NFL Nation: 09 nfc title

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- What looked like a romp for the Arizona Cardinals Sunday turned into a nail-biter in the second half. But after a furious rally by the Eagles allowed them to overcome an 18-point deficit to take the lead, the Cardinals put together a clutch fourth-quarter drive to help escape with a 32-25 victory in the NFC Championship Game.

Although everyone across the country knew the Cardinals would be looking to All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald, the Eagles looked lost against him. Even when safety Quintin Demps was in perfect position on a throwback play to quarterback Kurt Warner, Fitzgerald toyed with him before making the touchdown catch. Demps ended up turned around and was harmlessly waiting at Fitzgerald's ankles as he hauled in a 62-yard touchdown.

Cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown were completely overmatched by Fitzgerald, and for reasons maybe only defensive coordinator Jim Johnson can explain, Fitzgerald was given a free release at the line of scrimmage throughout the first half.

The Eagles looked like a different team in the second half. The defense turned up the pressure on Kurt Warner and quarterback Donovan McNabb was brilliant in finding tight end Brent Celek and wide receivers Kevin Curtis and DeSean Jackson. It was a 50-yard throw from McNabb to Curtis that turned the game around for the Eagles.

But when the defense needed one more stop in the fourth quarter, it couldn't deliver. Fitzgerald was once again brilliant in making acrobatic catches on the Cardinals' game-winning drive. And rookie running back Tim Hightower finished off the drive with an 8-yard touchdown reception.

It certainly looked like the Eagles were on the verge of pulling off the miracle comeback. But in the end, they didn't leave themselves enough wiggle room. They played like an undisciplined team in the first half -- as evidenced by Demps' ridiculous late hit on Kurt Warner.

Now, the Eagles will face an offseason of questions. It was a remarkable playoff run, but it still leaves the Eagles and their fans with a horrible taste in their mouths. I'll be back in a few hours with a full report on what happened.

"We are the Champions" playing as confetti falls on the field. Unbelievable scene. The Arizona freakin' Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl.

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.

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  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.

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