Hey Cardinals, Don't Pull a '92-'93 Suns or a '96 Sun Devils. Just Win It Now!
The Phoenix Suns nearly pulled it off in 1993. The 1996 Arizona State Sun Devils football squad totally had it until the final seconds. And now the Arizona Cardinals are a game away from sports immortality. (And, arguably, the biggest comeback in modern-day athletics.)
So some words of advice to the Cardinals as they head into the biggest game in franchise history: Just win the fricking thing now because this could be your only chance for a long, long while.
We really shouldn't have to tell the Cardinals this, since they haven't won an NFL championship since they were in Chicago and it wasn't even called the Super Bowl.
As for the Suns and Devils, in case you've forgotten... they haven't really done jack-squat since. Every year during the Steve Nash era with the Suns, we've said, "We'll win it all next year." Until this season, Sadly, the Nash version of the Suns seems to be over as a championship contender.
We've lived through so many heartbreaking near-misses in this town that -- If not for the 2001 World Series Champion Arizona Diamondbacks -- we'd be on some serious depression meds whenever somebody broached the subject of Phoenix-area sports.
We've got our reasons for doubting the Cardinals. Yeah, they won won the NFC West, but in a division that included three suck-ass teams that were a combined 13-25. Then came the well-documented embarrassments, the 56-35 drubbing at the New York Jets and the 47-7 blowout by the New England Patriots.
Everybody knows that the way the Cardinals could lose the Super Bowl is to get down early, like they did in these humiliating contests.
And we don't want to look to next year, because who knows if the Cardinals will even have Kurt Warner at a the helm. He ain't getting any younger at 37, but more than that, his contract's up after Sunday. Speculation during Super Bowl media day in Tampa was that his return could be doubtful. Probably because Cardinals owners Bill and Michael Bidwill won't to pay a guy Warner's age the money he'll demand -- particularly with Heisman Trophy-winning young QB Matt Leinart in the wings. Another reason they might not be back next year: the Cards won't be able to sneak up on anybody anymore; they'll have a big ol' bulls eye on their backs.
The Steelers' Troy Polamalu (right) will try to put the hurt on the Cardinals
So to pull off one of the most improbable Super Bowl victories since Joe Namath led the New York Jets to an upset W against the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, Arizona will first need to get off to a fast start like they've done in each of their three playoff victories. March on down the field against the vaunted Pittsburgh defense -- led by badass ballers like NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison and wild-haired safetyTroy Polamalu. That is, snatch momentum from the Steelers, who have won five of their six Super Bowl appearances.
Another key is to keep Pittsburgh from intimidating with its ass-kicking, mouthguard-popping style. The Steelers will employ pure brute force, something the Cards have not faced this season. Arizona can't just expect finesse to win over physicality.
The Cardinals defense must put pressure on quarterback "Big Ben" Roethlisberger, as well as stuff the Steelers running game, led by Willie Parker and backup Mewelde Moore. Arm tackling won't work with any of these guys, especially with the six-foot-five, 241-pound signal caller who looks more like a linebacker than a behind-the-center dude. Arizona's D's gotta put Roethlisberger's on his back -- a lot. That way, he can't distribute the rock to dynamic playmakers, such as do-everything Hines Ward and speedster receiver Santonio Holmes.Let's hope Ward's injury's worse than the Steelers are letting on, and he can't come up with his usual big plays. Containing him could mean the game for the Cards.
Will Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals be celebrating late Sunday night?
So if Larry Fitzgerald can go off against like he's been doing (it won't be easy, as he'll face off against lockdown corners such as Deshea Townsend) and the team doesn't get all wide-eyed with the glitz, or intimidated by all those "terrible" towelheads in the stands, then Arizona can win. And right some of the disappointment instilled by past almost-champions in this town. Cards, don't deny us our fricking parade!
The biggest game in Valley sports history's at 4:28 p.m. Sunday from Tampa's Raymond James Stadium. See it on NBC, Channel 12. The exhaustive Super Bowl XLIII Pre-Game Show begins at 11 a.m. on 12.