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Cardinals Come Within Minutes of First Ever Super Bowl Title, but Lose 27-23 to Steelers

It seems as though the clock has finally struck midnight on what was a Cinderella postseason run for the Cardinals. What a story the Cardinals were this season, but in the end they came only a few minutes short of walking away with their first Super Bowl title in franchise history. Most Cardinals fans will be upset with the officiating in this game, but credit must be given to the Steelers who dug deep on their final drive to take the game right from under the noses of the Cards.

The Cardinals got off to a somewhat shaky start to this contest, after deferring the opening coin toss I’m sure much to the surprise of everyone watching. However the defense would come up big in the redzone, after being hit for a couple of big passing plays. After being originally ruled a touchdown, Ken Whisenhunt would challenge a Ben Roethlisberger scramble to the endzone, which would end up being overturned, forcing the Steelers to settle for only a field goal.

Maybe it was the nerves, but the first drive for the Cardinals netted only three yards, and they were forced to punt. This time the defense couldn’t hold the Steelers offense, and short yardage specialist, Gary Russell, would rumble in from one yard out for the touchdown. Surprisingly, this drive, and the previous one, the Steelers used the passing game to get it done, which must have been a shock to the Cards defense. Roethlisberger leaned heavily on Heath Miller and Santonio Holmes all game long, and a recurring theme was Arizona pass rushers getting to the QB, but unsuccessfully being able to bring down the elusive Steelers pivot.

Finally the Cards got back on track with a 9 play, 83 yard scoring drive to get themselves back into it. The key play was a 45 yard Anquan Boldin reception, which took them all the way down to the Steelers one yard line. Kurt Warner would hit tight end Ben Patrick for the one yard score on the next play, who showed very nice hands for a player that is best known for his ability to block.

After a couple of punts, the Steelers would get the ball deep in their own territory, only to turn it over courtesy of a tipped Ben Roethlisberger pass that ended up in the hands of Karlos Dansby. This play was a huge momentum shift at the time, and it looked as though the Cardinals were going to head into halftime with the lead or at worst tied, as they had a short field. However, the worst possible thing that could have happened, happened, as Kurt Warner threw a pick on the one yard line, which defensive player of the year, James Harrison, returned 100 yards for the score. In what boiled down to a 14 point swing, the Steelers took the momentum heading into halftime.

After choosing to defer to the second half, the Cardinals had a chance to seize momentum back onto their side with their opening drive of the third quarter. Unfortunately they couldn’t get it going, and even dodged a bullet when Whisenhunt won his second challenge of the game on what was originally called a fumble by Warner, but turned out to be only an incomplete pass. This play would however force the Cardinals to punt, and it was once again up to the defense.

The next Steeler drive was aided significantly by three, in my opinion, very questionable personal foul penalties, and would drain 8:39 off the clock, before Jeff Reed added his second field goal of the night, making it 20-7 Pittsburgh. The first personal foul was on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, for grasping the face-mask, but if you ask me, yes, he did grab it, which is now not a penalty according to league rules. However, it is a 15 yard penalty if there is a twisting motion or if the player brings the opponent down by the face-mask, and in my opinion Rodgers-Cromartie did not do either of those things. The second personal foul was for roughing the passer, but once again I feel like this was a very questionable decision by the referee. Dansby’s momentum carried him into the quarterback, and he did give Roethlisberger a shot, but it was more of just a hard push, rather than a malicious attempt to hurt him by say driving him into the grass or leading with his helmet. Finally, when it looked like the Cardinals had the Steelers stopped, Adrian Wilson was flagged for what could have been a very costly roughing the…holder penalty?! That’s right, Wilson ran into holder, Mitch Berger, who seems to be trying to make a case for an Oscar nomination this postseason, and was called for a personal foul. The penalty gave the Steelers a first down inside the five, but they were once again stymied by the Cardinals redzone defense, so Wilson’s penalty turned out to be a moot point.

The fourth quarter was one for the history books, as Warner and the Cards finally got it going. After being held to only 12 yards all game, Larry Fitzgerald broke out on the Cards second drive of the quarter, and caught four balls, including one for a touchdown to make it a one score game. After the defense got the stop they needed, the offense got the ball back with a chance to take the lead, but was forced to punt after left tackle Mike Gandy’s third holding call of the game. However, punter Ben Graham was able to successfully pin the Steelers back to their own one yard line, in what was a clutch play by the first Aussie to ever play in a Super Bowl.

On third and ten, the Cardinals finally were justified by the referees, as the Steelers were flagged for holding in the endzone, which resulted in a safety. It was a monumental play, as Roethlisberger had connected with Santonio Holmes for a first down, but now the Cardinals were going to get the ball back down only four points. On the second play of this ensuing drive, Warner hit Larry Fitzgerald over the middle and the gifted wideout did the rest, streaking down the field for a 64 yard score. It was a supremely clutch play by the MVP of the playoffs, but the only downside was that there was still over two minutes left for the Steelers to come back.

After being so solid all game, the Cardinals let Santonio Holmes torch them for 73 yards and a score on the Steelers game winning drive. The Cardinals didn’t give up, as they had 35 seconds to get a touchdown, but Warner was stripped by Lamar Woodley with five seconds remaining, and Pittsburgh recovered it. I thought it was very strange how they didn’t review the play, though, as it looked like Warner’s arm was moving forward, and the Cards could have had at least one more shot for a ‘Hail Mary,’ but it just wasn’t meant to be. Overall this season cannot be judged as a failure from this one game, but the Cardinals do have a very interesting offseason ahead of them, with many question marks. Some of their unrestricted free agents include Kurt Warner and Karlos Dansby, and Anquan Boldin wants a new deal. The Cardinals, though, can no longer be considered a basement team, and they have earned the respect of the entire NFL.

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2 Responses to “Cardinals Come Within Minutes of First Ever Super Bowl Title, but Lose 27-23 to Steelers”

  1. MattB says:

    If you run over the holder, that is a penalty. Wilson ran right through him and continued toward the sideline without breaking stride. I am amazed that anyone is questioning this call.

  2. joseph says:

    how bout all the holding penalties not called against the cardinals with harrison?

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