Arizona Wins One of the Wackiest Games Ever with the Whole Nation Watching

By Laura Healy

“You’ve got to be kidding me! By far and away the craziest, nuttiest, fruit bowl of a game I have ever seen!” Ron Wolfley, the Cardinals analyst yelled right after the Cardinals stopped the San Fransisco 49ers on the 1-yard line to win 29-24.

“Synergy” was nonexistent. The opening kickoff returned by the 49ers for a touchdown. The punter was horrible, especially when it mattered most. The defense had two interceptions returned for touchdowns called back because of offsides calls. A fifteen-yard Personal Foul on linebacker Karlos Dansby allowed San Fransisco to keep the ball. Everything tells you Arizona lost. In the past they would have, but no longer.

These are the kind of games, whacky, ugly and yet WON, that are the mark of a very good team. Arizona showed everyone watching the game, and proved to themselves, they could win a game like this. Arizona took one more step toward being in the upper echelon of teams in the NFL. Last year, they would have lost, as they did against the 49ers in overtime. Now, there’s quite a different story being written by this team from the desert. Cardinals fans should be stoked. This is not “the same ol’ Cardinals.”

When 49ers Rossum returned the opening kickoff for a TD, Arizona didn’t panic. When QB Kurt Warner missed an open WR Larry Fitzgerald for a TD on the ensuing drive, Arizona didn’t panic. When Arizona failed to convert any drive in the 1st quarter, Arizona didn’t panic. Early in the second quarter San Fransisco scored a pass TD, making the score 14-3. Arizona didn’t panic. The fact that Coach Ken Whisenhunt emphasized winning at home and the raucous crowd propelled the Cardinals on. Then Warner found WR Steve Breaston for 18-yards and the big play of 46-yards. This got the Cards offense and defense, fully engaged in the game.

Arizona added another FG, making the score 14-13, San Fransisco. The next trip for the 49ers ended with an incredible TD catch made by San Fransisco’s TE Veron Davis. Arizona’s Safety Adrian Wilson blanketed him, but Davis caught it anyway. The teams went into Halftime with San Fransisco leading the Cardinals, 21-13.

Starting the 3rd quarter, the 49ers scored a FG, and the Cards punched it in for a TD, making it a 24-20. That’s when insanity took over. And by insanity I mean Arizona did everything they could to give away points, with the referees helping. Warner hit WR Anquan Boldin to the S.F. 10, but the play was brought back because of a phantom Offensive Pass Interference on Boldin. Arizona punted. The rest of the game was on the defensive side of the ball, with Warner mostly watching. The ensuing drive, S Antrel Rolle returned an INT for a TD, but S Wilson was called offsides.  Wilson at least redeemed himself by jumping through the A-gap to interfere with SF’s QB Shaun Hill handing it off to RB Frank Gore, and DE Clark Haggans recovered the fumble. Arizona scored another FG. 24-23.

Then after each team punted, Wilson intercepted QB Hill and returned it for a TD. But that was nullified by DE Darnell Dockett’s offside penalty. Three plays later, LB Dansby dropped back and intercepted the ball, returning it to the five. Arizona immediately pounced! Warner hit Boldin for a TD, making the score 29-24, Cardinals at 4:16 of the fourth quarter. On third down of the next San Fransisco drive, the Cards defense stopped QB Hill short of the marker. But Dansby was called for Unnecessary Roughness, a complete bone-headed move that kept the drive going. The 49ers moved it deep into Arizona territory, until Wilson picked off Hill.

With only 2:24 left in the game, Coach Whisenhut played it safe and punted the ball back to the 49ers at 1:06. Punter Dirk Johnson kicked his worst punt all season. San Fransisco started at the Arizona 42-yard line. The defense took the next three plays off, and San Fransisco got it down to the 1-yard line. Confusion reigned on the San Fran sideline because of the antagonism of Head Coach Mike Singeltary towards Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz. QB Hill let the clock run from :52 all the way down to :21 before spiking it.

On the next play, Chike Okeafor deserves to get the game ball for reaching out and touching RB Frank Gore. He caused Gore to lose his stride and go down before he could score. Again, to add to the nuttiness of the game, Hill spiked the ball. Then the officials said it didn’t count because they were reviewing the play. They upheld the call. The referee announced the ball would be spotted at the 2 ½ -yard line. Inexplicably, Martz chose to run the ball up the middle with RB Michael Robinson while Gore split out to the right. The Cardinals D stepped up, secured victory, and ran down the field celebrating to the cheers of 60,000+ fans.

Later, 49ers Head Coach Singletary put the blame on Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz. Martz said he thought the ball was placed at the 1-yard line. He had a package for the 49ers due to that. I guess he needs a hearing aid, because the Referee announced where the ball was spotted. Will the 49ers be like other teams, who after falling to the Cardinals go on losing streaks? I don’t know. But I do know this, to be a Head Coach or Offensive Coordinator in the NFL, you should just man-up and accept responsibility.

I knew it would be a tough game for Arizona. San Fransisco came off their bye week. What could be better than going into the opponent’s house and stealing the game on Monday Night Football? 49ers QB Hill finished 19/40 for 217-yards, 2 TD, and 2 INT. Cardinals QB Warner finished 32/42 for 328-yards, 3 TD, 0 INT and a QB Rating of 120.9. Warner took care of his business and left it up to the Defense; thus making the game one of “craziest, nuttiest, fruit bowl of a game I have ever seen!” to quote Wolfley. In the past, they would have folded, and hung their heads in shame. Not this team! The key is, Arizona won the day. The offense was great; the defense came up with three big turnovers (despite having 2 TD’s called back and 14 points taken away because of penalties); and most importantly, the fans were screaming their guts out. Even in the aftermath, when Warner came and sat with the commentators from ESPN, and from the stands came the cheer, “Warner for MVP! Warner for MVP!”

Yep, I think this team is special.