Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Arizona Cardinals defense, and title hopes, undone by Pittsburgh Steelers' 'great play' in Super Bowl XLIII

TAMPA — Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie knew it. He knew the ride was likely over.

He knew a defense that had helped thrust the Cardinals back into Super Bowl XLIII on Sunday had bowed to the competition when it mattered most.

He knew it because he was rushing to try to prevent Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes from snaring the winning 6-yard touchdown catch in the back corner of the end zone with 35 seconds left.

He couldn't do it.

"I knew it," the Bradenton native said, dejected. "I knew he caught the ball. Inside I was like, dang, dang … dang."

That happened on a drive after the Cardinals had come from 13 points down to take a 23-20 lead on a 64-yard touchdown reception by Larry Fitzgerald with 2:37 left. Arizona's defense, which had controlled the Steelers for three straight possessions — including creating a safety when Karlos Dansby was held in the end zone trying to reach quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — suddenly could not make the plays that mattered most.

"When we got the lead I said, 'We've got to stop them. We've got to make plays,' " said tackle Darnell Dockett, a former Seminole. "And we didn't make plays when we needed to seal the game up."

On Holmes' winning catch, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast had the Cardinals in a zone defense against Pittsburgh's cluster formation. But they were unable to locate and contain a player they had isolated as the key to the Steelers' passing game even before he made four catches for 73 yards on the final drive.

"It was something we thought we'd adjusted to, but they made a nice throw and catch," Pendergast said. "They made a great play, and we didn't."

Roethlisberger, sacked 45 times in the regular season, went down just twice Sunday, bouncing outside, finding receivers off his lumbering scramble or throwing the ball away when needed.

The Cardinals will eventually have to reconcile 11 penalties for 106 yards, a spate of missed tackles and a first-and-goal pass from quarterback Kurt Warner to end the first half that was intercepted by linebacker James Harrison and turned into a 100-yard touchdown return.

The loss will be hard to absorb, safety Adrian Wilson said, not because of how it unfolded, but because of an opportunity lost.

"It took so long to get here."

Arizona Cardinals defense, and title hopes, undone by Pittsburgh Steelers' 'great play' in Super Bowl XLIII 02/01/09 [Last modified: Monday, February 2, 2009 12:25am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Road to Atlanta: Tell us how you really feel, Jimbo

    College

    Topped out

    TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 21:  Rashaan Evans #32 of the Alabama Crimson Tide tackles Jarrett Guarantano #2 of the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) 775042495
  2. Journal: USF gets support on the road

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — Perhaps it was the chance to witness the first USF-Tulane game ever, or an opportunity to frolic in the French Quarter for a weekend. Or both.

    USF running back D'Ernest Johnson (2) stiff-arms Tulane cornerback Parry Nickerson (17) on a run during the second half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH111
  3. Joey Knight's takeaways from USF-Tulane

    College

    1. Saturday's triumph will do little to fortify USF's strength of schedule, but its strength-of-character quotient might have increased. On the road facing an eclectic offense, the Bulls built a huge lead, then made critical plays in the waning moments after some defensive lapses. In short, they survived. Isn't …

    South Florida defensive end Greg Reaves (41) reacts after a defensive stop against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH107
  4. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  5. Lightning journal: Tighter defense fuels hot start

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — See what happens when you keep the crease clean, limit the traffic in front of G Andrei Vasilevskiy and limit Grade A scoring chances?

    Yanni Gourde, right, gets a late first-period goal that follows a big save by Andrei Vasilevskiy.