NFC Divisional 2009: Cardinals put a cheese grater to the Panthers

The Arizona Cardinals rushed eastward to arm-wrestle the Carolina Panthers for the NFC Divisional title.   Televised by Fox, the first quarter blazed off with a Panthers touchdown courtesy of running back Jonathan Stewart.  Carolina 7 and Arizona 0.  Towards the bottom of the quarter, Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner threw fifty yards to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald–an awesome, gravity-defying catch as he was betwixt two Panthers.  A couple of plays later, Cardinals running back Tim Hightower made a TD.   Both teams tied 7.   Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme was sacked when his team went on offense again.  The ball was momentarily master-less.  Cardinals defensive end Antonio Smith claimed the ball.  Shortly thereafter, running back Edgerrin James broke the tie with a TD.  Arizona 14 and Carolina 7.

The second quarter started with Jake Delhomme throwing an interception–Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie took that pigskin baby away from its destination.  The result? A forty-nine field goal by Neil Rackers.  Another field goal around five minutes gave Arizona another numerical boost.  Arizona 20 and Carolina 7.  The Pantherse gave the ball back to the Cardinals much sooner than intended on account of another interception (made by linebacker Gerald Hayes).   Not long afterwards, Larry Fitzgerald got his left hand across the front, right corner of the end zone.  It was ruled a TD.  Cardinals 27 and Panthers 7.  Seconds before the first half ended, Neil Rackers missed a fifty-three yard field goal.

The third quarter gurgled forth about seven minutes with Panthers linebacker Jon Beason intercepting a Kurt Warner pass meant for Larry Fitzgerald.  Cardinals cornerback Antrel Rolle flipped the switch back by recovering Delhomme’s pass aimed towards wide receiver Steve Smith.   And then there was another Cardinals field goal.  Arizona 30 and Carolina 7.  Well Holly Lou Yah.  Steve Smith made his first reception of the game with roughly forty-five seconds left on the clock.

The fourth quarter beat out what was surely supposed to be a Panthers TD.  Instead, it was Jake Delhomme’s fourth interception of the evening.  Cardinals cornerback Ralph Brown got his torso to the ball in the end zone.  Minutes later…cornerback Roderick Hood intercepted Delhomme a fifth time.   The Cardinals hopped up three more points when Neil Rackers kicked in a twenty-yard field goal on the three minute mark.  Arizona 33 and Carolina 7.   Final score? Not yet.  Steve Smith made it into the end zone with under ninety seconds left.  Arizona 33 and Carolina 14.

Observations & Miscellania:

1. Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston provided commentary.  Johnston was not enthusiastic about the second field goal for Arizona in the second quarter.  “I do not like this,” he remarked more than once.  He would’ve wanted the Cardinals to go for another touchdown (from the Carolina 13).

2.  After throwing his second interception in the second quarter, replay footage showed Jake Delhomme grunting “spammit” and “phuck.”

3.  One of the cameras cut to a medium shot of Jake Delhomme sitting on the bench.  He was in the middle of the screen, looking towards screen-right.  He looked dazed, befuddled, and as though he would let the tear ducts go into gear if he were by himself.  O, mon pauvre hommeC’est aujourd’hui son anniversaire.   My poor man.   Today is his birthday.  Aish.

4.  During some sidelines footage near the halfway mark of the fourth quarter (before Tim Hightower got to the Carolina 31), in a medium shot, Larry Fitzgerald went up to an elderly gentleman (assigned to hold the down marker) and asked if he was all right.  The old man nodded.  I wonder if it was because he was nearly taken to the ground on the previous play.  It was so precious.

5.  After returning to the game from the two-minute warning commercial break, one of the cameras showed Mark Dalton, the Cardinals’ Director of Media Relations, with Kurt Warner on the sidelines.  Dalton was chewing gum.  I wonder what brand and flavor.  Is he a Stride kind of man? Orbit? Trident? Big Red? Juicy Fruit?

Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.

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