Revisionist History: A playoff pounding in Dallas

Posted by Darren Urban on July 15, 2011 – 2:46 pm

The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:

When all that noise cropped up around the Cardinals in January of 2009 – the stuff about that team being the worst in playoff history, etc., etc., — I remember thinking, “This team is better than the last Cardinal playoff team.”

Turned out both squads ended up shocking the world. Back in 1998, it might have been an even bigger deal.

The Cards barely squeezed into the playoffs as a wild card (remember, the 2008 Cards clinched the division relatively early). Their first playoff game in years would come in Dallas, against the NFC East rival Cowboys – a team that had beaten the Cards 16 of the previous 17 meetings and who had crushed the Cards, 38-10, in Dallas to open the 1998 season. Forget Cris Collinsworth. The general feeling of the Cards was as a team lucky to be in the playoffs, and probable to fall to the Cowboys – a once-great team that was very ordinary by this time.

The numbers added fuel to the critics’ fire, especially the weakness of the Cards’ schedule (Arizona’s opponents had a .395 winning percentage). On the other side, there was a young team with so much future potential, like rookie defensive end Andre Wadsworth, who at that point was improving after his crazy debut in Dallas earlier in the year (Oh, what could have been). Jake Plummer was the quarterback who was definitely a winner. Cornerback Aeneas Williams was a Pro Bowler who was one of the few in the NFL who had proven he could handle star Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin.

The Cards, at that point, hadn’t won a playoff game since 1947 – the year they won the NFL championship. “My Dad wasn’t even born yet,” guard Chris Dishman said. They had history against them, and a still-potent Emmitt Smith (if you would have suggested then that Smith would eventually be a Cardinal …), but the Cards had played the Cowboys close at Sun Devil Stadium late in the year.

Foreshadowing? Not really. Not after the Cowboys scored 38 and 35 on the Cards in the two regular-season games, only to be shut down for seven points in the playoff game. The Cardinals stunned the Cowboys in a 20-7 win, and that Dallas touchdown came late, with the game all but decided. The cornerback tandem of Corey Chavous and Williams had three interceptions, and safety Tommy Bennett added one in the final seconds for emphasis. Wide receiver Frank Sanders hauled in a 59-yard Plummer pass to set up a score and running back Adrian Murrell broke off a 74-yard run to set up another.

That was all the Cards really needed, the way the defense performed. Slaying the Cowboys was about the present but it was also about unloading on the pre-game disrespect. It was about a fan base starving for success.

It was also short-lived.

The Cards turned their attention to the powerful Vikings for the following week, but that didn’t end well. In the offseason, the Cards lost key players like Larry Centers, Lomas Brown and Jamir Miller and never did battle again for a playoff spot until the magical season a decade later –with the 2008 team that supposedly had too many warts itself. That ride lasted a lot longer.

But for those moments in 1998, when it seemed like the Cards were never going to have any success, the Dallas domination was something to savor.

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19 Responses to “Revisionist History: A playoff pounding in Dallas”

  1. By cheesebeef on Jul 15, 2011 | Reply

    we were supposed to be the team of the future… then let a bunch of key veterans and our best young linebackers walk… sounds a lot like last off-season… letting Dansby/Boldin walk and replacing them with… nothing.

    this team has A LOT of work to do in a short period in the coming weeks once the lockout’s over. And while I still have confidence in Wiz to get the job done given the right players, I have ZERO confidence in Rod Graves who’s outside of the time DG was here (and likely calling the shots) has made one disasterous move after another in the draft/FA… if moves were made at all.

  2. By Jesse Robles on Jul 15, 2011 | Reply

    Dansby and Rolle were both not worth the money they were asking…sorry dude. Washington is going to be better than Dansby. Rhodes outplayed Rolle last season hands down.

  3. By Scharf on Jul 15, 2011 | Reply

    I agree with Jesse. Dansby and Rolle were good players, don’t get me wrong, but there is no way they were worth what they were asking for. I believe in the Organization (Including the discredited, Rod Graves), and you have to remember, greed is what caused Dansby and Rolle to leave. Besides after seeing what Daryl Washington & Kerry Rhodes can do, I have to say I don’t miss them very much.

    Can’t wait to see how John Skelton develops going forward (given he gets a real offseason experience next year).


  4. By cheesebeef on Jul 15, 2011 | Reply

    notice i didn’t mention rolle… and keep believing that an undersized Washington, who got benched for never done anything STer paris lenon and completely broken down Gerald Hayes will ever be able to carry Dansby’s jock. Guy was a rare breed… an ILB who NEVER had to be taken off the field… could play the run, rush the passer and get back in coverage.

    And greed didn’t cause Dansby to leave. years of the team jerking him around and not offering long-term deals while watching others who hadn’t accomplished nearly as much is what made him leave.

    Anyone who says “after watching Washington, i don’t miss Dansby” must have been watching a different defense than I did considering the guy never made ONE play all season and we got gashed up the middle constantly, and destroyed in the secondary by TE after TE who Dansby was able to cover.

    sorry guys… losing Rolle was no great shakes… we replaced him well. We replaced Dansby (our ONLY LBer with ANY talent and A LOT of it) with a career back-up STer in Lenon and an undersized rookie who was riding pine by mid-season… on a team completely bereft of linebackers.

  5. By AndyStandsUp on Jul 15, 2011 | Reply

    Cmon Cheesebeef,
    Dansby was wanted but the Cards were correct in not making him the highest paid LB ever, surpassing Lewis, Singletary, Taylor and Butkus.
    He was franchised two years in a row, making him the the top 5 at his position, yet early in his career, he had a glass jaw with injuries. (Though he didn’t miss a game.)
    Lenon was an unexpected surprise, besting Karlos in games, tackles and INT. Even Washington played all 16 games and had a pick, something Dansby didn’t do.
    He’s a GOOD player, but a a GREAT one and his loss, to me, is similar to losing Neil Rackers; team captain, but ultimately replaceable.

  6. By bluepitt on Jul 16, 2011 | Reply

    Hay cheesebeef, Missing those “Core Players” that Graves and Whiz insisted we were going to keep? hahahahahahahhaha “Anquan is one of our core players and we will do whatever it takes to keep him on this Football team” hahaha Graves said that after Q said he was going to shut up and let his contract work its self out. (“the anger ruined my (08) playoff run and SB experience”) and that he doesn’t mind staying in AZ. “Q is one of the leaders on this team I’ve said it before and ill say it again we are a better team with him on our team” Whiz on Q… hahahahahah

    Ill make my predictions in week one this year again just like my “ill be shocked if we win more than 5 games this year” that I posted in week one last year….

  7. By cards62 on Jul 16, 2011 | Reply

    Cheesbeef – I missed Dansby a lot. Making a tackle is important but also where you make the tackle at, and getting off the field. Dansby was great, but why do you think we jerked him around? I have been under the belief that we tried to sign him to a long term deal for at least 2 years and Dansby would not sign and even fired his agent. Didn’t we also use the franchise tag on him for 2 years trying to sign him long term?

    Do you like Washington or any of our young linebackers?
    Thanks and have a good day.

  8. By Scott H on Jul 16, 2011 | Reply

    Um, about the game in Dallas in 98 ( since no one else has commented )…I remember that day like it was yesterday and still love to watch it on tape. It was THE most exciting thing that had ever happened to me in my life as a Cardinals fan ( about 23 years, at that time ). Man, what a game! Don’t know if the Cardinals have ever looked more dominant that they were that day. Defensively, they pounded the hell out of the Cowboys. Troy Aikman was probably never so frustrated in his life with ALL of his receivers covered as well as they were. And with Jake Plummer, you could just see the star potential this guy had. Too bad it never really came to be. But at least he gave us that one great day when the Cardinals eneded about 20 years of complete domination by the Cowboys by going into their house in – IN THE PLAYOFFS – and pounding them into the ground.

  9. By Motavaysean on Jul 16, 2011 | Reply

    Rhodes is definitly a better FS than Rolle . Dansby is a good ILB but from what he accoplished in Miami it’s obvious he wasn’t worth what he wanted in pay . Daryl Washington had a good rookie year a better rookie year than Dansby actually . He could be a better ILB he is young so getting bigger is a probability and he runs much faster than Dansby so he can chase down RB’s sideline to sideline . Boldin i miss but the last year we had him we played 6 games without him bc of injuries and we lost 1 . Ya i miss him but Breaston is a good WR and filled in nicely . The only mistake Whiz made last year was not trying harder to get Bulger in here and just settling for DA . Im sure he had hoped Lienart would mature but after watching DA show Lienart up in the preseason by running the offense better i probably would have thought the same thing . Which is get Lienart out start DA and hope for the best . Obviously that didn’t workout , but look at the bright side . Now we have Patrick Peterson and a ton of cap room . Now we can resign our quality players and Fitz to a long term contract and still have plenty of cap space to make big moves in FA when it starts 🙂

  10. By richard moreno on Jul 16, 2011 | Reply

    Dansby was an athlete who could run and was just big enough to get off blocks but when he was drafted it was to be an outside 4-3 linebacker but was switched cause the guy could not cover tightends and played coverage on the outside halfs horrible. CHEESE playing coverage in the middle is easier when you roam and again are an athlete with decet speed, He was an athlete that made plays. Washington is the same mold but is built for the middle just needs to add bulk to withstand the action in the middle. i do not miss dansby and his hefty pay raise

  11. By richard moreno on Jul 16, 2011 | Reply

    Oh and Dansby is no Jamir Miller.. He we should have kept, but that was when the front office had no understanding or savvy

  12. By CZarr on Jul 17, 2011 | Reply

    Speaking of Dallas games, I just watched that bomb from Skelton to Roberts last year in week 16. A lot of things went right on that play, and I’m hoping John flashes more of that this off season because I do not think Kolb is the answer.

  13. By joe67 on Jul 17, 2011 | Reply

    Boldin and Dansby both good players, but not worth the money they were wanting. Boldin pouted too much. Besides, with all the issues and problems we had last year, we would still have been 5-11 even if they were here.

  14. By sport245245 on Jul 17, 2011 | Reply

    I cannot believe you can’t understand how important Boldin was to this Cardinal team!. Yes, I also as a Cardinal fan, was thrilled to my core when they went to Dallas and punked them.

  15. By Scott H on Jul 17, 2011 | Reply

    Motaveysean –

    “Settling” for DA is merely the beginning of where Whiz went wrong last year. Every friggin week that DA continued to be the starter was just repeating the same mistake over and over…it was like Groundhog Day, I swear.

  16. By John the draft guy on Jul 18, 2011 | Reply

    Can’t remember Dansby or Rolle playing in ’98, yet, thats whats being talked about.

    A couple of things. First, I remember the feeling of the Cards blowing their chance to go to the playoffs as the Chargers scored with seconds left. Then Metcalf ran the kickoff back to around the 50. A quick slant to Sanders and it all came down to a Field Goal. As we watched that kick go through, we rushed the field and celebrated with the players. The goal post came down. It was the first time in that stadium where everyone was a card fan at that moment.

    In Dallas, Williams was awesome with his 2 picks and Wadsworth showed why he was drafted so high, beating Eric Williams again and again on his way to Aikman. It was a complete domination and started Dallas’ streak of not winning a playoff game.

    In 1999, it fell apart. Injuries to Rob Moore, Mark Smith, Swann, and letting Miller, Brown and Centers go. The drafting of LJ Shelton left a hole on the OLine. By 2000, the magic was gone.

    Flash forward, 10 years later, the Cards take us on that magical Super Bowl run. By 2010, we let key players walk, we have holes on the OLine, and we have no QB.

    Three questions,
    1. Can Whiz do what Vince Tobin could not? Overcome loss of players.
    2. Will probowler Fitz bail like probowler Aeneas Williams did if we have another bad year?
    3. Will it be another 10 years before we see the playoffs again?

    OK, Darren, you can’t answer those 3 questions. Time will tell. But, how did you feel about Tobin. I think he doesn’t get the credit he deserves and came out on the short in when the organization decided to let his players go, miss on draft picks and then fire him when he couldn’t get the cards back to the playoffs. Whats your feeling about Tobin?

  17. By Darren Urban on Jul 18, 2011 | Reply

    John the draft guy —

    RE: Tobin

    I think Tobin was a solid coach. I think he was hamstrung by the way things were done organizationally back then. Could he have won more? Maybe. There was a certain catching of lighting in a bottle in 1998.

  18. By John the draft guy on Jul 18, 2011 | Reply

    Oh by the way, how much of Tobin’s fall was connected to Plummer?

    After his ’98 season, he followed it up with 9 tds and 24 picks in ’99 and 13 tds and 21 picks in 2000. Was Plummers decline blamed or connected to Tobin and his unability to bring out his best?

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