They told us this was a different Cardinal, but the Bird that flew around Tampa, Fla., the majority of Super Bowl XLIII was so ordinary it was frustrating.
Even before a play was run from scrimmage, the Cards won the coin toss and curiously elected to defer to the second half. With their explosive offense on the sideline, the Cards relinquished a nine-play, 71-yard drive and were down, 3-0, just 5:15 into this contest.
Then, having survived an atrocious first quarter, 'Zona was poised to take a lead into the Bruce Springsteen intermission break. Down, 10-7, and faced with a first-and-goal at the Pittsburgh 1 with 18 seconds on the clock, quarterback Kurt Warner dropped back to throw as linebacker James Harrison dropped back in coverage.
Warner saw his intended receiver — Anquan Boldin — but he never spotted Harrison and the Defensive Player of the Year not only picked off the pass but returned it a SB-record 100 yards for a TD with no time on the clock. So instead of a 14-10 Cards lead or even a 10-10 tie at the break, the Black & Gold were up 10 at 17-7.
Then early in the third quarter, the Cardinals committed three critical penalties before Jeff Reed nailed a 21-yard field goal to make it a 20-7 game.
But these improbable Cards would indeed soar again in the fourth stanza as Warner went to Larry Fitzgerald on a quick fade to cut it to 20-14. And just when it looked like it was over as Big Ben Roethlisberger, from his end zone, hit Santonio Holmes for a 19-yard gain and a first down, C Justin Hartwig was called for holding and an automatic safety.
Two plays later, Warner foundFitzgerald up the middle and L. Fitz sprinted up the seam for a seemingly miraculous 23-20 lead. But the Steelers, trailing for the first time tonight, responded eight plays later when Big Ben fired a rocket to Holmes in the corner of the end zone and the receiver made a beautiful toe-dragging reception with 35 seconds left.
Six rings for the Steelers while the Cards are left searching for the hardware. But while a Pittsburgh championship is not anything we've clamored for, 2009 has begun, Jets fans.
In his introductory news conference just last week, Rex Ryan talked about his family and the Jets' 68 team. And when Joe Namath walked out with the Vince Lombardi Trophy tonight, it was a fantastic moment for Pittsburgh.
But the Jets won't be intimidated by the most successful franchise in NFL history. Rex's plan is to make 2009 special by making a little history of his own.
"My dad started his pro coaching career with the Jets, and in his first year they won the Super Bowl," Ryan said. "I'd love to do that, duplicate that this year, and we're going to do everything we can to get that going."