PHOENIX - Fewer words in NFL history are more improbable than these: The Arizona Cardinals will host the NFC championship game.
In the latest example of the Cardinals' incredible postseason good fortune, the Eagles beat the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, 23-11, yesterday. The meant Arizona stays at home to face the Eagles next Sunday with the winner headed to the Super Bowl.
It's an amazing scenario for a Cardinals franchise that until this year had one playoff victory in 61 seasons.
The Cardinals are 7-2 at home this season, including a 30-24 wild card playoff victory over Atlanta. That was followed by Arizona's 33-13 stunner at Carolina on Saturday night to send the Cardinals into their first NFC championship game.
Before Saturday, Arizona was the lone NFC team not to make it to a conference championship game since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.
"What an effort by the whole team," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "When you get to this level you have to win as a team. That's what we've done these past 2 weeks. Nobody believed it. Nobody expected it."
The Cardinals had yesterday off and weren't available for interviews. It's safe to say they were rooting for the Eagles.
"I'm a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan," Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said after Saturday's victory . . . We would love to have a home game."
Had the Giants won, the Cardinals would have had to play the NFC title game in New Jersey's frigid Giants Stadium.
Arizona was routed by the Eagles, 48-20, on Thanksgiving night, a debacle that came 4 days after the Cardinals lost at home to the Giants, 37-29.
On Saturday, five different players intercepted Jake Delhomme's passes, including rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who has picks in each of his last three games. The player his teammates call "DRC" also tipped the ball that resulted in Antrel Rolle's interception and 47-yard return. *