TODAY IN THE NJLMFL- NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
ORLANDO THUNDER at ARIZONA CARDINALS
University of Phoenix Stadium- Glendale AZ.
They say that baseball is a game of inches. True. Today the NFC Championship was a game of inches. The Orlando Thunder from the NFC East and the # 6 seed defeated the Arizona Cardinals 21-14 to become NFC Champions and play the Oklahoma Longhorns in Super Bowl 51 in Charlotte North Carolina. Story.
1st Half- Orlando won the toss and took the kick. Orlando started slow as QB Michael Vick missed badly on his first pass and the punishing ground attack of the Thunder running backs Rickey Williams and Ryan Grant lost yardage on the first drive. Vick’s second pass was on the money, a 17 yard pass to Grant out of the backfield for 17 yards to the Arizona 41. From there Orlando struck like lightning. On 3rd down and 14 Michael Vick looked to pass. With no open receivers he took off and broke through the line of scrimmage. If you blinked you might have missed the speedy quarterback as Vick raced 45 yards for the games first score. It was Orlando 7, Arizona 0 with 6:44 to go in the first.
On Arizona’s first possession QB Kurt Warner drove the team 69 yards in 9 plays completing 6 out of seven passes and capping off the drive himself with a 7 yard TD run to tie the game at 7 now into the 2nd quarter. Orlando KR Kevin Williams returned the kickoff 41 yards to the Arizona 42. With a short field Orlando only took 6 plays to score. The big play of the drive was a third down pass from Vick to TE Jeremy Shockey for 17 yards to the Cardinals 12. On the next play RB Ryan Grant ran 12 yards for the go ahead score. Orlando now owned a 14-7 lead with 5:11 to go in the half. Arizona started from their own 28 with just over 5 minutes to go in the half. Warner continued to have a hot hand hitting Roy Green, Terry Metcalf and Roy Green again for 14,24 and 16 yards down to the Orlando 12 yard line with 1:02 to the half. On the next play OJ Anderson ran right but was stripped of the ball by Orlando DL Tony Cassilles and the Thunder recovered. This was a severe turnover for the Cardinals. It looked like Jimmy Johnson was content with a 14-7 lead when Ryan Grant lost 2 yards back to the 11 with just :42 seconds left and the clock running. Orlando got off what looked to be the last play of the half when Vick hit Shockey again for 19 yards out to the Orlando 30. Shockey got out of bounds at the Thunder 30 with :01 left. Next came the backbreaking play of the game. Arizona sent 5 guys back in a deep prevent zone. Without a pass rush Vick took the snap and found lots of running room up the middle. The Cardinal players on the sideline watched as Vick passed by them like a freight train. Vick was able to elude all of the deep Arizona defenders and crossed the goal line for a 70 yard TD to shock the Phoenix faithful and give Orlando a 21-7 halftime lead. This was the play of the game.
Arizona head coach George Seifert was able to re-group his team as they began the second half with a 12 play 61 yard drive to score. On 3rd and 10 Warner completed his only pass of the game to Larry Fitzgerald for 26 yards and a first down at the Orlando 37. Metcalf then ran for 6 yards and another completion got Arizona to the Thunder 14. Disaster nearly happened again when Metcalf fumbled on the next play but Arizona was able to recover. Warner then missed on back to back passes and it was 4th down. Neil Rackers was sent onto the field and was able to connect on a 31 yard field goal to make it 21-10 but there was a flag on the play. Orlando was caught holding so Seifert decided to take the points off the board and a first and 10 half the distance to the goal at the Orlando 7. Two plays later Warner hit OJ Anderson for a 4 yd TD and it was 21-14 with 1:52 left in the 3rd quarter. The quarter ended 21-14 Orlando.
It took 8 plays and over 8 minutes for Orlando to reach the Arizona 18 yard line mostly on runs by Rickey Williams. On a second and 9 play from the Arizona Williams was stopped for no gain but a personal foul was called against Arizona took the ball to the Cardinals 14 yard line. Williams then lost 4 yards and Grant was stopped for no gain. On 3rd and 14 Vick lofted a beautiful pass to Braylon Edwards who made the catch but was tackled at the Arizona 10 and fumbled. After a mad scramble for the ball the pile was cleared and Arizona had it at their own 10 with 6:36 to go. The Stage was set for another Kurt Warner comeback.On first down Warner fired a 15 yard strike to Terry Metcalf who took it out to the Arizona 35 and a first down. Warner then threw incomplete with 4:51 left. On the next play Warner fumbled on a bad exchange from the center but was able to fall on the ball for a 2 yard loss back to the 33. On 3rd and 12 Warner misfired again looking for Steve Breaston. Now just 3:34 remained and it was 4th and 12. Warner went back to throw and Orlando LB Zach Thomas came storming up the middle. Warner saw an open Roy Green out near the 45 and fired as he was hit. The play was directed to the intangible chart. The result was a diving catch by Green but down at the spot. Green needed the 45 for a first down and was so close I had to snap a picture on my camera then magnify it to make the call. Green was just a fraction short of the 45 and Orlando took over on downs with 3:14 to go.
After runs by Rickey Williams and Ryan Grant gained only 2 yards Orlando forced Arizona to use their remaining time outs with 2:12 left in the game. On third and 8 Vick went right back to Braylon Edwards who more than made up for his fumble with a big 14 yard catch down to the Arizona 31. The first down all but locked things up for Orlando. Rickey Williams ran two more times for 9 yards each. On the second 9 yard gain Williams went out of bounds with :33 seconds left. Michael Vick took the final snap and went 5 yards on the final play. Orlando was victorious 21-14. No miracles today. Michael Vick the games MVP was carried off the field by his team mates as NFC Champions.
Now it’s the first ever Super Bowl featuring two of the new expansion teams. The Oklahoma Longhorns will represent the AFC and be the visiting team and the NFC Champion Orlando Thunder will be the home team in Super Bowl 51 to be played at the home of the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte. Orlando is listed as an early 6 point favorite.
ORL- Vick 45 yard run (Keading kick)…………………………7-0 6:44
ARZ- Warner 7 yard run (Rackers kick)……………………….7-7 11:25
ORL- Grant 12 yard run (Keading kick)……………………….14-7 5:11
ORL- Vick 70 yard run (Keading kick)…………………………21-7 :00
ARZ- Anderson 4 yard pass from Warner (Rackers kick)……21-14 1:52
No Scoring…………………………………………………………21-14 :00
Grant 6-7 1 TD
Vick 3-120 2 TDs
Anderson 2- (-3) F
Warner 3-5 1 TD
Edwards 2-21 F
Anderson 3-15 1TD
Vick 8-10 103 yds.
Warner 13-19 165 yds 1TD
9 First Downs 13
153 Rushing 50
103 Passing 165
256 Total Yds. 215
1 Turnovers 1
1-10 Penalty yds 2-20
MVP- Michael Vick