For the first time since 2008, the Arizona Cardinals are back in the NFC Championship Game. Just like in 2008, the Cardinals have a strong defense, a revived quarterback . . . and Larry Fitzgerald leading the way.
Aaron Rodgers to Jeff Janis, tying the game at 20.
But after a pair of coin-flips, the Cardinals started sending prayers of their own. Quarterback Carson Palmer spun away from a would-be sack on the first play of overtime, bought time, then threw the ball across the field to a wide-open Fitzgerald, who took it 75 yards to the Packers 5-yard line. Two plays later, Fitzgerald took a shovel pass from Palmer in for the walk-off score.
Call it Arizona’s “Hail Larry.”
— NFL (@NFL) January 17, 2016
“We are a resilient team,” Fitzgerald said afterwards. “We believe, we believe … you just have to keep fighting.”
For what it’s worth (which is a lot), Fitzgerald finished the day with eight catches for 176 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
The win marks the second time that Arizona defeated Green Bay in a playoff game on the third play of overtime — Karlos Dansby had the game-winning fumble return in 2009 — and Saturday night’s win made the Cardinals the first team to win two playoff games on an overtime touchdown.
Once again, Fitzgerald kept Arizona’s Super Bowl hopes alive through one big play after another. On a first-and-goal from the Packers 9-yard-line with just under four minutes left, Palmer looked for him in the end zone, however Packers’ rookie Damarious Randall tipped the ball and the ricochet fell right into Michael Floyd‘s hands in the back of the end zone.
Much like he did for Kurt Warner back in 2008, he did for Palmer in Palmer’s first career playoff win.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) January 17, 2016
However Arizona’s current playoff run, let alone their season overall is something that we’ve seen before. Consider this run a re-boot of the Arizona Cardinals of the new millennium movie: starring a quarterback looking for a final shot a redemption for his career, a strong defense and a wide receiver looking for, possibly this time, one last shot at a Super Bowl ring.
The last time the Cardinals were on a run like this, most of the team was new to being on a Super Bowl run. The one leading the way was Warner who wanted the Cards to “shock the world.” They nearly did just that in Super Bowl XLIII against the Steelers, taking an unexpected lead with just over 2:30 left.
The rest, of course, is history that we just won’t mention at this moment.
This time around, even with a similar cast, this Cardinals team makes it seem like they’re a perennial playoff team.
Despite making the win harder than it needed to be to end regulation — throwing on second down with a chance to run the clock all the way down, giving up a 60-yard pass on a fourth-and-20 play, then giving up a 41-yard Hail Mary with five seconds left — Arizona came through in the clutch in overtime, not giving Rodgers and the Packers’ offense any other chances.
Their opponent in the NFC Championship will be known by the end of Sunday — either the 15-1 Carolina Panthers or their NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks, a game that the Cards will host if Seattle pulls off the win.
Most people are going to pick Carolina over Seattle, which will force Arizona to travel to the top-seed Panthers. The Panthers will be favored over Arizona.
The NFC Championship will be another case of David vs. Goliath once again for the Cardinals. You’d think we would have learned by now.