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Unhappy birthday for Delhomme
Panthers quarterback cedes 5 interceptions as Cardinals romp to 33-13 win.
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2009 14:21 GMT

It can get lonely out there [GALLO/GETTY]
The Arizona Cardinals cruised into the NFC championship game with a stunning 33-13 away victory over the Carolina Panthers, the surprise win built on five interceptions from home quarterback Jake Delhomme.

Kurt Warner passed for two touchdowns and the Cardinals' opportunistic defence made Delhomme's 34th birthday a miserable one, forcing a fumble to go with the team-record five picks.

"The defence played great, the offensive line played tremendous" Warner said on Saturday.

"We ran the ball, we were able to throw the ball, big plays everywhere,

"It was a team effort and that's the only way you win at this level."

Arizona, the NFC West champions, will play the winners of Sunday's game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants for the conference title on January 18.

Cardinal thunder

Reggie Wells shares a sporting moment with Jeremy Bridges [GALLO/GETTY]
Carolina (12-5), the only NFL team not to lose at home during the regular season, scored the game's first touchdown, then yielded 33 consecutive points to the underdog Cardinals (11-7).

Twenty-six of the points came after turnovers by Delhomme, including a 29-yard touchdown pass from Warner to Larry Fitzgerald to give the Cardinals a 27-7 half-time lead.

Fitzgerald made big plays from start to finish, hauling in eight Warner passes for team playoff-record 166 yards.

"He's a big playmaker for us, and he did it again today," said Warner, who was always going to depend heavily on Fitzgerald after his number two receiver Anquan Boldin was sidelined for the game with a strained hamstring.

Academic for Hightower

The 37-year-old Warner, who led the St Louis Rams to the Super Bowl title in 1999, also threw a three-yard TD pass to Tim Hightower to help level the score at 7-7 after Carolina had scored on Jonathan Stewart's nine-yard run.

Less than a minute later the Cardinals had the lead for keeps.

Delhomme fumbled at the Carolina 13 and two plays later Edgerrin James was in the end zone off a four-yard run to put the Cardinals in front 14-7.

Neil Rackers helped add to Carolina's misery with four field goals.

Carolina finally scored its second touchdown with 57 seconds to play, Delhomme tossing eight yards to Steve Smith.

Source:
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