Falcons 24

(11-5, 4-4 away)

Cardinals 30

(9-7, 6-2 home)

Coverage: NBC

4:30 PM ET, January 3, 2009

U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ 

1 2 3 4 T
ATL 0 17 0 724
ARI 7 7 14 230

Top Performers

Passing: K. Warner (ARI) - 271 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: E. James (ARI) - 16 CAR, 73 YDS

Receiving: L. Fitzgerald (ARI) - 6 REC, 101 YDS, 1 TD

Warner leads Cards past unsteady Ryan, Falcons

Associated Press

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals have consecutive home playoff victories -- 61 years apart.

Kurt Warner opened with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald and connected with Anquan Boldin on a 71-yard scoring play as the Cardinals beat Atlanta 30-24 Saturday before a raucous, towel-waving crowd.

Fast Facts

• The Cardinals won a playoff game for the third time in their history and first time since 1998.

• Kurt Warner was 19-of-32 for 271 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. It was Warner's eighth career playoff game overall and his fifth throwing for at least two scores.

• Matt Ryan was the seventh rookie quarterback to start a playoff game since the merger (the Ravens' Joe Flacco will be the eighth). Ryan was 26-of-40 for 199 yards, two scores and two picks. His 26 completions, 40 attempts and 199 pass yards were the most by a rookie signal caller in his postseason debut since the merger.

• Arizona outgained the Falcons 174-61 in the second half (357-250 for the game).

-- ESPN research

• Rapid Reaction

It was the franchise's first home playoff game since the then-Chicago Cardinals beat Philadelphia to win the NFL championship in 1947.

"A lot of people coming into this game said we were the worst playoff team ever to get in," Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "... I think we rallied around that."

Atlanta rookie Matt Ryan was intercepted twice, was tackled in the end zone for a safety and fumbled the ball away on a botched handoff. That fumble was returned 27 yards by Antrel Rolle 52 seconds into the second half to put Arizona ahead for good.

Everyone knew the Cardinals could pass, but a stout defense and effective running game were a bonus.

"You have to really give credit first to their defense," Falcons guard Harvey Dahl said. "They did an outstanding job. They were flying all over the place."

More Is Better

Kurt Warner's two touchdown passes against the Falcons marked the third time he has thrown for multiple scores in a home playoff game. His teams are a perfect 3-0 in those contests.

Kurt Warner Multi-TD Games At Home, Playoff Career
Year Opponent Result
'08 Wild Card Falcons Won
'01 Div Playoff Packers Won
'99 Div Playoff Vikings Won
Atlanta's 60 yards rushing represented a season low.

"We couldn't run the ball," Falcons wide receiver Roddy White said. "We had to throw it around a little bit more than we're used to. Things like that kind of put us behind the 8-ball."

Arizona's Edgerrin James outgained Atlanta's Michael Turner, the NFL's No. 2 rusher.

"They controlled the line of scrimmage," Falcons coach Mike Smith said of the Cardinals' defense.

James, who has made it known he will not be back with the Cardinals next season, carried 16 times for 73 yards. Turner, who rushed for 1,699 yards in the regular season, had 42 yards in 18 attempts.

Warner, in the playoffs for the first time since leading St. Louis to a second Super Bowl in 2001, was 19-of-32, 13-for-17 in the second half, for 271 yards. He was intercepted once.

"I hope this gives us a lot of confidence," Warner said. "I knew we thought we could win this game. Hopefully we can parlay this into some more confidence and know we can win wherever we have to go."

Arizona will play at either the New York Giants or Carolina Panthers next weekend. Arizona has played both teams this season, losing 27-23 at Carolina on Oct. 26, and 37-29 at home to the Giants on Nov. 23.


The Cardinals defense shut down Falcons running back Michael "The Burner" Turner in the second half. The NFL's second-leading rusher couldn't scratch out a single yard on his three carries after the intermission.

Michael Turner vs.
Cardinals Defense
1st Half 2nd Half
Attempts 15 3
Yards 42 0
AVG 2.8 0
TDs 0 0
1st Downs 4 0

Ryan, the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, completed 26 of 40 passes for 199 yards and two scores.

"I think you have to remember what we did as a team this year and we did some things well," Ryan said. "We made some strides as a team as the year went on. But you have to use this as motivation. You don't want to be here."

The Cardinals went 9-7 to win a weak NFC West and make the playoffs for the first time in a decade. After clinching the division, they were blown out by Minnesota and New England in the two weeks preceding their regular-season finale victory over Seattle.

Atlanta (11-5) finished a game behind Carolina in the tough NFC South and came in a winner of five of its last six. But from the start Arizona showed that, at least on this afternoon, it belonged in the postseason.

"A lot of people in Atlanta were giving us no chance," Arizona safety Adrian Wilson said. "There was a lot of talk in the paper from them about how it was a blessing for them to come out here -- but it's not sweet out here."

Antonio Smith's tackle of Ryan for a safety put Arizona ahead 30-17 with 12:37 to play.

The Falcons, who rebounded from a 4-12 season to make the playoffs, made it close after that. On fourth-and-6, Ryan connected with Jerious Norwood for 28 yards to Cardinals 26. That led to Ryan's 5-yard scoring pass to Roddy White that cut it to 30-24 with 4:15 left.

But Warner completed passes to Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Stephen Spach, then the Cardinals ran out the clock.

When it was over, Whisenhunt ran along the front row of the stadium, exchanging high-fives with fans. The Cardinals didn't sell out the game until Friday, but the throng was loud and boisterous throughout.

Arizona Cardinals Atlanta Falcons Video

Watch highlights from the Arizona Cardinals' 30-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Ryan's first pass of the playoffs was intercepted by Ralph Brown, leading to Warner's 42-yard TD to Fitzgerald on a flea-flicker. Early in the second quarter, Warner threw short to Boldin, who beat safety Lawyer Milloy and ran down the sideline on a 71-yard scoring play.

Boldin hurt his left hamstring on the play. He played the next series, then left for good.

Atlanta scored twice in the final 2:55 to take a 17-14 halftime, then got the ball on the second-half kickoff.

Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was the disruptive force on the crucial fumble.

"I just jumped the snap count, man," he said. "I needed to make a play. We needed a spark. We were down and that was the play that turned this whole thing around."

Dockett hit Turner just as Ryan was trying to hand off the ball. The ball bounced off Turner's forearm and into the hands of Rolle, who raced to the end zone.

The Cardinals mustered their first extended drive of the game later in the third quarter. Moving the ball with James' running and Warner's short passes, Arizona used up 7:43, going 76 yards in 14 plays. Warner's 14-yard pass to Breaston on third-and-3 set up Tim Hightower's 4-yard run that made it 28-17.

Game notes

The Falcons had the ball for 21:19 in the first half, the Cardinals had it for 21:21 in the second. ... It was a nice day outside but the Cardinals kept the roof closed at University of Phoenix Stadium. The stadium is far louder with the roof closed. ... Each team was without a starting defensive end because of injuries, Jamaal Anderson for Atlanta and Travis LaBoy for Arizona. ... Arizona is 13-4 at home since Whisenhunt became coach.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs2015
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Total Plays6760
Total Yards250357
Yards per play3.76.0
Total Drives1313
Yards per pass
Interceptions thrown
Sacks-Yards Lost
Rushing Attempts
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)3-41-1
Fumbles lost
Interceptions thrown
Defensive / Special Teams TDs01

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders


Receiving Leaders


Scoring Summary

ariTD10:37Larry Fitzgerald 42 Yard Pass From Kurt Warner (Neil Rackers Kick is Good)
Drive info: 4 plays, 63 yds, 2:03
atlFG10:03Jason Elam 30 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 14 plays, 80 yds, 7:31
ariTD9:10Anquan Boldin 71 Yard Pass From Kurt Warner (Neil Rackers Kick is Good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 72 yds, 1:02
atlTD3:00Michael Turner 7 Yard Run (Jason Elam Kick is Good)
Drive info: 14 plays, 77 yds, 6:03
atlTD0:27Justin Peelle 2 Yard Pass From Matt Ryan (Jason Elam Kick is Good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 23 yds, 1:40
ariTD14:17Antrel Rolle 27 Yard Fumble Return (Neil Rackers Kick is Good)
Drive info: 2 plays, 0 yds, 0:52
ariTD2:54Tim Hightower 4 Yard Run (Neil Rackers Kick is Good)
Drive info: 14 plays, 76 yds, 7:43
ariSF12:44Matt Ryan Sacked By Antonio Smith In End Zone For -3 Yards
Drive info: 1 plays, -3 yds, 0:00
atlTD4:19Roddy White 5 Yard Pass From Matt Ryan (Jason Elam Kick is Good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 58 yds, 3:36