The League

Zach Leibowitz
Sideline Reporter

Zach Leibowitz

A former sideline reporter for ESPN

In The 'Zona

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Congratulations to a very deserving NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals took advantage of their home field, comfortable throwing conditions, and 6-foot-3 stud receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Wow. The Eagles blitzed and didn't blitz. It didn't matter in the first half, the Eagles had absolutely no answer for the Kurt Warner to Fitzgerald combination. Sort of makes you wonder where the Giants would have been with Plaxico Burress in the lineup.

To the Eagles' credit, they came all the way back from a 24-6 halftime deficit. They overcame a missed field goal and then a missed extra point (laces out!) and still took a fourth quarter lead on a Donovan McNabb-to-DeSean Jackson deep pass. And just when the Eagles hopes were high, the Cardinals methodically marched right back down the field following Fitzgerald's lead.

So why is Arizona heading to Super Bowl XLIII? Because Warner was fantastic. He was poised, in sync with the game, and proved he'd been there before. Because the running game was very effective. When Edgerrin James isn't complaining, he forms a solid 1-2 combo with young and powerful Tim Hightower. Because the playcalling was fantastic. The Eagles defense could not contain Arizona on a consistent basis. The Cardinals' mix of off-tackle runs, slants and trick plays kept Philadelphia completely on its heels.

The Cardinals scored a combined 95 points in the playoffs against three teams who combined for 32 wins. That's a statement. Now, it's critical to note that all three games -- even the one in Carolina -- were played in relatively comfortable conditions. That should be the case in Tampa as well in two weeks. There will be no more snowy, 20-degree weather for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That advantage is gone and alone gives the Cardinals a legitimate shot to win the Super Bowl.

It means absolutely nothing that the Cardinals franchise has never been to the Super Bowl before. Their field general has been there and won. And their franchise has also never had this many offensive weapons and elite receivers before. This is not Joe Bugel's Cardinals anymore.

Ken Whisenhunt earned his coaching opportunity because of his strong offensive mind and leadership in Pittsburgh. He was very instrumental in the Steelers' Super Bowl victory the other year. When Bill Cowher resigned, Whisenhunt wanted and very much deserved the Pittsburgh head coaching position. For whatever the reason, he never got it. It always seems to work out this way -- the snubbed candidate getting his opportunity for revenge. Whisenhunt will play humble and respectful of Mike Tomlin (who has done a remarkable job in his own right) and the Steelers. But, don't believe for a moment that an added bonus to this remarkable Arizona run for Whisenhunt is that he gets his ultimate shot at Pittsburgh. He's gets this chance because he's the coach of the best team in the NFC. They are a dangerous and determined football team. And they are more than qualified to win the Super Bowl.

By Zach Leibowitz  |  January 19, 2009; 8:40 AM ET  | Category:  Arizona Cardinals , Philadelphia Eagles , Pittsburgh Steelers , Zach Leibowitz Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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