The veteran quarterback Kurt Warner threw two touchdown passes before orchestrating an Arizona Cardinals fightback as they clinched a thrilling victory over the Atlanta Falcons in their NFC wildcard play-off. NFC West champions Arizona raced into an early 14-3 lead, but trailed 17-14 at half-time, before taking control with 14 unanswered points in the third quarter to take control of the game and ultimately secure their victory.
Despite having lost four of their last six games in the regular season, Arizona held off Atlanta's much-vaunted rushing offence with running back Edgerrin James outgaining Michael Turner, the league's number two rusher. Competing in their first play-off game at home in 61 years, the Cardinals outscored the Falcons by four touchdowns to three in front of a delighted home crowd. "I hope this gives us a lot of confidence," Warner said.
"I knew we believed we could win this game. I hope we can parlay this into some more confidence and believe we can go wherever we have to go and win." The Cardinals opened the scoring with a superb touchdown early in the first quarter, receiver Larry Fitzgerald grabbing a 42-yard pass from Warner. Neil Rackers converted to put Arizona 7-0 ahead. Jason Elam kicked a 30-yard field goal for the Falcons to cut the deficit to 7-3, but Warner delivered a short pass to receiver Anquan Boldin for a 71-yard touchdown to stretch their lead to 11 points.
However, the tide turned Atlanta's way in the last three minutes of the half as they scored twice in quick succession. Turner took advantage of a defensive lapse by the Cardinals to score, with Elam kicking the point after to make it 14-10. On the stroke of half-time, the Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan found tight end Justin Peelle with a two-yard pass for a touchdown and Elam's kick putting the Falcons ahead
Arizona regained the lead in the third quarter as free safety Antrel Rolle and running back Tim Hightower went over for scores that put them up 28-17 up. After conceding a safety in the fourth quarter, Atlanta scored their third touchdown when Roddy White caught a five-yard pass from Ryan, but Arizona held on to go through. * Reuters