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News » Cards 'shocked the world'

Cards 'shocked the world'

Cards 'shocked the world'
TAMPA, Fla. -- As the Arizona Cardinals prepared this week for the first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, they looked back on the night of Jan. 10, when they went to Charlotte and pulled off arguably the most stunning upset of this year's NFL playoffs.

The Carolina Panthers were heavy favorites and easily drove for a touchdown on their first possession, but the Cardinals dominated the rest of the way for a 33-13 win.

"We shocked the world that night," Arizona cornerback Roderick Hood said.

Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said the Cardinals were determined to stop Panthers running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

"We were tired of looking on TV all week at those running backs doing their little celebration and [hearing talk about them being] the best two running backs in the nation," he said.

Defensive end Antonio Smith said he sensed an arrogance coming from the Panthers and the so-called experts who were convinced Carolina would win.

"I had a feeling we were going to beat them pretty convincingly," Smith said. "I knew it wasn't going to be like a toss-up in the wind or maybe go down the fourth quarter or anything like that.

"The emotions we were feeling going into that game, [with] how disrespected we were feeling but knowing the team we were playing against, I knew it wasn't going to be a close game."

Smith said the Cardinals should have blown out the Panthers when they met at Bank of America Stadium on Oct. 26. Arizona led 17-3 in that game but eventually lost 27-23.

In the rematch, Smith made a key play late in the first period when he stripped the ball from Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme and recovered it at the Panthers' 13-yard line. That set up Arizona's go-ahead touchdown, and the Cardinals never trailed after that.

"The more and more I look back on that play, I don't even know what I did," Smith said. "I spun and I knew I couldn't get to the quarterback, so I just swung my arm.

"It just so happened to hit the ball. And when it hit the ball, it just so happened to bounce into my other hand, like magic."

That was the first of six turnovers by Delhomme in what evolved into the worst performance of his NFL career.

"I don't know if that play alone rattled him or not," Smith said of Delhomme. "You know how you feel like, 'What's going to go wrong next?' I think he got a little overwhelmed by that, by one thing [bad happening] after another after another, and he just ended up making too many mistakes."

Safety Adrian Wilson, formerly of N.C. State, said Delhomme might not have seen the field clearly, partly because of the Cardinals' tight coverage on Carolina's receivers.

"We weren't leaving guys wide open," Wilson said. "Guys weren't running across [the field] free. We had bodies on everybody. That's the way you're supposed to play defense."

On the other side of the ball, Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald repeatedly seemed to be wide open against Carolina's zone defense, especially in the first half when he caught six passes for 151 yards.

"He's arguably the best receiver in Football, but it's tough when you see [No.] 11 lined up and just running free, scot-free," Wilson said. "I don't know if it was coverage busts or great game-planning by [Arizona offensive coordinator] Todd Haley."

Fitzgerald credited quarterback Kurt Warner's accurate passing.

When asked if he was surprised the Panthers didn't use their top cornerback, Chris Gamble, on him in man-to-man coverage in the first half, Fitzgerald said:

"They didn't show [that] all year. No matter who they played, [their cornerbacks] always stayed on their sides. Chris Gamble is a phenomenal talent, and I'm glad he wasn't following me around."

Fitzgerald was careful to compliment the Panthers' other cornerbacks, Ken Lucas and Richard Marshall, but none of them could stop him.

By the start of the fourth quarter, the game was so one-sided that the stadium, where Carolina had been 8-0 during the regular season, was half empty.

"It was a beautiful sight to see," linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "We kind of pulled the dogs off, or it could've gotten worse."

Though the Cardinals were belittled as an inexperienced playoff team, Dansby said the Panthers had plenty players who had never played a playoff game, as well.

"Now they know what it feels like," he said. "Now they're watching us."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 29, 2009

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