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Saturday, January 10, 2009
Rapid Reaction: Cardinals 33, Panthers 13

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Cardinals did all the things they needed to do -- and then some -- in dominating the Panthers to reach the NFC Championship Game.

The Cardinals are suddenly a dangerous team. They can run the ball well enough to keep teams honest, and well enough to finish games. They can beat teams in the passing game even when Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin does not play. They are opportunistic and increasingly disciplined on defense.

Logic says Arizona will have a hard time winning in the championship round if faced with a trip to the Meadowlands to play the Giants.

Logic also said the Cardinals couldn't win on the East Coast against the only team with an unbeaten home record this season, but Arizona had little trouble against the Panthers. The Cardinals played tougher games against the 49ers, Rams and Seahawks in the NFC West.

The Cardinals are playing the underdog role to maximum effect. They'll probably get another chance in the championship round. If their defense keeps forcing turnovers, the Cardinals will have a good chance against anyone, no matter the venue.