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Falcons lose in overtime

POSTED: January 4, 2008 5:03 a.m.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. Boos echoed through the stadium.

Seemed like old times for a franchise with one winning season since 1984.

The opponents, though, were the star-crossed Atlanta Falcons, and the Cardinals regrouped Sunday to pull off a 30-27 victory in overtime.

"A lot of things came together that didn’t happen for us earlier in the year," Arizona’s Kurt Warner said. "Maybe that’s a sign of us growing up."

Neil Rackers kicked a 29-yard field goal as the fourth quarter ended to force overtime, then booted one from 31 yards on the first possession of the extra session for the victory.

"I think we just got a little too relaxed, kind of lost our aggression as a team," said Anquan Boldin, who caught 13 passes for 162 yards, two of them for touchdowns. "But when we needed plays, people found a way to make them."

Boldin also became the fastest in NFL history to reach 400 receptions. He did it in his 67th game, five quicker than Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, who did it in 72.

Rackers had missed what would have been a game-winning 32-yarder in an overtime loss to San Francisco a month ago.

"Ironically they were about the same distance as the San Francisco game, and I put them through," he said. "Maybe that was the big man’s way of giving me a Christmas gift."

The Falcons (3-12), who took the lead with 1:51 left in regulation, lost their sixth in a row in a season that has included the loss of star quarterback Michael Vick in a dogfighting scandal and the abrupt departure of coach Bobby Petrino.

"I just wanted to break down and cry, because we can’t get any breaks," said Atlanta wide receiver Roddy White, who caught 12 passes for 141 yards. "We never get any beaks. Somebody up there doesn’t want us to win any football games."

Chris Redman, starting for the third straight week, engineered Atlanta’s comeback, going 28-for-42 for a career-high 315 yards and two scores with one interception.

"We hurt for our football team," interim coach Emmitt Thomas said. "We’re very proud of our football team. They showed a lot of character, a lot of perseverance, a lot of fight."

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt commended the Falcons. He had interviewed for the Atlanta job before it went to Petrino in the offseason.

"They have had a tremendous year of turmoil with a lot of reasons not to play," he said. "They really played hard and did a good job. We were lucky to come out on top."

With a victory at home next Sunday against St. Louis, Arizona (7-8) would have its best record since going 9-7 and making the playoffs in 1998. It would be just the third time since 1984 that the Cardinals have not had a losing record.

Boldin — still slowed by a hip injury and dislocated toe — had catches of 25 and 9 yards, and Larry Fitzgerald had a 19-yard reception, in the game-winning drive.

"I don’t know how many times I’ve told him the last couple of games how much I appreciate him battling and him being out there doing what he does, because it makes us a whole different football team. He’s just a special, special player," said Warner, who was 36-of-53 for 361 yards and three TDs.

Atlanta used up more than seven minutes of the fourth quarter on a 16-play, 83-yard drive that stalled at the Arizona 5. Morten Andersen’s 23-yardd field goal cut the lead to 24-17.

After Arizona’s three-and-out, Redman went 6-for-7 on a 48-yard drive capped by his 7-yard TD pass to Alge Crumpler and it was tied at 24 with 4:50 still to play in regulation.

Again, Arizona couldn’t move the ball, and the Falcons methodically moved down the field. That drive ended at the Cardinals 8, and Andersen’s field goal with 1:38 left in regulation gave Atlanta a 27-24 lead in front of the booing home crowd.

The Cardinals’ offense revived just in time. Warner completed a 19-yard pass to Bryant Johnson, an 18-yarder to Boldin and a 16-yard pass to Fitzgerald. The Cardinals almost ran out of time after Fitzgerald’s catch, but Warner was able to spike it with 4 seconds to go to set up Rackers’ tying kick.

Boldin had touchdown catches of eight and 13 yards, then set up a third TD with a spectacular one-handed grab in the first half. His tackle-breaking 13-yard touchdown catch put Arizona up briefly, 14-7, with 8:10 to play in the half. But on the next play from scrimmage, Laurent Robinson beat the Cardinals’ Antrel Rolle badly and was wide open on a 74-yard touchdown play that tied it 14-all 7:54 before the break.Notes: Warner’s performance gave him 24 touchdown passes for the season, third-most in franchise-history. Only Neil Lomax (1984) and Charley Johnson (1963) have thrown more at 28. ... The Cardinals punted twice rather than have Rackers try field goals between 50 and 54 yards. ... Hood’s fifth interception of the season was the game’s only turnover.



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