Kurt Warner is the "slumdog millionaire" of Super Bowl XLIII. He’s the man who gets my vote to star in the movie I’m trying to produce.
It’s about a dog from the NFL slums who leads an unsuspecting, underachieving bunch of misfits to the Super Bowl. I’m casting Warner as the dirty dog that would end up at the police station being tortured as game time nears. The authorities can’t believe he or his team could have advanced to the final game on the up and up.
There’s just no way anyone could possibly believe that this 37-year old quarterback, cast off by a couple clubs and unwanted by several teams, could possibly lead this poor little Arizona club to the brink of their first ever Super Bowl victory.
Take Kurt Warner to the police station for questioning.
Heading into this season the Cards had a streak of eight consecutive seasons without a winning record. This was only the Cards’ second season above .500 in the last 20 years. The Cards only have a winning record against four NFL teams for God’s sake. There has to be something fishy here!
That’s the way many people across the country feel, including myself, as the upstart Cards fly into Tampa for a showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday.
The Cardinals are an enigma. The Steelers are the sure thing. And that’s the choice bettors will face before they part with their hard-earned bucks prior to kickoff.
There are no secrets on the Steelers’ sideline. What you see is what you get – a 14-4 record. Pittsburgh backers will step up to the betting window with no doubts clouding their minds. They know the Steelers are tough and after their sixth Lombardi Trophy.
And they know the reason they’re in line to bet in the first place – the Pittsburgh defense. It’s the No. 1 ranked unit in the NFL. It’s Dick LeBeau’s confusing, paralyzing, zone blitz-happy scheming that QBs lose sleep over.
On the other side of the field stands the enigma.
One thing is for sure, it’s much more difficult to bet an enigma than it is a sure thing. There’s a definite mystery surrounding Arizona and it’s awfully tough for me to make a decision. There’s just no way to logically explain the ascent of Arizona.
It’s a scenario few experts saw coming, from the weakest division championship, to the 2-4 finish of the regular season, to the 3-0 turnaround in the playoffs. It’s an unbelievable reversal of fortune that makes it much tougher for backers of the Cards to snap those rubber bands off the wad of cash in their pockets.
I don’t care if you’re Warner or Ken Whisenhunt. Neither one knew what they had six or eight weeks ago. They might tell a different story today, but back in Week 15 and 16 when the Cards were thumped by the Vikes and Patriots, I guarantee they didn’t give themselves a chance to be in Tampa this week.
But somehow, these mystery birds pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the NFL. The Cards’ defense stiffened, shutting down the rushing lanes on Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia. And they accomplished the last two playoff wins on the road.
The Cards found enough of a running game to make their highly regarded passing game phenomenal. Arizona ranked dead last rushing the rock during the regular season. But suddenly the Cards have regained an "Edge" with James’ fresh legs and Hightower’s young, rookie legs.
Arizona is not running wild, but rushing well enough to make the defense respect the run and give Warner more throwing opportunities when the box gets stacked.
Any way you look at it, I’ve got a 7-year Super Bowl win streak to keep alive. And I’m not going down the tubes picking against one of the greatest Cinderella stories of all time. They’re obviously hot at the right time.
The Cards offensive line is playing great and probably will be the biggest key in this game. They have to protect Warner and allow him a few seconds to look the field over. If they do that, then I think he possesses the more dangerous weapons in Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston, Hightower and James. All three receivers went over 1,000 yards this season.
The Cards’ defense did a masterful job down at Carolina and will need a repeat effort in Tampa. The D is very capable of bringing the heat as Jake Delhomme found out a couple of weeks ago. I think they have the horses to get a similar job done here.
Towards the end of the season after they clinched, I think the Cards took their foot off the accelerator and relaxed a little too much. But Whisenhunt has found the right ingredients to get them going again.
In a way it’s like David versus Goliath. Big Ben Roethlisberger is much younger and bigger than Warner. But there’s no one I’d like slinging the rock right now rather than Kurt. And there’s no one I want catching the rock right now more than Fitzgerald.
Fitz is hotter than any receiver right now. Hines Ward’s knee is still a little bit of a question mark at this time. Ward still has a big grin that’s hard to wipe off his face. But Fitzgerald has three consecutive playoff games over 100 yards. It’s a real impressive number and it makes Fitzgerald’s grin much wider than Ward’s at this particular time.
Warner will answer the final question on the NFL’s version of, "Who wants to be a Millionaire?"
The answer is a Cardinals win. And Warner will indeed go down in NFL history as THE slumdog millionaire! CARDS/UNDER.
Super Bowl 43 final score:
Arizona 24, Pittsburgh 23.