Arizona Cardinals OK With Underdog Status

Adrian Wilson (Harry How/Getty)

Quarterback Kurt Warner feels rejuvenated by the Cardinals first playoff appearance in 10 years. Well, sort of. "The playoffs? It makes me feel about five years younger," Warner said. "O.K., maybe two years younger." Saturday's game against the Falcons is the Cardinals' first home playoff game since 1947 and their first playoff game since 1998.

Kurt Warner hasn't been in the post-season since the 2001 season, when the Rams lost in the Super Bowl to the Patriots.

Since then, Warner has been benched four times: once by the Rams, once by the Giants and twice by the Cardinals.

At 37, he's contemplating retirement. Warner is in the final year of a three-contract, and his agent, Mark Bartelstein, has talked with the team about an extension. Those discussions went nowhere but are expected to resume in the off-season.

Bartelstein has said Warner wants to continue playing, and Warner said this week he will make that decision after the season is over.

"It's been a whole bunch of fun for me this year, but I don't know what I'm going to do at this point," he said. "I'm sure I'll talk to the organization, see what their plans are, then talk to my wife and kids.

"It's easy to say I want to keep playing, but I want to make sure I make the right decision for me."

Meanwhile, Warner is stressing to his teammates that playoff opportunities are guaranteed to no one. That point was driven home to him in the seven years that passed after his last playoff appearance.

"I think I was dreaming a little bit driving in the other day, about the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl," Warner said, "and just to have that possibility is exciting. It makes it easier to come to work and put in the extra time, because there's no better feeling like this in football."

SERIES HISTORY: 25th meeting. Cardinals lead, 14-10, and beat the Falcons, 30-27, in overtime in 2007. The Falcons, however, had won four straight over the Cardinals before that. The teams have never met in the playoffs. The Falcons scored 13 points in the fourth quarter last year to take a three-point lead. But the Cardinals tied it with a field goal on the last play of the game and then won it with a field goal in overtime. That game doesn't mean anything, however, because the Falcons underwent a dramatic makeover in the off-season.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Cardinals had 6,500 tickets remaining for the playoff game at mid-week. Team officials are confident they can sell those in time to avoid a blackout on local television.

--Cornerback Rod Hood has given up four touchdowns in the past three weeks and he fully expects the Falcons to test him, too. "You know what, sometimes it just falls like that," he said. "I think when they have opportunities to take shots downfield on me, it gives me an opportunity to make a play. I look forward to the opportunity."

--The Falcons have given up only 49 yards on punt returns this year, an NFL record. That prompted a lot of questions for Cardinals returner Steve Breaston. Breaston has never answered as many questions about punt returns as he has this week. "When you have 49 yards, you are going to be asked a lot of questions."

--Receiver Anquan Boldin has missed the past two games with a shoulder injury. But there is no way he's going to miss a third straight. This will be the first playoff game for Boldin, who is in his sixth season. "If anybody thinks that I'm going to miss this game, they're not too bright," Boldin said. "If my arm was broke, I'd be out there. I'm not missing this one."

That attitude surprised no one. After all, Boldin missed only two games after suffering facial damage in a hit against the Jets. "Well, he had a broken face and that didn't keep him off the field," coach Ken Whisenhunt said, "so I guess that would be accurate."

--The Cardinals are two to three-point underdogs against the Falcons. "I'm fine with being an underdog," Whisenhunt said. "I'm fine with people thinking we don't have a chance."

It doesn't surprise strong safety Adrian Wilson that the Cardinals aren't favored, even though they are playing at home.

"We're the Cardinals, man, nobody gives us respect," he said. "It's always something with this team. That's what you hear in the media. It's always somebody saying something. We're underdogs. That's fine. I know we play well at home. It's going to be a tough game and we're going to be ready to play."

Wilson doesn't need the underdog role to find motivation. "You're asking the wrong one for motivation," he said. "To me, the game can't come fast enough."

BY THE NUMBERS: 80 -- That's the number of games it took receiver Anquan Boldin to reach 500 career receptions. He has 502 in 80 games, the fastest any one in NFL history has reached that mark. He did it in nine fewer games than Lionel Taylor, the former Bronco receiver.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Really, a 9-7 season is good but if we go into this game and lose, it will be just 'division champs.' It doesn't really mean anything, to be honest with you. The season will be a wash if we don't win." -- Strong safety Adrian Wilson.

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