The Arizona Cardinals shocked the football world Sunday as they defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in the N.F.C. Championship game 32-25, earning their first ever Super Bowl berth.
For years the Cardinals, charter members of the National Football League, have been the laughing stock of the league. In fact, going into this postseason the franchise had registered one playoff win in team history.
Two years ago, the Cardinals spent their number one draft pick on Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinert. Most thought that he had the talent to lead the team out of the dark days into a better future.
Leinert, however, was forced to take a back seat and watch from the sidelines as grocery store shelf stocker-turned Super Bowl Champion- turned NFL MVP- turned back-up QB refused to be on the sideline and turned himself into an early favorite for league MVP.
Larry Fitzgerald capitalized on the Eagles secondary by scoring three touchdowns in the first half.
Fitzgerald, along with a stingy Cardinal defense, led the team to a 24-6 halftime lead.
Even with such a large lead, the feeling was not that the Eagles were out of it, in fact, many experts at halftime were predicting a come-from-behind victory.
The feelings were realized in the second half as Donovan McNabb and his squad, a team who themselves needed help to get into the playoffs, scored 13 third quarter points, while holding the Cardinals scoreless in the frame.
The Eagles defensive began putting pressure on Warner and held the Cardinals to just eight yards in the whole third quarter
Philadelphia scored the first six points of the fourth quarter, taking their first lead of the game, and bringing the pessimists back out.
After the convincing third quarter, it looked as if the momentum was in favor of the Eagles, and the chances for the team from the desert were fading away.
With their miracle season hanging in the balance, Warner and Fitzgerald took the reigns and lead the Cardinals on one final drive.
The Cardinals began with the ball on their own 28 yard line with time winding down.
Warner lead the team down the field, the drive was capped with a touchdown pass to Tim Hightower with 2:53 left to play. Warner then connected with Ben Patrick for the two-point conversion and it was left up to the defense.
McNabb had several opportunities, but seemed to misfire, and history was made.
All in all, Warner threw for 278 yards, with four touchdowns.
The Cardinals and Warner look two weeks into the future where they will have a tough challenge where they will face the winner of the Steelers-Ravens game in the Super Bowl.
The AFC winner will no doubtley be the favorite in Tampa, but that does not seem to matter to the Cardinals, who came into the year as long shots to even make the postseason.