Antrel Rolle was exhausted and he said as much in the locker room after Sunday’s 51-45 overtime win. Rolle had an excuse, since he had barely practiced for two weeks before taking part in the Wild Card track meet. But I don’t know how the Cards can’t be shot, mentally and physically, and now they have one less day before traveling cross country for another playoff game.
Then again, as Adrian Wilson said without hesitation, “Next.”
What a game. The range of emotions … I mean, I was like everyone else in the building, believing it was over when Neil Rackers trotted on to the field, and believing it was over when the Packers won the coin flip before overtime. Turns out I was wrong on both counts. “It’s one of those games you hate to play great and not go away with a victory,” quarterback Kurt Warner said, and fortunately, the Cards don’t have to worry about that.
It’s getting late (that’s pretty much an Aftermath theme, no?) so some of my post-midnight thoughts:
— Larry Fitzgerald joked that Warner was going to play another four or five years. That’s not going to happen, but man, it’ll be tough to see him walk away knowing he still can play like this. How are these numbers, by the way: In Warner’s last three playoff games – the NFC Championship, the Super Bowl, and Sunday – Warner has 1,035 yards passing and 12 touchdown passes. That’s just sick.
— I do not want to get into the whole Anquan Boldin debate right now, and I will say for the record I hope Boldin can make it back for the Saints game because I think that would be important. But – and it may simply be coincidence – Warner has thrown 10 touchdown passes (with zero interceptions) in the two games Boldin has missed, at Chicago and then Sunday against Green Bay. They were the Cards’ two highest scoring games of the season.
— Oh, did anyone notice the Cards gouged the NFL’s top rushing defense for 156 yards? It was the quietest big rushing day I’ve ever seen. Beanie Wells had 91 yards on 14 carries and it was lost in the shuffle. The Cards averaged 6.8 yards a carry. Take that, Rodney Harrison.
— LaRod Stephens-Howling played a impressive offensive role. He made a big catch for a first down in the red zone to set up the Cards’ first TD and added an 18-yard run (which also had a facemask penalty tagged on the back end) to set up another score. “It felt good to be in the offense as much as I was today,” he said. “That’s just an electric feeling to be out there.”
— What a physical battle between Fitzgerald and Charles Woodson today. Woodson got his hands up in the facemask of Fitzgerald on one play – isn’t that a penalty? – and then stripped Fitzgerald for a big fumble that may have kept the Cards from sealing the game much, much earlier than it was. But Fitzgerald slipped Woodson later for his first TD when Woodson fell down, and then Fitzgerald made a beautiful, diving one-handed catch for a touchdown after giving a little love tap to Woodson – isn’t that a penalty? – to clear some space. Woodson may be named NFL defensive player of the year this week, but Fitz gets to keep playing.
— Absolutely love seeing Gabe Watson and Darnell Dockett in the backfield. Dockett is lobbying for the ball. Coach Ken Whisenhunt, at least hearing it from Dockett, might not be all that keen on the idea. Still, with the way Fox broke down Dockett’s blocking on Tim Hightower’s touchdown Sunday, “I’m definitely going to TiVo that play if nothing else.”
— The Packers averaged exactly one turnover per game this season. Sunday, they had three. The Packers averaged 2.5 turnovers forced per game. Sunday, they had one. Just a huge victory by the Cards, who were turnover-creating machines in the playoffs last year as well.
— Michael Adams is one of my favorite people on the Cardinals. It’s hard not to root for the guy. So the ending against the Packers was good to see. It’s tough to remember another player playing as rocky of a game as Adams did Sunday and still getting a chance at late redemption.
— Rolle, on Aaron Rodgers: “That dude is phenomenal. He’s a true champion and a true warrior and I don’t want to play him again.” No worries, Antrel. It’s Drew Brees time. The Cards are on to the Divisional round.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Beanie Wells, Charles Woodson, Darnell Dockett, Gabe Watson, Kurt Warner, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Adams, Neil Rackers, Packers, playoffs
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