Revisionist History: Charging into the ’98 playoffs

Posted by Darren Urban on June 3, 2011 – 1:02 pm

The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:

These were heady times for the Cardinals.

The team was far from dominant and weekly, the Cards were barely scraping by with wins to stay in the playoff hunt. But there they were in 1998, going into the season finale at home knowing a win over the Chargers would put them in the playoffs for the first time since the team moved to Arizona a decade earlier.

It was two days after Christmas. Quarterback Jake Plummer, all of 23 and in his second season, got his Christmas present early – a giant contract extension with a record-setting bonus of $15 million, setting up the former Arizona State star as the team’s long-term franchise QB. (In hindsight, Plummer wasn’t quite that guy and left as a free agent after the extension expired after the 2002 season.) Having Plummer around was the reason the Cardinals were able to make a one-sided trade with the Chargers for the rights to take the infamous Ryan Leaf – at the time, the trade got the Cards Andre Wadsworth in the 1998 draft and David Boston with the extra pick in the 1999 draft, and both looked like good ideas for a while.

But that was just back story for the real story: a chance to make the playoffs. And once again, it was harder than it probably should have been. Safety Kwamie Lassiter came up with a career game, making four interceptions of immortal San Diego quarterback Craig Whelihan.  And in the end, kicker Chris Jacke (pictured above) booted a 52-yard field goal on the final play to win the game.

Getting there was heart-pounding. Somehow, the Cards let Whelihan – in the middle of a horrific day, thanks to Lassiter – throw a 30-yard TD pass with 16 second left to tie the game. But Eric Metcalf picked up a squib kick on the Arizona 10-yard line and ran it all the way to the San Diego 46 with seven seconds left. A quick Plummer-to-Frank Sanders 11-yard pass gave Jacke his shot with two second on the clock.

Jacke didn’t miss. The crowd – a rare Sun Devil Stadium sellout of 71,000-plus – went crazy, going after the goalposts. The Cards were in the playoffs, a crazy ride that continued when they won in Dallas (a “Revisionist History” for another day).

The fun didn’t last as long as it should have, after the Cards lost key players in the offseason and fell to 6-10 the next season (after starting 6-6). It took until 2008 and the Super Bowl run to get back to the postseason. But in 1998, it was fun while it lasted.

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9 Responses to “Revisionist History: Charging into the ’98 playoffs”

  1. By ross on Jun 3, 2011 | Reply

    Darn. We could have had Ryan Leaf and we traded down! What were they thinking?

  2. By AndyStandsUp on Jun 3, 2011 | Reply

    Yeah, a lot of people compare the exits of Lomas Brown, Larry Centers and Jamir Miller in 1999 similar to the Warner, Dansby, Boldin and Rolle leavings in 2010.
    Other than Warner, I don’t see the heartache.

  3. By Scott H on Jun 4, 2011 | Reply

    What a year for the Cardinals! And what a year for me as a fan! At the time, it was – BY FAR – the most excitement I had ever known. I had been a fan for more than 20 years at that point but I was far more familiar with 5-11 seasons than playoff appearances. The last 3 weeks of that season were like playoff games themselves because there was no margin for error. One loss in any of them and they were probably out of the playoff race. They were ALL late-game thrillers. And when they went down to Dallas and completely throttled the Cowboys…man, there was nothing like it! I have that game on tape and still love to watch it.

  4. By cards62 on Jun 6, 2011 | Reply

    Scott H.

    The game our defense played against Dallas in the playoffs was the best I ever remember our defense playing. I remember Eric Swann and A. Williams especially that day.

    Do any Cardinal fans remember our defense having a better game?
    I hate to bring it up, but the second best game for our defense that jumps into my mind was the nationally televised Chicago game a few season ago when we gave the game away and the famous Denny Green rant. Our defense was just killing the Bears offense all game.

    Go Cards

  5. By Mike Ellingboe on Jun 6, 2011 | Reply


    The five INT game against Carolina was pretty good as well.

  6. By cards62 on Jun 7, 2011 | Reply

    You are right Mike that was great defense in the Carolina game and they also played well against Atlanta.

  7. By Scott H on Jun 8, 2011 | Reply

    cards62 –

    Sorry I didn’t see your reply sooner. Yes, the D in that playoff game against Dallas was phenomenal. I couldn’t believe I was watching the Cardinals playing so dominantly. Williams was Michael Irvin’s worst nightmare that day. Took him out of the game from start to finish. I swear, it looked like the Cardinals knew what plays were coming on every play. I remember hearing afterward about how frustrated Aikman became durung the game because he couldn’t find any open receivers. And he took a beating that day. One play that stands out was a sack by jamir Miller who came straight up the middle and his timing was so perfect that he was on top of Aikman as soon as the ball was snapped. Miller just totally swallowed him! And it was a beautiful thing! Good times…

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