Entering the playoffs with a 9-7 record, Cris Collinsworth called them the worst playoff team in history. He got to eat his word a bit as the Cardinals were this close to being world champions.
However, even with their Super Bowl run, they were one of the worst teams to make it to the Super Bowl, according to Athon Sports. But they weren't the worst team.
They were the fourth-worst team.
The greatest season in Arizona Cardinals franchise history is largely the product of great timing and having all of the breaks go your way, at least up until the game that counts the most. Arizona won the NFC West with a 9-7 record that included a spotless divisional mark (6-0) thanks to one of the top scoring offenses in the league at 26.7 points per game.
The flip side of this, however, is the fact that the rest of the Cardinals' division went a combined 13-35, as they beat just two teams in the regular season that finished with a winning record and stumbled into the postseason losing four of their final six games. A suspect defense (team finished with +1 point differential in regular season), caught a break in the Wild Card round when it got to face Atlanta rookie quarterback Matt Ryan making his first career playoff start on the road. The Cardinals then got plenty of help from Carolina's Jake Delhomme, who tossed five interceptions at home in their Divisional matchup. Arizona claimed its first conference championship with a 32-25 home victory over No. 6 seed Philadelphia, thanks to a late Kurt Warner touchdown pass and despite being out-gained by the Eagles (454 to 369).
In the Super Bowl, Arizona had its chance to completely cash in on all of its good fortune, fighting back from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit against Pittsburgh to take a 23-20 lead on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Warner to Larry Fitzgerald with less than three minutes remaining. Alas, it was not meant to be, as Ben Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes in the end zone with 42 seconds left for one of the more memorable plays in Super Bowl history, much to the chagrin of the Cardinals and their fans.
Cardinals fans know that they had a very fortunate postseason when they got to play at home for the NFC Championship because the Giants lost to the Eagles. They played in an awful division. But we'll take it.
Who were the three team worse than Arizona? They were the 2003 Carolina Panthers that lost the big game 32-29 to the Patriots on an Adam Vinitieri field goal with four seconds left in the game. Number two was the 1979 Rams and the worst team was the 1985 Patriots.
What do we take from this? That you have to figuratively pay the piper. Their Super Bowl run was probably undeserved in many ways. However, come back to the present and you have a 10-6 Cardinals team playing in the best division in football, who beat the Seahawks at on the road, and they don't make the postseason. As they say about karma....
For those that believe in the universe balancing itself out, let us hope that this past season's missing the playoffs fixes the imbalance of a flawed team almost getting a championship. That way, this next year's team can hopefully make the postseason on its own merits this time around and have success with a team who has many players getting up there in age.