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Haunting Horton

Posted by Darren Urban on April 8, 2011 – 11:19 am

It doesn’t take much to change the outcome of a game. Ray Horton has seen that a couple of times, in a couple of instances when it couldn’t have been on a bigger stage.

In doing an interview with the Cards’ new defensive coordinator the other day, the subject of the little things – and Super Bowls – came up. Don’t forget, Horton was on the defensive staff of that Steelers’ team that beat the Cards a couple of years ago. We started talking about the interception return of linebacker James Harrison right before halftime (careful, don’t throw things at the computer screen).

Afterward, Horton said, he figured the coaching staff watched that play 50 times over and over. He can tell you exactly where everyone on both teams was and ended up. Despite claims by Kurt Warner to the contrary, Horton said the Cards lined up for that play just like they had all season. But Harrison, a linebacker, decided not to blitz as called and for some reason stayed home.

(This is the stomach-punch part of the post, so if you’re faint of heart, look away now).

“You can look at each guy and think, ‘If one guy does one thing different, he doesn’t score,’ ” Horton said of Harrison’s 100-yard touchdown. “It was a dramatic play and it turned the game around. It won or lost that Super Bowl.

“Really, if James Harrison would have done what he was supposed to do … the play (the Cards called) was a perfect play and they would have scored, walked in and probably won the game. But because one guy did something different … the ramifications …”

Horton knows of ramifications. Because if you ask him what play during his 10-year NFL career sticks out, it’s a play just like that – and for Horton, it had the same painful type of result.

He was playing for the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII, the one where Montana hit John Taylor for a game-winning 10-yard touchdown with 30-some seconds to go – just barely past the outstretched fingers of a diving Horton.

The play the Bengals had called was to double-team both Taylor and Jerry Rice (who had 11 catches for 215 yards that day), the right call for the formation. But then Rice went in motion – a change-up – and Horton thought, “We’re screwed.” He thought about calling time out but didn’t, which still sticks with him.

While we talked, Horton jumped up to scribble the play on a white board to explain what happened. Safety David Fulcher was supposed to come across for Taylor. Horton was supposed to stay with Rice, but he quickly realized Rice was the diversion. He tried to jump back and make the play. He just missed the ball, and was lying in the end zone as Taylor finished off the play.

“We are sitting on the bus on the way back and David said, ‘Ray, I could’ve picked that ball, I had nothing to do,’ ” Horton remembered. “I said, ‘I know. I know.’

“It still haunts me.”


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37 Responses to “Haunting Horton”

  1. By David Parra on Apr 8, 2011 | Reply

    That was indeed harsh Darren. The James Harrison play was only one play. The final drive actually hurt alot more because if I remember correct Big Ben and Santonio Holmes connected on a couple of 3rd and longs, and even a fourth down. It still was a great game, but very painful to see the outcome in the end.

  2. By D on Apr 8, 2011 | Reply

    I’ll blame Q who stood there and didn’t appear to give an effort on the chase and Rolle who slowed down Fitz on the sidelines…Ohh well, the positive is that the Steelers lost last year!

  3. By Christian on Apr 8, 2011 | Reply

    Well the game was only half over, anything could have happened. But a field goal would have been nice. Cards had many chances to win the game, and I dont think you can blame it on that one play. In the last 3 minutes we let the steelers drive down the field for the go ahead TD. Something our D keeps having problems with in the Whiz era, blowing the lead late in the game (besides the goal line stand against 49ers).

  4. By John the draft guy on Apr 8, 2011 | Reply

    Great story.
    It makes me think Horton will pay attention to details. You have to like that.

  5. By Eazy E on Apr 8, 2011 | Reply

    Horton is a smart guy and great choice by the whiz.

  6. By brad oneill on Apr 8, 2011 | Reply

    oh was that a third and short in the red zone where timmie was money that whole year and Whiz decided to throw? I think that is where the third and short throw it every time nightmare began.

  7. By DirtybirD on Apr 8, 2011 | Reply

    Hey Darren, great story. It’s true, even the little details can have a big effect on a outcome. Well off to the store to buy a new computer screen! THANKS DARREN!

  8. By drummer-1 on Apr 8, 2011 | Reply

    @ brad oneill

    i guess you are one the fans that blame Whiz for everything bad that the team does, but refuse to give him credit for the good things,8-8, 9-7, 10-6, 5-11 like going to the playoff 2 of the 4 years he’s been, 6-2 in the playoff, but you would probably say that was because Warner and Haley..even though Haley wasn’t here in 09 and we had a better record. You just blamed Whiz for making a bad call even though a coach for the other team said the cards had the right play called. Name a better coach that the cardinals have had in the last 15 years..

  9. By Kurt on Apr 8, 2011 | Reply

    Reflecting back to superbowl, what stands out
    1) Fitz splitting the midddle for a touchdown
    2) How cool Kurt Warner kept
    3) Boldin’s hissy fit on the sidelines
    4) Dockett’s monster game

    and how proud we were of them all

  10. By AndyStandsUp on Apr 8, 2011 | Reply

    Good to see he worked with David Fulcher, the former ASU player who originated the “Devil” back position. That guy was Adrian Wilson before Adrian Wilson- size and aggressiveness suited for a LB, yet the speed of a safety.
    Hopefully, he can right the scheme with Wilson’s coverage skills.

  11. By Darren Urban on Apr 8, 2011 | Reply

    AndyStands —

    REL Fulcher

    You did read the part where Fulcher didn’t make the play in coverage, right?

  12. By AndyStandsUp on Apr 8, 2011 | Reply

    @Darren,
    Of course I read the part about Fulcher not making the play. Horton didn’t either, does that make him any less of a player?
    Fitz and Warner couldn’t tackle Harrison on that SB return, should they have benched? Wilson, Dockett and DRC struggled last year, should they be burned in a pyre? Bill Bidwill like vanilla ice cream, does that mean he should have his fingers cut off, eyes gouged by a red hot poker, shot 3 times at close range and dragged 5 miles by school bus of mentally challenged kids?
    Okay, I reacted – Larry and Kurt should have been benched.

  13. By Brad W on Apr 8, 2011 | Reply

    Fulcher doesn’t make the play in coverage….hmmm….sounds just like A Wilson, i love his intensity but Geeze he’s easily our worst in pass coverage, hopefully Ray H can turn that around!

  14. By andres on Apr 8, 2011 | Reply

    adding to what drummer-1 said the 2 losses in the playoffs are to guess who oh ya the super bowl champion of each of those playoffs (saints and steelers). so what that means is the cards lost to the best football teams of those seasons yup what a crap coach (said sarcasticly).

  15. By Jeff Gollin on Apr 9, 2011 | Reply

    Woulda Coulda.

    Just as the baseball season is considered “a 162-game marathon”, pro football is a marathon season marked by a plethora* of games, games within games, plays within plays etc. etc. – all of which serve to influence and determine the outcome of a season.

    I’m guessing that there were probably at least a couple of penalties or missed assignments elsewhere that also influenced the outcome of that Super Bowl.

    Which brings to the forefront the importance of consistency (because you never know whether a missed block, blown coverage, false start or roughness penalty might turn out to be a season-decider several weeks later.

    (* I finally got the chance to use the word, “plethora.” (My Dad – RIP – once wouldn’t let me sit down to dinner until I looked up the meaning of that word in the dictionary).

  16. By drummer-1 on Apr 9, 2011 | Reply

    My mistake it was a 4-2 record in the playoff, I guess i got a little excited there.lol

  17. By Jon L on Apr 9, 2011 | Reply

    Hey Darren,
    I saw that the Cards are going to work out brooks Reed which is very exciting. He is a terror for opposing QB’s. I’m sure Reed would also love to play for the cards being an AZ native and all. If Reed is still available in the second round do you think the cards will go for him even if they somehow get Von Miller in the first round?

  18. By Pheenic Skii on Apr 9, 2011 | Reply

    I still think that the Cardinals should’ve won that Superbowl. The 4th Quarter calls were ridiculous. But whatever. I guess we’ll just have to win one fair and square in the future.

  19. By Peter in Canada on Apr 9, 2011 | Reply

    Brad Oneill – I believe since there was about 10 seconds on the clock they had to call a pass play. If the run was called and stopped, time would probably have expired but an incomplete pass would have given them time to kick a field goal. Anyway, it was one of the all-time great games, I enjoyed it immensely, was proud as hell of the players and I believe that if the game was 62 instead of 60 minutes we would have got the winning touchdown. Amen.

  20. By redbird1223 on Apr 9, 2011 | Reply

    all I know for sure is that there’s no way fatboy james harrison beats all of my recievers and hightower for 100 yard dash without some holding and illegal blocks- which weren’t called
    I also clearly remember 3 qb sacks in the endzone for safeties in the fourth quarter, finally the last one was called. Even the announcer said something about it, then he points out how lopsided the penelty calls had been all night, something like 3 for pittsburg and 11 for arizona halfway through the fourth. It was the worst refereed fourth quarter ever- and still the most exciting bowl I’ve watched by miles.
    It’s not as good as a real Lombardi trophy, but I took a huge moral victory home cause we came back after that 14 point swing and had them against the wall.
    In the end we ran circles around them and they know that – bet they still dream about Larry’s dreads flopping 15 yards in front of them, arms wide open. wakin up all sweaty and out of breath HAHAHAHA GET EM BOYS you’ll all see RED soon enough!!!!

  21. By DoblerFan on Apr 9, 2011 | Reply

    Hum, Harririson’s 100 yd return. What a crazy play. It had to be brought back up. S*** happens. Ya can’t really practice that. Corad Dobler would have knocked his knees out. Harrison likes it rough, well he gets it rough!

    The main thing is that some of us long time Cardinal Fans can now believe that there is not a curse on the team since we know we could of easily won that game.

  22. By Scott H on Apr 9, 2011 | Reply

    Kurt –

    I’m with you, bro. When I look back at that game, I don’t feel heartbreak. Yeah, it would have been awesome to win that game. But from the moment that game ended right up to now, I’ve never been anything but as proud as I could possibly be of the game the Cardinals played that day. After no one took them seriously and jack asses like Cris Collinsworth called them the worst team in the history of the playoffs ( real good call, Cris ), they found another gear during that post-season run and by the time they made it to the SB, they had truly proven that they WERE the best team in the NFC, period. They played like they belonged and gave the Steelers all they could handle. The NFL Network recently ranked that game as the best SB of all time. And it was a great game because the Cardinals made it a great game. I’ll NEVER forget how great it was during the two weeks leading up to the game when the Cardinals were at the center of the sports universe, and how cool it was to host a SB party with my team playing!

  23. By Steve on Apr 9, 2011 | Reply

    Darren: I know you’ve said you think Cards are not looking QB with their 1st pick, however if Gabbert ends up being the pick how surprised would you be?

  24. By Darren Urban on Apr 10, 2011 | Reply

    Jon L —

    RE: Brooks Reed

    Obviously they are looking at him but no, if they get Miller, I’d doubt they’d go pass rusher again in the second round.

  25. By Darren Urban on Apr 10, 2011 | Reply

    Steve —

    RE: QB first

    I would be more surprised if they take Green than Gabbert, but, depending on who is on the board, I will be surprised if they take a QB.

  26. By johnnybluenose on Apr 10, 2011 | Reply

    harrison’s td run will always hurt. if all our cardinals had hustled on that play someone would have stopped him. if kurt had just fallen down in front of the steeler leading the way for harrison there would have been a big pile-up and no touchdown. and at least one of our guys, who was in good position to make the tackle, gets a solid two hand shove in the back by a steeler and there is no penalty called. don’t get me started !!

  27. By R Robles on Apr 10, 2011 | Reply

    Bad Tackling & coverage last drive we gave it to them Ben shoulda been sacked several times. Heartbreaking but leads to a stronger hunger to get back there & win us A Super Bowl

  28. By Brad O'Neill on Apr 10, 2011 | Reply

    Drummer-I actually think whiz is one of the best coaches in the league. The only problem i have with him is his insistence on throwing on third and short. If I was the cardinals I would still sign the guy for life if I could. The reason i didnt like that call is because it was just to dangerous. the only way pittsburg scores in that instance is if “we” throw a pic to a guy running the other way. A deep route is safe, a run is safe, over the middle in the back of the endzone is safe, putting it too the outside or shallow inside is the only way that ball is returnable if picked and even then it should not have gone all the way.

  29. By cardsalltheway on Apr 10, 2011 | Reply

    Darren,
    I heard Kerry Rhodes is/was playing catch with Tom Brady, do you know why he’s not playing with J. Skelton? Or, who else is playing with others? Maybe since Ken W. has not named “Our Guy” this year nobody wants to play with each other.

  30. By cardsalltheway on Apr 10, 2011 | Reply

    Supposedly, K. Rhodes tweeted that information, any other Cardinal tweets you know about?

  31. By John on Apr 10, 2011 | Reply

    It’s funny how people talk about the defense or who didnt tackle who on the return on that play. The 2 errors of that play were 1.) the play called, which was the most moronic play-call in history and 2.) Kurt Warner throwing it right to the guy. It was handed to them on a silver platter, I honestly didnt blame anyone for not tackling him, it was just that ridiculous.

  32. By Darren Urban on Apr 11, 2011 | Reply

    cardscalltheway —

    RE: Rhodes

    Rhodes has worked out in L.A. with guys like Brady and Leinart for years.

    I didn’t see that tweet. I know Fitz tweeted about getting in a workout, but he doesn’t say with who (if anyone).

  33. By Darren Urban on Apr 11, 2011 | Reply

    John —

    RE: Playcall

    You are not the first person to complain about the playcall. But explain this to me — you or anyone else: Horton himself said it was the perfect play call for that defense, and what ruined it was Harrison freelancing on his own and not blitzing. I’m not sure how the playcall can be ripped when it was the right one for the defense?

    Sometimes, guys just make plays.

  34. By drummer-1 on Apr 11, 2011 | Reply

    I tthink it was a great call, some fans wanted Ken W. to run the ball,but if you only have 18 sec. left on the clock no timeouts you pass the ball. the correct call, just a better defensive play. Like i said in an earlier post anything thats goes wrong witha play or with the team it’s going to be Whiz fault. I can’t figure out the dislike for coach Whiz…

  35. By jocards on Apr 11, 2011 | Reply

    @ drummer-1

    Folks react in all sorts of ways to a 5 win season but one of them is to rip the coach. I’ll admit that I didn’t think the QB situation was handled correctly in the preseason but I believe the backslide on the field we saw was largely due to the players we lost in the off season (Warner, Dansby, Boldin…mostly Warner) and a general lack of execution on the part of the entire team. Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe that coach Whisenhunt had his best year coaching last season but I tend to place more blame on the guys that were actually on the field. With that said I think every coach and every player needs to be better than they were last season.

  36. By cardsalltheway on Apr 12, 2011 | Reply

    Darren,
    You’re getting good at that talking to the NFL.com stuff:)

  37. By Darren Urban on Apr 12, 2011 | Reply

    cardsalltheway —

    RE: TV stuff

    Hey, the more you can do, right?

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