Super Bowl: Rally fell just short for Cardinals
By Bob Baum
TAMPA, Fla. ó The Arizona Cardinals’ fourth-quarter comeback seemed too good to be true. In the end, it was.
Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald, the pass-and-catch combination that was so spectacular in the playoffs, connected for two touchdowns in less than five minutes against the fierce Pittsburgh defense to give the Cardinals a 23-20 lead Sunday night.
Just 2 minutes, 37 seconds separated Arizona from an incredible Super Bowl upset, a magical finish to a playoff run nobody had expected from this long-downtrodden franchise. But it was too much time. Santonio Holmes’ tiptoe touchdown catch with 35 seconds to play spoiled everything for the Cardinals.
They would go home knowing only that they came close, and they would rue the many mistakes that put them behind in the first place.
“To fight back and put us in position felt great, but give credit to the Steelers to come back down and get a touchdown,” Warner said.
Warner completed 31 of 43 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns with one costly interception. The 31 completions were one shy of New England quarterback Tom Brady’s Super Bowl record and tied Buffalo’s Jim Kelly for second.
Warner now holds the top three marks for yards passing in a Super Bowl, previously throwing for 414 yards in 2000 against Tennessee and 365 yards against New England in 2002 while with the St. Louis Rams.
“These guys exceeded expectations. They were so much fun to play with,” Warner said. “I just can’t say enough about the season that we had.”
On Sunday, Fitzgerald caught six passes for 115 yards ó in the fourth quarter ó after just one catch for 12 yards in the first three. His 64-yard scoring pass from Warner gave Arizona its only lead of the game.
“I knew it wasn’t over,” Warner said. “I tip my hat to the Steelers. They made some tremendous plays. … They won this game. We didn’t lose it.”
But when the dust settles from this crazy finish, Arizona can look back at its 11 penalties for 106 yards.
And of course that interception at the end of the first half, when James Harrison picked off Warner’s short toss, then rambled 100 yards for a touchdown and a 17-7 Pittsburgh lead at halftime.
“I’m disappointed for our team,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “This is a group of men that I’m very proud of. They played very hard in circumstances where nobody believed in them. … We learned a lot about our team, it’s just unfortunate it had to come out that way.”