
Fellow teamate and receiver, Anquan Boldin played despite a hamstring injury but his contribution was trivial. He finished with four catches for 34 yards. Look for him to rest up during the next two weeks and be back as the dominant force alongside Fitzgerald.
No question that first downs on offense and defense, along with winning the turnover battle, were pivotal in Arizonaâ€™s win. The Cards had three takeaways in this one, including Darnell Dockettâ€™s interception of a lateral attempt by the Eagles in the closing seconds of the game.
Trailing 24-6 at the half, McNabb was superb in leading Philadelphia’s second-half rally from 18 points down to a 25-24 lead. But the Cardinals continued their solid post-season play and responded with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Warner to rookie Tim Hightower.
Warner completed 21 of 28 passes for 279 yards, including a 48-yard strike to Fitzgerald in the second quarter. The last time these two teams met on Thanksgiving, the Eagles trashed Arizona and McNabb threw for four scores. This time around it was Warner who matched those impressive numbers by tossing four TDâ€™s of his own. Running back Brian Westbrook also had a field day during the last meeting, but once again had difficulty getting anything going offensively. He has failed to come up big in the postseason and it hurt his team by making them one dimensional.
Warner, 37, a Super Bowl MVP from almost a decade ago with the St. Louis Rams, will have one more shot at hosting the Lombardi trophy.
Look for our updates, right here at RushPRnews.
photo: courtesy of the NFL Arizona’s coach Ken Whisenhunt