Arizona Cardinals Advance to NFC Championship

The Arizona Cardinals pulled off a shocking upset on Saturday night, dominating the Carolina Panthers 33-13. Arizona jumped out to a quick lead and never looked back as they left the Carolina crowd stunned from start to finish. Brad Wilbricht breaks down one of the biggest wins in franchise history and wraps up the action from Bank of America Stadium.

The Arizona Cardinals snapped an eight-game East Coast losing streak under head coach Ken Whisenhunt, en route to their first ever NFC Championship game berth. The Cardinals forced three first-half turnovers and went into halftime with a 27-7 lead. Arizona performed nearly flawless in the first half, outgaining Carolina 264-70 in total yardage and limited the Panthers to only five first downs.

For the second straight week, the Cardinals' defense stole the show and sealed the victory. Arizona forced the Panthers' offense into six turnovers and held a potent rushing attack to only 75 yards on the ground. The Cardinals' secondary has excelled during the postseason, already intercepting seven passes in the past two games.

Carolina QB Jake Delhomme had been a model of consistency throughout the year but was out-of-sync against Clancy Pendergast's aggressive defensive game plan. He suffered through a miserable performance, tossing a career-high five interceptions and added a fumble. Delhomme completed just 17-of-34 passes for 205 yards and one touchdown. He hooked up with WR Steve Smith on an 8-yard score with under a minute left in the game.

RB DeAngelo Williams had rushed for 100-plus yards in seven of his last nine games but managed only 63 yards rushing in his first playoff contest. The Cardinals have now held two of NFL's top three rushers to less than 65 yards rushing in consecutive games. Last week, Arizona held Atlanta Falcons RB Michael Turner to just 42 yards on 18 carries.

RB Tim Hightower

The Cardinals' ground game experienced one of its best games of the year, racking up 145 yards on a season-high 43 carries. Arizona held the ball for nearly 40 minutes of the game and was able to run out the clock during second half action. Rookie RB Tim Hightower led the team in rushing with 76 yards on 17 carries. In addition, Hightower found the end zone on a 3-yard swing pass from Warner. RB Edgerrin James also got into the action finishing with 20 carries for 57 yards and a score.

Despite the absence of Pro Bowl WR Anquan Boldin, WR Larry Fitzgerald torched the Panthers' secondary with eight grabs for 166 yards and a touchdown. WR Steve Breaston helped picked up the slack with Boldin out, reeling in four passes for 28 yards.

QB Kurt Warner reverted back to his days as a Super Bowl MVP, completing 21-of-32 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Arizona's offensive line provided Warner with ample time all evening and limited Carolina to just one sack.

Following the conclusion of Sunday's games, Arizona will be one of only four teams remaining in the playoffs. Depending on the outcome between the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, the Cardinals could end up back home at the friendly confines of University of Phoenix Stadium.

If the Eagles win, Arizona will return home while they'll travel back to the East Coast if the Giants prevail. Regardless of their opponent, the Cardinals will get another shot to avenge a regular season loss as they came up short against New York and Philadelphia earlier this year.

Brad Wilbricht can be contacted at

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