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NFC Championship Game: Once again, the Arizona Cardinals rely on their offense for a victory over Philadelphia Eagles

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The foremost reason the Cardinals were even in this NFC Championship Game was no secret.

They are an offensive juggernaut led by a quarterback who throws touchdowns by the bunches and a receiver who makes circus catches look easy.

So, should anyone be surprised it was the Cardinals offense that sent the Eagles packing in this 32-25 win Sunday?

The only remaining question is whether the Cardinals can ride their offensive success to achieve a Super Bowl title.

Running back Tim Hightower's 8-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Kurt Warner with 2:53 left capped a 72-yard winning drive that sends Arizona to Tampa for Super Bowl XLIII against Pittsburgh and the league's most vaunted defense.

When the Eagles rallied from a 24-6 deficit to take a 25-24 lead, even the Cardinals' defensive players knew it was time to look to Warner.

"This is why Kurt is the man," cornerback Antrel Rolle said. "He's been here before. I told him, 'Kurt, show us the way. We'll follow.' That's what he did."

Warner's final tally was stunning: 21-of-28 for 279 yards and four touchdowns. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald might have outdone him, racking up 152 receiving yards on nine catches and setting an NFL single-postseason record with 419 yards in these playoffs, surpassing 49ers great Jerry Rice.

For Warner, it was hard to tell what was more familiar: his throwing pinpoint passes or his rushing into the stands to embrace his wife, Brenda. He did both as he authored the Rams' 1999 run to the championship.

Fighting back tears nearly an hour after an emotional on-field celebration, Warner, 37, tried to put things in perspective.

"It's been a journey," he said. "It's just amazing. It was just joy."

The final drive was a journey, too. The Cardinals had lost their momentum after the Eagles scored 19 unanswered points to take a one-point lead with 10:45 left. But Warner remained calm.

Someone had to.

"There's very few guys that have been here," offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. "Kurt's belief that we could do it has never wavered. We said it in the offseason last year, 'We can do something special.' But we had to overcome whatever we're facing. We set that goal that we were not going to be denied."

Said left guard Reggie Wells: "We've been through some battles. That's just what we do. We fully expect guys to make plays when they have to."

Case in point: a fourth-and-1 play from the Eagles 49 with 7:57 left. The Cardinals could have punted, but they gave the ball to Hightower, who darted around the right end for 6 precious yards.

"I felt it was so close that we were going to get it," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "When it came up short, I just felt like we were going to get it, so it wasn't that hard a call. I understand the situation and where (the ball) was, but the way our offensive line has played the last few weeks, I felt like we were going to get it."

When an offense amasses 369 yards with relative ease, it seems all things are possible. What has bolstered that attitude is the Cardinals' ability to overcome doubts and inexperience.

"That's what this season has been about," Hightower said. "We've been through a lot of ups and downs and all kinds of adversity. We've had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We've experienced every single kind of adversity you can experience. In a situation like this, you know you've been tested and you come through and you prevail."

If that method works in two weeks, the Cardinals will walk away with a Super Bowl title.

Cardinals 7 17 0 8 32
Eagles 3 3 13 6 25


Half the effort

The Cardinals' first-half offensive numbers Sunday compared with those of the Giants and Vikings, the Eagles' previous playoff opponents, for the entire game:

Ariz.NYGMin.

Points241114

TDs302

First downs151616

Rush yards64138148

Pass yards196169153

Total yards260307301

NFC Championship Game: Once again, the Arizona Cardinals rely on their offense for a victory over Philadelphia Eagles 01/18/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 6:52am]

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