I love the Arizona Cardinals' story, and what it has meant for Kurt Warner and Ken Whisenhunt and Larry Fitzgerald and a whole lot of deserving people you aren't used to seeing this time of year. But that story is about to end.
I look at what Philadelphia accomplished in the second half of Sunday's NFC Championship Game, with Donovan McNabb throwing three touchdowns to rally the Eagles from 18 points down, and there is no way that happens to the Steelers.
Their players won't allow it, and neither will their coach.
I'm talking, of course, about Dick LeBeau, and all he does is serve as coordinator for the best defense on the planet. They always tell you that defenses win championships, and the Steelers have five Lombardi Trophies as proof.
They're about to add a sixth, and Whisenhunt of all people knows why: They can stop anyone, anytime, anywhere. They just did it to Baltimore again, and, no, the Ravens aren't exactly Air Coryell. But their quarterback had been playing flawless football until he ran into Pittsburgh. Then he threw three interceptions and produced a passer rating of 18.2.
"Without a doubt," safety Troy Polamalu said, "this is the best defense I ever played on."
|'Without a doubt this is the best defense I ever played on,' Troy Polamalu says. (Getty Images)|
That doesn't mean Warner can't pull off the improbable. He and his teammates have been doing it the past month. But this task looks insurmountable, with the quarterback asked to outwit a pass rush that beats down opponents. Essentially, it's Warner vs. LeBeau, and I always like the veteran.
Which means I go with LeBeau. He will confuse Warner. He will pressure him. He will knock him down. And, yes, he will force him into mistakes.
And that's how you win championships -- with great defenses.
A year ago, New England strode into the Super Bowl with a record-setting pass attack and an undefeated record, yet it couldn't close out the New York Giants -- and it couldn't because it couldn't overcome one obstacle.
The Giants' defense. That lesson is about to be repeated.