Kurt Warner had an incredible NFL career, one that could very shortly lead to him being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A good portion of that career was spent in Arizona, where Warner played 61 games (67 if you include playoffs) and installed himself as the leader for many Cardinals franchise records. Some of them have since been broken by Carson Palmer, but Warner’s tenure with the organization is undoubtedly a bright spot for a franchise that, until recently, had relatively few.
But when it comes to Warner, what games really stand out? Warner has his own thoughts:
With apologies to Kurt, who you could say knows a thing or two about this topic, his 2008 effort against Miami (19-of-24 for 361 yards and 3 TDs in a 31-10 win) and the 2007 performance in Baltimore (15-of-20 for 258 yards and 2 TDs in an off-the-bench outing) didn’t quite make the cut here.
With that in mind, here is our collection of Kurt Warner’s most memorable performances while wearing Cardinal Red.
When you throw more touchdown passes than incomplete passes
The Cardinals went into the 2009 postseason as the defending NFC Champions who, unlike the previous season, had the look of a team that could make some serious noise.
Their run began with a home game against the Green Bay Packers, who were led by second-year starting QB Aaron Rodgers. What transpired was one of the best games in NFL history, a wild affair that saw the Cardinals cough up a 21-point third-quarter lead before ultimately triumphing 51-45 in overtime.
The winning score came on a Karlos Dansby fumble recovery, but it was Warner who really shined in what happened to be the final home game of his career. The veteran completed 29-of-33 passes for 379 yards and five touchdowns, posting a QB rating of 154.1. Warner was so good in this game that in the third quarter, a pass he appeared to be trying to throw away ended up being an 11-yard touchdown toss to Larry Fitzgerald.
He did about all he could to bring a title to AZ
The Cardinals were not supposed to be in Super Bowl XLIII, but as long as they were there, Warner was going to do everything he could to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Arizona.
After falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter, Warner led a scoring drive that was capped by a 1-yard TD toss to tight end Ben Patrick, getting Arizona on the board and back into the game. From there, just about the only blemish on Warner’s record was a big one, as the Cardinals, trailing 10-7, appeared poised to score and take a lead into halftime before Steelers linebacker James Harrison stepped in front of a Warner pass and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. However, that did not prevent Warner and the Cardinals from rallying back, as a couple of Warner-to-Fitzgerald touchdowns put the Cardinals ahead 27-23.
Unfortunately, as we all know, the Steelers produced one final scoring drive, and Warner was only able to get the Cardinals to the Pittsburgh 44 before he was sacked by LaMarr Woodley, who forced a fumble that was recovered by Brett Keisel. Even with the rough finish, Warner completed 31-of-43 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns with one interception against what was the NFL’s top-ranked pass defense that season.
Setting records in Jacksonville
Normally, a Week 2 game in Jacksonville would hardly be anything to celebrate, but what Warner did in Arizona’s 31-17 victory — its first of the season, by the way — was remarkable. Actually, it was historic.
Warner completed his first 15 passing attempts to start a game in which he completed 24-of-26 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns, posting an NFL record for completion percentage at 92.3. His incompletions came on a short pass to Anquan Boldin late in the second quarter and then, in the third quarter, he missed on a short toss to Jerheme Urban. As far as Warner passes that did not reach their intended target, that was it.
Aging legends battle it out on Sunday Night Football
In 2009, the Cardinals were clearly the best team in the NFC West, but had still somewhat struggled to establish themselves as one of the NFC’s best. In Week 13 they hosted one of the conference’s elite teams, the Minnesota Vikings, who came to University of Phoenix Stadium with MVP candidate Brett Favre as well as a 10-1 record.
The Cardinals fell behind 7-0 early, but dominated most of the rest of the way en route to a convincing 30-17 victory. Warner completed 22-of-32 passes for 285 yards and three scores that night, outdueling Favre, who was 30-of-45 for 275 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
“We’re going to the Super Bowl!”
You cannot get to the Super Bowl without winning a conference championship game, and for the Cardinals, that meant knocking off the Philadelphia Eagles at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Warner and his team got off to a great start, scoring a touchdown on their opening drive before taking a 24-6 lead into halftime. The Eagles rallied back though and took the lead early in the fourth quarter, but Warner then directed a 14-play, 72-yard scoring drive that ended with a touchdown on a screen pass to running back Tim Hightower. A two-point conversion to tight end Ben Patrick put the Cardinals up by seven, and the defense finished the Eagles off from there.
Warner, who was no stranger to big games like this one, was a masterful 21-of-28 for 279 yards and four touchdowns, with Larry Fitzgerald accounting for nine of the completions, 152 yards and three of the scores.