Colgate around the Hill – What is the biggest surprise in the NFL postseason so far?

By Paul KasabianCopy Editor

Like a phoenix rising from its ashes, the recent success of the much-maligned Arizona Cardinals running game has to be the most shocking surprise of this NFL postseason. The Cardinals were ranked dead last in rushing heading into the playoffs, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and gaining a league-worst 1,178 yards on the ground. To put that number in perspective, nine players gained more than 1,178 yards this season.

However, a change in offensive philosophy this postseason has resurrected the Cardinals’ running game. Arizona averaged 18 more pass attempts than rushing attempts in the regular season, but in the playoffs, the Cardinals are actually rushing three more times per game than passing. Arizona now averages 111 rushing yards per game and has dutifully set up Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald for great success through the air.

Furthermore, a renewed faith in running the ball has seemingly rejuvenated the Arizona offense, as Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower have both turned in solid performances this postseason. The most telling play that demonstrated that the times were changing in the desert occurred during the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game. Down 25-24, Arizona faced a fourth-and-one from the Eagles’ 49-yard line with just under eight minutes left in the game. The Cardinals had just been stuffed on rushing attempts on the last two plays, gaining no yards. Instead of going to the air, Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley showed his trust in running the ball by having Warner hand off to Hightower, who scampered around the right end for a first down. The Cardinals eventually scored the winning touchdown on the drive.

Granted, the now legendary play of Larry Fitzgerald and the strong-armed passing of Kurt Warner are largely the reasons why Arizona is heading to its first Super Bowl, but without a solid running game to supplement the prolific passing attack, the Cardinals would probably be watching the Super Bowl at home.

By Chas KurtzMaroon-News Staff

The Arizona Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl. A stranger sentence simply couldn’t be written. Other post-season dramas don’t come close to matching the rise of the Cardinals to football’s biggest game. Remember, this is the same Cardinal team that finished 9-7 in the NFC West, the NFL’s worst division. Six of their nine wins were against division opponents, teams combined record was a sorry 13-35. Against playoff teams, the Cardinals were only 1-5. The lone win came in Week 2, against a Dolphins team that had yet to find its rhythm. They lost four of their final six games, losing by margins of 40, 28, and 21 during that stretch.

The Cards were the uninvited guests to the postseason party. Far better teams were left out of the playoffs in favor of Arizona, including an 11-5 New England team that destroyed the Cards 47-7 in Week 16. That’s right, the Pats won two more games and manhandled Arizona in a late-season game, but didn’t make the playoffs because the AFC East was a tougher division.

And then, without warning, the Red Birds caught fire. Their defense decided to play like an NFL defense. Kurt Warner got confused and thought he was playing on the Rams circa 1999, with Fitzgerald, Boldin, and Breaston replacing Bruce, Holt, and Hakim. Larry Fitzgerald solidified himself as the premier receiver in the game. Finally, thanks to a ridiculous no-call on a clear pass interference on the Eagles game-tying drive in the NFC Championship game, Arizona is on its way to Tampa.

Three weeks ago the Cards were thought to be undeserving of a postseason berth. Now they are NFC Champions. That’s not just the biggest surprise of the season. That’s one of the biggest shockers in NFL history.

By Josh GlickMaroon-News Staff

The 2009 NFL playoffs come down to two words: Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald had 1,431 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns during the season, and this postseason, Fitz has racked up 419 receiving yards and five touchdowns. There is no question that the former Pittsburgh Panther is the best receiver in the league, and so far this post-season defenses has looked helpless against him. The Cardinals’ Super Bowl berth is no doubt shocking to the sports nation, but to me the real shock is why Andy “The only thing I like more than my playoff beard is Taco Bell” Reid did not double, and may I dare say triple cover Fitzgerald the whole game, making the 37-year old Kurt Warner find another way to beat his Eagles. Everyone, outside the city of Pittsburgh (including yours truly), will be rooting for the Cinderella Cardinals come Super Bowl Sunday. Of course, who would have ever thought the words Cardinal and Super Bowl could ever be uttered in the same sentence. Our hopes and dreams all lie with the Steelers coaching staff. Hopefully they will continue the stupidity of their predecessors, and let Fitz continue to terrorize opposing defenses.

By Mike McMasterSports Editor

The Arizona Cardinals going to the Super Bowl is not a surprise, because no one should ever be surprised by Larry Fitzgerald.

No, the biggest surprise of the NFL post-season came on a cold, windy day in East Rutherford, New Jersey. But the loss that the defending champs endured was anything but surprising. Eli Manning demonstrated again that he struggles in the swirling winds of the Meadowlands, and the defense looked as banged up as was advertised.

But as fans turned for the exits and the Big Blue’s hopes for a repeat were all but dead, Donovan McNabb took a snap from under center, looked for an open reciever, and then fled the pocket. In vintage McNabb style, the veteran quarterback ran towards the sideline while avoiding Giant defenders. McNabb ran onto the New York’s sideline and slowed to a stop in front of the Giants bench. Then, he picked up one of the Giants team telephones, and in an unsportsmanlike and boastful taunt, he held the phone to his ear and then slammed it down on the receiver.

The biggest surprise of the NFL post-season is that McNabb made it back out onto the field. Athletes trash talk and taunt, but taunting ten yards deep on the opponents sideline is a decision that rarely goes unpunished. Frankly, it is a miracle that McNabb wasn’t planted into the turf.