Ken Wisenhunt was hired after the firing of Dennis Green and led the team to an 8-8 record in his first season at the helm. 2007 was a season with a mash up of Kurt Warner and Matt Leinart at quarterback that would eventually be their undoing. The 2008 season began much more promising as Kurt Warner was named the starter from week one and the Cardinals would begin the season 7-3. The 2008 Cardinals Team was a group that finished the season with a 9-7 record but everyone knew they did not want to play them going into the playoffs. Kurt Warner would end up starting all sixteen games in 2008 and complete 402 of his 599 attempts for 4,582 yards and 30 touchdowns to 14 interceptions.
The 2008 Cardinals featured a number of future hall of famers starting with Kurt Warner to Edgerrin James to the dynamic duo on the outside of Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston who although not a hall of famer racked up over 1,000 yards receiving. Edgerrin James would be slowed by injuries all season long and finish with just 514 yards on the ground and being used in a committee with rookie Tim Hightower who would punch in 10 touchdowns on the season in addition being the third down back and compiling 629 total yards. The passing attack however was not slowed as Larry Fitzgerald caught 96 passes for 1,434 yards and 12 touchdowns, Anquan Boldin caught 89 passes for 1,038 yards and 11 scores, and Steve Breaston added 77 catches for 1,003 yards and three trips to the endzone. All three receivers would finish the season as top 30 options in fantasy with Larry leading all receivers in standard scoring.
9-7 was good enough to win the NFC West in 2008 and get the fourth seed in the playoffs. The Cardinals would host the Falcons and the young gun Matt Ryan in the first round of the playoffs. The game had no shortage of aerial excellence as Warner would throw a 42 yard touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald and a 71-yarder to Anquan Boldin. The Cardinals would advance to the next round by a score of 30-24 and take on the number two seeded Carolina Panthers.
The Carolina Panthers were heavily favored going into the game but the Cardinals would provide a balanced offensive attack that would stun the Panthers. Hightower, James, and Fitzgerald would all score in the first half and Neil Rackers would tack on 4 field goals throughout the game on the way to a 33-13 victory on the road. Fitzgerald would set the franchise record for receiving yards in a postseason game with a stat line of 8 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown. The defense had also played much better than they had at any point during the season as they would force Jake Delhomme into six turnovers. The Cardinals would end up hosting the Eagles in the next round as they were the sixth seed that upset the number one seed New York Giants the previous week in what would be the Cardinals first NFC Championship game in their history.
The NFC Championship game started off in familiar fashion with Warner taking the team down the field after the opening kickoff and throwing a touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald. In the second quarter Warner would find Fitzgerald again, this time for a 62 yard score. Warner and Fitzgerald would hook up again for a one yard score before the half. The Cardinals would go into the half with a 24-6 lead but the Eagles would storm back after halftime and take a 25-24 lead. Warner would lead the Cardinals back in the fourth quarter and score on an eight-yard pass to Tim Hightower, then complete the two-point conversion to Ben Patrick. Fitzgerald would finish the day with 152 yards receiving and three touchdowns. The Cardinals would hold on for the victory and secure the first Superbowl appearance in franchise history. Larry Fitzgerald caught 23 passes for a postseason record 419 yards and five touchdowns during their postseason run to the Superbowl.
Superbowl XLIII would feature the Arizona Cardinals against the Pittsburgh Steelers with Wisenhunt facing his former team in Tampa Bay. The Cardinals were looking to win their first NFL Championship since 1947, which is the longest drought in the NFL, while the Steelers were looking to become the first franchise to win six Superbowls. The Cardinals would start the game slow scoring only a touchdown through the first three quarters and also a costly interception that would be returned 100-yards by James Harrison just before the half. Trailing 20-7 at the start of the fourth quarter the Cardinals would storm back with 16 unanswered points that included a 64-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald. The Steelers got the ball back with 2:37 left in the game and marched 78 yards for a score with Santonio Holmes capping it off with a 6 yard touchdown catch that will go down as one of the best in Superbowl history. Holmes would be named the MVP after accounting for 73 of the final 78 yards and totaling 9 catches for 131 yards and this brilliant toe-dragging touchdown:
Fitzgerald would catch 7 passes for 127 yards and two scores in the Superbowl. His four game stretch in the Cardinals postseason that year is something to be marveled at as he caught 30 passes for 546 yards and seven touchdowns. The Cardinals were one of the more exciting teams to watch in the NFL that season and showed that the spread offense could work at the highest levels of football as they nearly secured a Championship if it weren’t for Santonio Holmes heroics on the final drive.
By Stagg Party