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Sunday, January 18, 2009
Rapid Reaction: Cardinals 32, Eagles 25


Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Cardinals can thank their offense for delivering the first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive coordinator Todd Haley called a mostly brilliant game against the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium. They leaned heavily on personnel combinations they rarely used during the regular season. As a result, they solved the Eagles' well-conceived blitz packages when they absolutely had to solve them. And they had Larry Fitzgerald, which gave them an almost unfair advantage at times.

Arizona made it look easy in building a 24-6 lead at halftime. The Cardinals also had to know the Eagles would make them work for it. That only made the outcome sweeter for Arizona.

  Eagles-Cardinals highlights
  NFL.com Video
  The Arizona Cardinals defeat the Philadelphia Eagles, 32-25, in the NFC Championship Game.
When Philadelphia jumped into the lead in the fourth quarter, Arizona responded with a 14-play touchdown drive that proved the Cardinals' championship mettle. Kurt Warner's 8-yard pass to rookie Tim Hightower with 2:59 remaining gave Arizona the lead for good. The play itself -- a quick throw against the blitz -- marked another schematic victory for the Cardinals' offensive staff.

While the Cardinals were fortunate to parlay a 9-7 regular-season record into a home game for the NFC Championship Game, they earned their way to Tampa for Super Bowl XLIII. They were resilient. They made big plays. They held up in the clutch against a team with much more playoff experience.

This Arizona team can beat any other when the stakes are high enough. Expect a competitive performance in the Super Bowl, no matter the opponent.