With the regular season, creeping up on us, and fans dreaming 'playoff dreams', here's a reminder of what is possible. Ten years ago the Cardinals made us dream big, isn't about time we do it again?
The 1998 Arizona Cardinals won't go down as one of the best teams to ever play this game and none of it's players are immortalized in the Hall of Fame, but they should be remembered for what they mean to Cardinals players and fans alike. You see, being a Cardinal fan isn't easy and it isn't glamorous, but for one season the Cardinals were able to hold their heads high with not only a playoff berth but a playoff win.
The Cardinals were coming off a 4-12 season in which they ranked dead last in the league in sacks allowed and rushing yards per game, but believe it or not the future looked brighter than the past. No one was talking about the playoffs but a young quarterback and the youngest defense in the league had people excited about the future. They started the season with two losses by a combined score of 71-24 and it looked like another season to throw atop the scrap heap. The next nine games would see the Cardinals turn their fortunes around though with six wins including four fourth quarter comebacks. Jake Plummer, the sophomore quarterback, showed signs of becoming not only a gritty leader but a good quarterback by tossing 13 touchdowns and passing for over 215 yards per game during that stretch. The Cardinals lose the momentum though and drop the next two games to fall to 6-7 and seemingly out of any playoff contention.
Maybe the team was to too young to know that they were dead or maybe Jake 'the Snake' simply wouldn't let them die. The 6-7 Cardinals headed to Philadelphia and found themselves trailing 17-10 midway through the fourth quarter. Jake Plummer would conjure some magic and lead them to a game-tying touchdown on a nine yard pass to Rod Moore. The game would go into overtime and a 32 yard field goal by Chris Jacke would bring the team to an even .500. The following game wouldn't be any easier when the Saints came to town but Jake's 394 yards would be just enough. The Saints scored a late touchdown to take a one point lead and Plummer would would have just 1:21 left on the clock to bring his team another victory. The offense moved down the field and got in range just in time for Jacke to kick a 36 yard field goal as time expired to give the Cardinals a two point win and an 8-7 record. The final game of the season would bring the San Diego Chargers to town and heading into the fourth quarter, the Cardinals were booking playoff tickets and counting their blessing for a win that didn't give them a heart attack. The Chargers wouldn't go quietly into the night
though and ten fourth quarter points brought the game to a tie with just 1:16 left in regulation. The 'Cardiac Cardinals' looked poised for a colossal defeat and another post season on the couch, but Jake, as usual, had other plans. He led the offense on a march that end with another last second field goal. Chris Jacke's 52 yard field goal as time expired sent the 9-7 Cardinals to the playoffs for the first time in a non-strike season since 1975.
The Cardinals probably should have probably been satisfied with a playoff berth, especially considering that when they stepped through the 'playoff door' the hated, yet aging Dallas Cowboys stood in the doorway with three rings to prove their legitimacy. The Cardinals with a young unproven quarterback and defense seemed to be just another speed bump for the Cowboys, after all they had beat them twice that season (by a combined score of 73-38) and 16 of the last 17 times they met. The team that earned the nickname 'Cardiac Cardinals' would need no come from behind magic on this day though, the defense pitched a shutout until late in the fourth quarter, terrorized Aikman all day allowing him less that 200 yards passing and forced three interceptions (two by Cardinal legend Aeneas Williams). The offense did it's part with Adrian Murrell rushing for nearly 100 yards and Jake topping 200 yards and throwing two scores. The final was a 20-7 win and the first Arizona Cardinals playoff victory since 1947.
Who knows if this 2008 version of the Arizona Cardinals can string together the same magic of the 1998 version. One thing is for sure though, we've been there before and we ready to get there again.