Edgerrin James spoke last week of his final days as an Arizona Cardinal.
He lost his starting halfback spot to rookie Tim Hightower, a former University of Richmond runner, at midseason and three times down the stretch was a healthy game-day inactive. A four-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL rushing champion, this was no way for James to go out — as a bench-warmer. He already has asked for a trade and does not expect to return to Arizona in 2009.
But James gave the Cardinals a glimpse of his former greatness Saturday in the franchise's first home playoff game in 61 years. Making his first start since October, James rushed 16 times for 73 yards to help power the Cardinals to a 30-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
His 16 carries were his most since Oct. 5 against Buffalo, and his 73 yards were his fourth-best afternoon of the season.
"In this league, you do what it takes when it matters," James said. "It's no secret what type of runner I am. I was finally put in a position to be that type of runner."
Atlanta entered the game with the NFL's No. 2 rushing offense, but James personally outrushed Pro Bowler Michael Turner, 73-42, and the Cardinals outrushed the Falcons, 86-60.
Arizona put the game away late in the third quarter with a 14-play, 76-yard touchdown drive that featured nine runs by the generally pass-happy Cardinals. James rushed four times for 19 yards and caught a key third-down pass for 9 more yards. Hightower capped the drive with a 4-yard TD run to give the Cardinals a 28-17 lead.
"That's the type of game I'm used to," James said.
Record day for Cards The Cardinals set a franchise playoff record with 30 points. That topped the 28 scored against the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1947 title game — the last time the Cardinals won a championship.
Anquan Boldin's 71-yard touchdown reception was the longest in the Cardinals' playoff history. But it was a costly score. He suffered a pulled hamstring en route to the end zone and sat out the rest of the game.
A sellout — barely The Cardinals have sold out every game they have played at University of Phoenix Stadium, all 31 games played in the pre, regular and postseason. But the 31st consecutive sellout went down to the wire. Twice, the NFL pushed the deadline back last week before the Cardinals finally sold out the game late Friday afternoon — 64,500 seats.