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Cardinals KO Falcons, rookie QB Ryan

Jan 4, 2009 - 3:52 AM GLENDALE, Arizona (Ticker) -- Rookie quarterbacks do not win often in the postseason, and Matt Ryan proved to be no exception.

Kurt Warner threw a pair of long touchdown passes and the Arizona Cardinals took advantage of some costly mistakes by Ryan to end the Atlanta Falcons' fairy-tale season with a 30-24 victory Saturday in the NFC wild card playoffs.

Warner connected with Larry Fitzgerald for 42 yards and Anquan Boldin for 71 as the Cardinals (10-7) advanced to next weekend's divisional round at either the Carolina Panthers or the top-seeded New York Giants.

It was sweet redemption for NFC West champion Arizona, which staggered down the stretch with four losses in five games before beating Seattle, 34-21, in the regular-season finale.

"A lot of people said we were the worse playoff team ever to get in and nobody really gave us a chance," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We rallied around that and played well. We responded. They took the lead, and we didn't fold up the tent."

Running back Edgerrin James, who had been benched earlier in the season, contributed 73 yards on 16 carries for Arizona, which scored 16 unanswered points in erasing a three-point halftime deficit.

"I don't I have anything to prove, just look at what I have done over my career," James said. "There is no secret what type of running back I am. Finally, I was put in a position to actually do that, run my own game."

Arizona's defense did a stellar job shutting down Michael Turner, the league's second-leading rusher with 1,699 yards, in its first playoff game since 1998.

Turner, who set a franchise record with 17 rushing touchdowns, was limited to 42 yards on 18 carries, matching his season-low output.

"The media said we didn't have a chance," Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "They said the only thing we had better than the Falcons was our receivers, and I said, 'You got to be (kidding) me. They even said their quarterback was better than ours. Are you serious?

"We had a chip on our shoulders and we stopped one of the best running backs and held them to 60 yards."

Appearing in their first postseason home game since 1947, when the franchise was located in Chicago, the Cardinals seized control of the game in the third quarter against Ryan and the mistake-prone Falcons (11-6).

Antrel Rolle returned a fumbled snap 27 yards for a touchdown in the opening minute of the second half to put Arizona ahead for good, 21-17.

"It seems like ever time Antrel gets his hands on the ball he scores, and that was big for us because it got the fans back in it," Whisenhunt said.

Dockett forced the fumbled exchange between Ryan and Turner, blowing up the play by bursting into the backfield.

"I think he took on three guys and the ball came loose and it popped up, I grabbed it and took it all the way," Rolle said. "I was surprised when I saw it."

Rookie Tim Hightower capped a long scoring drive with a 4-yard run to make it 28-17 with 2:48 to go in the third quarter. It was the first sustained march by Arizona and turned the momentum completely in its favor after the Falcons had scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes of the first half.

"It was huge," Warner said. "Not only did we control the clock and scored some points but, as well as our defense was playing, we knew that you can't keep putting them out there. We needed to do something.

"It was a methodical drive, we ran the ball well, we got key first downs and then finished it off with a touchdown."

Ryan then compounded his troubles on the next play from scrimmage, when his long pass down the right sideline was intercepted by rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

In the third quarter, four Atlanta possessions resulted in a fumble, a pair of three-and-outs and the interception.

"I am disappointed, the whole team is disappointed but not discouraged," Falcons first-year coach Mike Smith said. "They made the plays when they had to. It is tough to win when you are minus in turnover ratio."

It only got worse early in the fourth quarter for Atlanta, when defensive end Antonio Smith sacked Ryan in the end zone for a safety that padded the margin to 30-17 with 12:37 to play.

Ryan finally steadied himself and got the Falcons within 30-24 with a 5-yard scoring pass to Roddy White with 4:15 to go.

But Atlanta could not get back the ball as the Cardinals ran out the clock, with Warner hitting a huge 23-yard completion to Stephen Spach on 3rd-and-16 with 2:03 remaining.

"There is no better feeling then when you know it is in your hands and you got it controlled to the end, especially in the playoffs," Warner said.

Warner threw for 271 yards on 19-of-32 passing with the two scores and one interception.

Ryan, who guided the Falcons to a seven-win improvement in his first year, finished 26-of-40 with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also was sacked three times.

"They came out and out-executed us," Ryan said. "Don't know if you can pinpoint one play. We had opportunities to make plays out there and didn't take advantage of it."

After watching Atlanta hold the ball for 21 minutes, 19 seconds in the first half, Arizona reversed things in the second half, allowing the Falcons to keep possession for only 8:39.

"They just played a great football game, period," Turner said. "Their defense was fired up and flying all around all day. It seemed like they had guys everywhere. They crowded the line of scrimmage, they had a gameplan and it looked like they knew what play we were about to run."

Arizona opened the scoring following an interception of Ryan by Ralph Brown on Atlanta's first possession of the game.

On a flea-flicker, Warner lofted a 42-yard pass into the left corner of the end zone to Fitzgerald, who easily outjumped a pair of defenders for a 7-0 lead just 4:32 into the contest.

"You know we would not have been able to do what we did if we weren't able to run the ball consistently," Fitzgerald said. "I just did what my coaches asked me to. My goal coming in was just to be consistent and make the plays I was supposed to."

After Jason Elam's 30-yard field goal cut the deficit to 7-3 with 10 minutes left in the second quarter, Arizona's big-play offense struck quickly on the ensuing possession.

Warner tossed a short pass in the left flat to Boldin, who outran Lawyer Milloy to the sideline and raced 71 yards to the end zone for a 14-3 lead with 8:58 to go in the half.

Undaunted, the upstart Falcons came storming back, stringing together a second consecutive 14-play drive that was capped by Turner's 7-yard scoring run to pull within 14-10. Ryan was 7-for-10 for 68 yards on the drive.

"I think we got the momentum back on that scoring drive," Smith said. "We handled the surge well in the first quarter. The second quarter the momentum switched back to us."

The Cardinals' first turnover then led to the Falcons' go-ahead score. Warner's short pass bounced off the chest of Jerheme Urban and was picked off by Chevis Jackson at Arizona's 23-yard line.

Ryan needed just six plays to get the Falcons in the end zone, flicking a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Justin Peelle for a 17-14 lead with 23 seconds left before intermission.

In the opening half alone, Ryan threw for 141 yards on 18-of-25 passing - more attempts than he had in each of his last three games.






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    Falcons 24, Cardinals 30  FinalJan 4 3:07 AM
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    Falcons 24, Cardinals 30  FinalJan 3 11:21 PM


  • WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    NFL WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    ATLANTA 0 17 0 7 24
    ARIZONA 7 7 14 2 30 FINAL
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: ARI - TD, LARRY FITZGERALD 42 YD PASS FROM
    KURT WARNER (NEIL RACKERS KICK),
    4:32. Drive: 4 plays, 63 yards in
    2:03. ARIZONA 7-0
    2ND QUARTER: ATL - FG,

    Jan 3 7:38 PM
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    Falcons 24, Cardinals 30  4th - 2:21Jan 3 7:31 PM
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    Falcons 24, Cardinals 30  4th - 4:10Jan 3 7:28 PM


  • WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    NFL WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    TD ATL
    RODDY WHITE 5 YD PASS FROM MATT RYAN
    (JASON ELAM KICK)
    ATLANTA 24
    ARIZONA 30 4:15 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Falcons 24, Cardinals 30  4th - 4:15Jan 3 7:25 PM
  • 131
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    RUWTbot Added 37 roots (Close Finish)

    Falcons 24, Cardinals 30  4th - 4:15Jan 3 7:25 PM


  • WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    NFL WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    SAFETY ARI
    MATT RYAN TACKLED BY ANTONIO SMITH IN END ZONE
    ATLANTA 17
    ARIZONA 30 12:33 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Falcons 17, Cardinals 30  4th - 12:33Jan 3 7:09 PM


  • WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    NFL WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    END, 3RD QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    ATLANTA 0 17 0 17
    ARIZONA 7 7 14 28 END, 3RD QTR
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: ARI - TD, LARRY FITZGERALD 42 YD PASS FROM
    KURT WARNER (NEIL RACKERS KICK),
    4:32. Drive: 4 plays, 63 yards in
    2:03. ARIZONA 7-0
    2ND QUARTER: ATL

    Jan 3 6:55 PM


  • WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    NFL WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    TD ARI
    TIM HIGHTOWER 4 YD RUN
    (NEIL RACKERS KICK)
    ATLANTA 17
    ARIZONA 28 2:48 LEFT, 3RD QTR

    Falcons 17, Cardinals 28  3rd - 2:48Jan 3 6:47 PM
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    Falcons 17, Cardinals 21  3rd - 12:47Jan 3 6:30 PM


  • WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    NFL WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    TD ARI
    ANTREL ROLLE 27 YD FUMBLE RETURN
    (NEIL RACKERS KICK)
    ATLANTA 17
    ARIZONA 21 14:00 LEFT, 3RD QTR

    Falcons 17, Cardinals 21  3rd - 14:00Jan 3 6:18 PM
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    Falcons 17, Cardinals 21  3rd - 14:00Jan 3 6:18 PM
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    Falcons 17, Cardinals 14  HalfJan 3 6:09 PM


  • WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    NFL WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    HALFTIME 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    ATLANTA 0 17 17
    ARIZONA 7 7 14 HALFTIME
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: ARI - TD, LARRY FITZGERALD 42 YD PASS FROM
    KURT WARNER (NEIL RACKERS KICK),
    4:32. Drive: 4 plays, 63 yards in
    2:03. ARIZONA 7-0
    2ND QUARTER: ATL - F

    Jan 3 6:03 PM


  • WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    NFL WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    TD ATL
    JUSTIN PEELLE 2 YD PASS FROM MATT RYAN
    (JASON ELAM KICK)
    ATLANTA 17
    ARIZONA 14 0:23 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Falcons 17, Cardinals 14  2nd - 0:23Jan 3 6:00 PM


  • WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    NFL WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    TD ATL
    MICHAEL TURNER 7 YD RUN
    (JASON ELAM KICK)
    ATLANTA 10
    ARIZONA 14 2:55 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Falcons 10, Cardinals 14  2nd - 2:55Jan 3 5:46 PM


  • WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    NFL WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    TD ARI
    ANQUAN BOLDIN 71 YD PASS FROM KURT WARNER
    (NEIL RACKERS KICK)
    ATLANTA 3
    ARIZONA 14 8:58 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Falcons 3, Cardinals 14  2nd - 8:58Jan 3 5:32 PM


  • WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    NFL WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    FG ATL
    JASON ELAM 30 YD
    ATLANTA 3
    ARIZONA 7 10:00 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Falcons 3, Cardinals 7  2nd - 10:00Jan 3 5:27 PM
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    Falcons 0, Cardinals 7  2nd - 14:55Jan 3 5:18 PM


  • WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    NFL WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    END, 1ST QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    ATLANTA 0 0
    ARIZONA 7 7 END, 1ST QTR
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: ARI - TD, LARRY FITZGERALD 42 YD PASS FROM
    KURT WARNER (NEIL RACKERS KICK),
    4:32. Drive: 4 plays, 63 yards in
    2:03. ARIZONA 7-0

    Jan 3 5:15 PM


  • WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    NFL WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
    TD ARI
    LARRY FITZGERALD 42 YD PASS FROM KURT WARNER
    (NEIL RACKERS KICK)
    ATLANTA 0
    ARIZONA 7 10:28 LEFT, 1ST QTR

    Falcons 0, Cardinals 7  1st - 10:28Jan 3 4:47 PM
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