I was completely wrong about the Arizona Cardinals, I realized in their 30-24 victory over the Falcons to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Both of their lines were absolutely outstanding. On offense, their tackles took John Abraham out of the game, not allowing even one sack on Kurt Warner. Larry Fitzgerald and him combined to have a very nice offensive day to set the tone early. Despite the absence of Anquan Boldin throughout the game, sidelined with a bum hamstring, the passing game, gaining two hundred and seventy-one yards with a couple of touchdowns (one to Fitz and even Boldin), played wonderfully. Without a close to decent pass rush, Atlanta's secondary had absolutely no chance, no matter how well they played.

The main thing I was wrong about was how Arizona could not run the football. In this game, although not a dominating performance, they used a bad run-stopping D and Edgerrin James, who had seventy-three yards, to give the offense a nice balance, one unseen in Pheonix for quite some time but certainly welcomed. James looked dangerous, bouncing off defenders and running them over, perhaps playing with a chip on his shoulder, dissappointed with his limited regular season playing time and continued lack of respect.

The story of the game for Atlanta was sloppiness, turning the ball over a total of three times. On offense, Matt Ryan had a very inconsistent, rookie-with-talent-like game, tossing two touchdowns passes for close to two hundred yards but also giving the defense two interceptions, both of which were bad decesions and showed a lack of knowledge about the Cardinals' schemes. Also, he turned the ball over via a fumble and, while trying to lead his team back into the game, took a bad safety in the endzone. We have to remember that Ryan is still young, and it is rather difficult for a rookie to come into a wild stadium and win in his first NFL playoff game. Arizona was getting consistent pressure, to make matters even worse. And by the way, that crowd, clearly relishing their first home playoff win in sixty-one years, proved to be a big factor in the game.


Also very impressive was the play of Arizona's defensive line, which limited Michael Turner, often stuffing him in the backfield. Not letting him break loose helped the defense to force Ryan to make plays.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Falcons were also broke down in key spots. On the last meaningful play of the game, a critical 3rd-and-long that, with a stop, would have gotten them the ball back, their linebackers inexplicably covered the backs that were freed up near the line instead of tight end Stephen Spach, absolutely wide open in the middle of the field for the first down and game. That play had to just kill Atlanta fans, and leaves me still scratching my head.

So, a pretty decent game to kick off the NFL playoffs. Arizona just looked more prepared and played with more intensity, allowing Warner to make plays and containing the various weapons on the Falcons' usually potent offense. What a great win for them; they'll now play either the Panthers or Giants in an away game, depending on the Vikings-Eagles match-up of tomorrow.