It's New Years eve and I hope everyone has a safe but eventful night tonight. The end of the decade is now officially here, but there's certainly no need to dwell on the past. The Cardinals undoubtedly had a tough stretch of seasons to start the 2000's, but they redeemed themselves in the last two. Ken Whisenhunt has drastically turned around one of the worst franchises in NFL history, and he's done it in less then 3 years. We like to go out with a bang at Revenge Of The Birds, and that leads me to my next point. We discussed the Cardinals top 10 draft picks of the decade earlier, but now we'll touch on something bigger - the Cardinals top 10 memorable games. Memorable games don't always have to be the big ones, or the victories, but the games that stand out to you when it comes to the Cardinals. We deliberated, and we were able to narrow it down to ten. Here they are.
10. "Cards Get the Stadium" November 5, 2000 Cardinals 16, Redskins 15
Aeneas Williams' 103 yard fumble return gives the Cards the first score of the game, while Michael Pittman essentially scores the game-winning touchdown in the 3rd quarter. The defense holds off the Redskins to give the Cardinals a dramatic victory the Sunday before the stadium vote, which barely passes. It's completely subjective to think this game was the deciding factor in the initiative passing but if it hadn't, it's pretty likely Los Angeles would have an NFL franchise right now called the Cardinals and The Valley would be bedecked in Cowboys blue once more.
In a game that took place earlier this month, the Arizona Cardinals faced the Minnesota Vikings on the Sunday night stage. The match-up had recently been flexed to a night game with playoff implications on the line. The Vikings were the heavy favorites to win the game, despite the Cardinals lead in the NFC West. After an early fumble that resulted in a touchdown from Brett Favre, most were thinking the Cardinals had fallen back into old inconsistent habits. Instead, the Cardinals added 30 straight points to the dismay of the nation. The ageless Brett Favre looked more confused then ever by the defense, throwing two interceptions on the night. The biggest surprise was the Cardinals run-defense, that held the NFL's best running back - Adrian Peterson - to 19 rushing yards. The Cardinals performed the upset and proved just how dangerous they can be to everyone who was watching.
8. "The Goal line Stand" November 10th, 2008 Cardinals 29, 49ers 24
Although the 49ers entered the game virtually out of the playoffs, they hoped to spoil the Cardinals only Monday night appearance of the season. San Francisco and Arizona had become a rivalry over the years, which made this game even more intense. The 49ers immediately jumped out in front, with Alan Rossum returning the opening kick-off for a touchdown. The Cardinals responded, but still trailed at the half. When the game continued, things became closer, with both teams scoring back and forth. Anquan Boldin scored the game's final touchdown with four minutes remaining. The 49ers responded by marching up the field with the intent on landing the knockout blow. When they were able to get to the goal line, it only seemed that the end was near for the Cardinals. After some poor clock management on the 49ers part, they were forced to call a fullback draw with back-up running back Michael Robinson. The Cardinals stopped the 49ers, and held on to the goal line stand in one of the most competitive games in Cardinals history.
It was the beginning of the decade when the Cardinals traveled to Philadelphia to face their then division rivals. After a Kyle Vanden Bosch fumble recovery for a touchdown, and a Jake Plummer touchdown pass, the Cardinals immediately jumped out to a 14-0 lead. The Eagles battled back, and after two Todd Pinkston touchdowns and two field goals, they took the lead, 20-14. Jake Plummer and the Cardinals offense moved up field with little time remaining in the fourth quarter, hoping to steal the game from the Eagles in front of their home crowd. With 17 seconds left in the game, Plummer scrambled out of the pocket, threw a 35 yard pass to wide receiver MarTay Jenkins, who then forced his way into the end zone. As the crowd watched in disbelief, the Cardinals piled onto Jenkins in celebration. The Eagles couldn't respond and the game was over.
6. "The Block" October 12th, 2008 Cardinals 30, Cowboys 24
2008 featured the first winning season by a Cardinals team in the last decade, and also the eventual playoff run. One of the biggest games of the year for the Cardinals outside of the playoffs was the week six match-up against the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas was one of the better teams to start the season, and many discredited much of the Cardinals early success (largely because of the blowout to the Jets). The Cardinals began the game with a kick-off return for a touchdown, setting the tone for the entire game. A shootout between both teams would eventually need to be decided in overtime after the Cowboys hit a game-tying field goal. The Cowboys won the toss but were stuffed by the Cardinals defense and were forced to punt. We all know what happened next - Sean Morey and Monty Beisel broke through the Cowboys line, blocked the punt, and ran the ball into the end zone in spectacular fashion. This was a pivotal game for the Cardinals in 2008, and may go down as one of the most memorable plays in Cardinals history.
5. "The Big Road Win" January 10th, 2009 Cardinals 33, Panthers 13
After winning in the wild card round of the playoffs, the Cardinals were forced to travel to Carolina to face the Panthers. Many gave the Cardinals no chance to win on the east coast, a place where they had drastically struggled in years past. On the Saturday night stage, the Panthers leaped into action, scoring the game's first touchdown and supporting the critics claims that the Cardinals season would end that night. Instead, a rejuvenated Cardinals' defense picked off Carolina's quarterback Jake Delhomme 5 times, and also forced a fumble. The Cardinals offense continued to roll, dropping 33 points on one of the leagues best defenses. The Cardinals won and would later move on to the NFC Championship game. Another reason this game sits so high on the list, is that it may have been the game that propelled the Cardinals to finally enjoy success on the road, proof being their 6-2 road record this season.
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With a playoff berth in sight, the Minnesota Vikings traveled to Arizona in a must-win game. The Cardinals were one of the NFL's worst teams, and it showed when Randy Moss and Co. seemed to have the game decided early. The Vikings were up 17-6 with less then two minutes remaining when Josh McCown threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to TE Steve Bush on 4th down. After a failed 2 point conversion, the Cardinals opted for the onside kick, which was recovered by Damien Anderson. The Cardinals marched down to Minnesota's 9 yard line, when McCown was sacked twice pitting them at 4th and 25. With enough time to get off one more play, Josh McCown scrambled out of the pocket and heaved a hail-mary 27 yards to the streaking Nate Poole. It was immediately ruled a touchdown as Poole tapped one foot down, and was then forced the rest of the way out. After a review, it was confirmed that he had scored the game-winning touchdown, and that the Vikings were eliminated from playoff contention. The season was over on both parts - what a way to go out.
3. "They Are Who We Thought They Were" Cardinals 23, Bears 24
It was a Monday night, and the Cardinals were showcasing their new home and their rookie franchise quarterback, Matt Leinart. The Bears were 6-0 at the time, while the struggling Cardinals were a measly 1-5. However, Arizona scored twice in their first three possessions, surprising both the Bears and the nation. They tacked on two field goals as well, taking a 20-0 lead into the half. It wasn't until the 3rd quarter when everything started to slide down hill. The offensive line missed a block that resulted in a Matt Leinart fumble, which was recovered by Bears safety Mike Brown who ran it in for a touchdown. In the 4th quarter, the usually reliable Edgerrin James was stripped by linebacker Brian Urlacher, and the Bears ran their second fumble of the game in for a touchdown. The Cardinals offense failed to add any touchdowns in the second half, and when they punted the ball away to the Bears in the 4th quarter, rookie return man Devin Hesterran the punt back 50 yards for the touchdown. Down by one point, Matt Leinart rallied the team within field goal range, only to have kicker Neil Rackers boom the kick wide left. The game was over, the crowd was shocked, and Dennis Green went on his famous rant, much like this:
The Bears are what we thought they were; they’re what we thought they were. We played them in preaseason - who the hell takes a third game of the preseason like it’s bullshit, bullshit!? We played them in the third game - everybody played three quarters — the Bears are who we thought they were! And that’s why we took the damn field. Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were, and we let ‘em off the hook!
The Cardinals had somehow managed to host the NFC Championship game at home, after upsetting the Panthers the previous round. They did receive some help (from the team they would play) when the Philadelphia Eagles knocked off the New York Giants on the road. The feeling at the stadium was ecstatic. The Cardinals were ready to shock the world, and I believe the players knew it would happen. The game began with Larry Fitzgerald continuing his amazing run, scoring the games first three touchdowns. Much like the previous playoff game, the Cardinals got off to an early lead, up 24-6 at the half. Unfortunately, they kept most fans in cardiac arrest, when they allowed the Eagles to comeback and take a 25-24 lead in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals would begin their next drive with 10:45 left in the game, and it would end when Kurt Warner threw a touchdown pass to Tim Hightower for the lead with 2:53 left on the clock. The Eagles made every attempt to tie the game, only to be stopped-short on 4th down. The crowd erupted, confetti fell from the sky, and the tune, "We Are the Champions!" could be heard throughout the stadium. The Cardinals had just made their first ever Super Bowl.
1. "Super Bowl 43" February 1st, 2009 Cardinals 23, Steelers 27
This one's still fresh in memory, so it shouldn't be too hard to describe. The Cardinals had just ran their way through the playoffs, and found themselves in the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. Their opponent was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were heavy favorites to win the big one. After ending the first half, the Cardinals had an ugly taste in their mouths from a 100 yard interception return for a touchdown. The Cardinals were forced to make the comeback, and scored 16 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, including a 64-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald with 2:37 remaining. Unfortunately, too much time was left on the clock, meaning the Steelers were able to march down field and score the game-winning touchdown. This game will be forever embed into our brains and the only way to wash it out is for the Cardinals to actually win the Super Bowl - maybe this year.
That's it for the 2000's, and I hope the Cardinals bring us another set of memorable games in the next ten years. As a new years resolution, I think it's only fair for the Cardinals to aim to win the Super Bowl this year. What are your thoughts on the top 10 memorable games and which one's would you add/remove?