That's not a mirage rising out of the desert, folks. It's the Arizona Cardinals soaring to their first Super Bowl.
Yes, the Cardinals, founding members of the NFL, but
historically among the most dysfunctional of franchises, finally
have joined the big boys. Capitalizing on Larry Fitzgerald's three
first-half touchdown receptions, then coolly marching downfield to
Kurt Warner's 8-yard scoring pass to rookie Tim Hightower with 2:53
left, they beat the Philadelphia Eagles 32-25 Sunday for the NFC
Donovan McNabb was superb in leading Philadelphia's second-half
rally, but he misfired from midfield four times in the final
Arizona (12-7) will face the AFC champion in two weeks in Tampa
for the NFL title. Baltimore played at Pittsburgh later in the day
for the AFC crown.
If the Cardinals, the first No. 4 seed to host a conference
championship game, were supposed to be thunderstruck by their
surroundings, they instead responded like playoff veterans.
Sure, they blew a 24-6 halftime lead. But then Warner, a Super
Bowl MVP from almost a decade ago with the St. Louis Rams,
engineered a precise, 72-yard drive to win it with his fourth TD
pass of the day.
He finished the comeback with the 8-yard pass to Hightower, then
hit Ben Patrick for the 2-point conversion.
But the key was the unstoppable Fitzgerald, who had nine
receptions for 152 yards, including two big catches on the decisive
drive. The All-Pro set a single postseason record with 419 yards
receiving, surpassing the great Jerry Rice. And Fitzgerald has one
more game to go - in the Super Bowl.
Can you imagine?
They surely never looked this good before in the Phoenix area,
or their previous homes in Chicago and St. Louis.
At the end, streams of confetti spewed into the air, Warner got
some hugs from Eagles players, and the obligatory "We are the