Top-10 Reasons Cardinals Defeated Falcons

Sixty-one years after their last home playoff game, the Arizona Cardinals sent the Atlanta Falcons home with a hard-nosed defeat. The fans turned out in droves to support the first playoff game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Now that the deafening crowd noise has died down, it's time to dissect the top-ten reasons behind the Cardinals Wild Card win.

10. Kurt Warner

The two-time MVP was on top of his game and with the exception of a tipped pass; he protected the ball all afternoon. After throwing for 271 yards and two touchdowns, he was able to advance while MVP Peyton Manning is heading home.

9. Anquan Boldin

The Pro Bowl receiver electrified the stadium by putting the Cardinals up 14-3 with a 71-yard touchdown run. Unfortunately, he left the game shortly thereafter with a muscle pull. His effect on the game cannot be overlooked and without his game breaking touchdown, the outcome may have been much different.

8. Timely Sacks

Early in the fourth quarter Antonio Smith ignited the crowd with a sack for a safety, putting the Cardinals on top 30-17. This was a crucial momentum boost the start the final quarter. Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry also added two game changing sacks.

7. Larry Fitzgerald

Opening the scoring with a flea flicker is always a good way to get the crowd into the game. Of course, with a dry spell of over 60 years, it was not very difficult to get the fans up for this one. Fitzgerald provided a steady presence for Warner throughout the game and allowed the running lanes for Edgerrin James to open up.

6. Running Backs

The well-rested legs of James were phenomenal on Saturday. James rewarded the team with a strong 73 yards on 16 carries. Hightower contributed a touchdown and 23 yards on 6 carries as the Cardinals showed a decent run game for the second contest in a row.

5. Ralph Brown

A rookie quarterback thrives on confidence. Any change can reduce his effectiveness for the game. Brown intercepted the first pass of Matt Ryan's playoff career, enabling the Cardinals to score first. This was just the beginning of a frustrating day for the Falcons offense.

4. Antrel Rolle and Darnell Dockett

These two combined for what was arguably the game defining play. Dockett burst through the front line and jarred the ball loose on an attempted hand off. Rolle, ever the opportunist, scooped up the fumble in mid-air and sprinted straight to the end zone. The fans went nuts and the Falcons never recovered.

3. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

If a draft pick has ever paid off for the Cardinals franchise, it has been the rookie Rodgers-Cromartie. He played solid defense throughout the game and contributed an incredible interception mid-way through the third quarter. He also led the team in tackles with 10 and still managed to find time to play offense for a couple plays.

2. Stephen Spach

On a team with two Pro Bowlers and three 1,000-yard receivers, Spach was the least likely candidate for the game clinching reception. As the third tight end, as late as November, Spach was buried behind Leonard Pope and Ben Patrick on the depth chart. Inadequate play and injuries sent him to the top, where in his first playoff start he came up big.

1. The Fans

The first home playoff game for the Cardinals since 1947 did not disappoint. With a stadium loud enough to drown out any conversation in the stadium, it was hard not to be impressed. The Falcons offense found it difficult to audible and rookie Ryan was noticeably uncomfortable for the entire game. False starts and delays of game were abundant. The screams of the crowd seemed to electrify the Cardinals play even more. After the safety by Smith and the ensuing crowd reaction, a fierce celebration by Smith and Dockett warranted an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. When Warner kneeled to end the contest the roar made it impossible to hear anything but your own thoughts. Most of which had to be, lets never wait 61 years to do this again.

Tyson Qualls can be reached at

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