Embarrass is probably not a strong enough word for what happened in Carolina today. This was an absolute beating; a slaughter, a massacre. The Arizona Cardinals came into this game as the heavy underdog to the Carolina Panthers, who finished number two in the NFC. It was supposed to be a sure victory for the Panthers, but I guess no one told that to Cardinals' starting quarterback, Kurt Warner. On top of the fact that the Cards finished the season so poorly, the Panthers have not lost a home game all season. The winner of this game goes onto play the winner of the Philadelphia Eagles / New York Giants game for the NFC championship.
This was a very easy game to analyze, from both teams. Cardinals came out on a mission to get their running game going, to open up their highly-explosive passing game. Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower both had solid games from the Cards back field, loosing up the Panthers defense with power running. 3 and 4 yard gains on first and second down made it really easy for Warner to get first downs. Warner played a solid game, helping his team to an easy 33 - 13 victory. Larry Fitzgerald proved again why he is one of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL, and why it was a no brainer for him to be a part of the NFC pro bowl roster. Even with Anquan Boldin out of the game, the Panthers corners could not take care of Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald had one circus catch early in the game, where he just out-jumped the double coverage on him, and the rest of the game he was equally as impressive. He set a Cardinals postseason record with 166 receiving yards, with lots of crossing patterns that were made possible due to all the time Kurt Warner had to make decisions.
It almost pains me to talk about how the Panthers played. Their starting quarterback, Jake Delhomme, turned 34 today, but that was the only high point of his Saturday. He played so bad, I sincerely question whether or not he was playing a legitimate game, or if he was on the take. If this was the real Jake Delhomme, then he deserves the next spot in the Southwest "Wanna get away?" commercials. How do you explain 6 turnovers - 1 fumble and 5 interceptions - in one playoff game? How does the starting quarterback of the second best team in the NFC do that? He threw only 12 interceptions over the 16-game regular season, and has 5 interceptions in one playoff game. This is was just too baffling to make any sense of. I understand throwing into tight double-coverage once, or even twice...but 5 interceptions...come the fuck on. And how do you go the entire game only giving your pro bowl wide receiver, Steve Smith, two passes. DeAngelo Williams had an OK game in their back field, but it was really nothing special, and he went virtually unnoticed. After their opening drive touchdown, the Panthers just withered away.
Now the Cardinals wait and see if they play in New York for the NFC championship, or host the Eagles in Arizona. Either way, no one would have predicted that the Cardinals would have beat two tough NFC South opponents back-to-back. No one other than maybe Kurt Warner. Not sure where he was the last decade or so, but Warner is back at the top of his game, for possibly his last legit Super Bowl run. Chances are very good that Anquan Boldin will be back in the line-up for the NFC championship game, which gives Warner even more weapons than he had against the Panthers. All I know is it's gotta feel like utter shit being Jake Delhomme right now, after one of the most embarrassing postseason games I've ever seen. The only saving grace for Jake is that his last name is kind of difficult for the average person to pronounce, so people won't probably start saying, "you Delhomme'd that one" although they should.
Way to Delhomme it, Delhomme.