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The truth is, what the Arizona Cardinals did last night shouldn’t be all that shocking to anyone. With 2-time MVP Kurt Warner behind center and a core of young receivers, the very least that could have been expected from the Cardinals should have been the sky. I seem to remember nearly a decade ago when Warner was surrounded by a few young kids and a veteran running back. It turned out pretty well then and it’s going to turn out well this time.
The most important thing, I think, about yesterday’s win against the Eagles was just how Warner handled the blitz. Every time they sent 2 or more, Warner was on his back foot and had a receiver in the cut for a gain of 5 or 6. Every time Warner had a big hand in his face, he managed to get rid of the ball to a receiver. Rarely did he sling the ball out of bounds, rarely did he sail a ball over the head of a receiver in the process of trying to avoid being taken down. It was a downright classic performance. But what else do you expect from a guy who is 8-2 in playoff games?
Kurt Warner (10 games) - 230/360 (63.9%), 2991 yds, 23 TD, 12 INT, 97.3 QBR
Warner has the 2nd best playoff passers rating in NFL History, behind only Bart Starr. He has 3 fewer touchdowns in the playoffs in his career than Tom Brady, who has played 7 more games than him. Two things are constant; the world will turn and Kurt Warner will win football games in the playoffs. Which is why I am befuddled by anyone underestimating the Cardinals and just how dangerous they really are.
I’ve came across some people that believe that Warner's success in 1999 and in that general time frame was heavily contributed to Marshall Faulk. However, when you look at the Cardinals this year, as good as Edgerrin James was, could be or is, he is not Marshall Faulk and it’s obvious that the run game isn’t nearly as well oiled as the pass game. Kurt Warner is good because he is an extremely talented quarterback and that, to me, became extremely evident when working with this Cardinal team.
I do, however, feel really bad for Donovan McNabb. I don’t feel like anyone really takes him seriously, which is disappointing because he was just as good if not better than Warner yesterday after the 1st half was over. Donovan is one hell of a quarterback. He just can’t seem to get it done in January. Then again, when you have two carries and 31 yards and your primary back has 12 carries and only 14 yards more, that probably doesn’t bode well for your offense.
All in all, it really was one of the most exciting conference playoff games in recent memory. In the top 5, anyway. It was hard not to root for the Cardinals, but I really hate the fact that Donovan McNabb keeps getting so close and keeps tripping at the last second. He’s too good of a quarterback to keep getting kicked in the teeth like he has in the playoffs. And I’m not sure how he’s going to get out of this quagmire, because flat out, he is not a good playoff quarterback.
Donovan McNabb (15 playoff games) - 322/540(59.6%), 3522 yds, 23 TD, 16 INT, 80.8 QBR
As you can see, despite the # of games played, Donovan pales in comparison to Warner in every category except for yards. And knowing Kurt Warner, he could probably come close to Donovan’s number in 2 weeks, pending the state of the 21st Century Steel Curtain.
Regardless of Donovan’s post-season numbers, he is still a very good quarterback who just can’t seem to put the other foot down and focus himself without trying too hard. Until he can manage to do that and until Brian Westbrook stops running in quicksand (2007 excluded) in the playoffs, the Eagles aren’t going to be able to compete against the best of the best in the Conference game. It just isn’t going to happen. They got past an overrated Falcons team in 05, but I don’t see them getting that lucky any time soon unless something changes — whether it be management of the team, players, mindset or otherwise.