Spot On: Spotlight on Hall of Famer Kurt Warner

Russell S. Baxter

Spot On: Spotlight on Hall of Famer Kurt Warner

By Brandon Fazzolari

Special to Pro Football Guru

On Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals host the Los Angeles Rams. Whenever these teams get together, you think of two things: They both played several years in the great city of St. Louis and they both were privileged to have the phenomenal Kurt Warner lead them to the Super Bowl. With that in mind, let’s take a look back at the Hall of Famer’s five greatest performances.

5. Steelers 27, Cardinals 23 (Super Bowl LIII)

Despite losing to the Steelers, Warner threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns completing a whopping 72% of his passes against the league's top defense. At that point in history, he owned the three highest single-game passing yard totals in Super Bowl history. In one of the greatest contests in the history of the National Football League, Warner hooked up with the fantastic Larry Fitzgerald twice in the fourth quarter only to watch Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes respond with a stirring comeback. Sadly for Cardinals fans, Warner was strip-sacked to effectively end the ball game.

Interestingly, despite how great Warner played in this game, his final pass of the first half is the one that provides the most indelible memory. The Cardinals had the ball inside Pittsburgh’s five-yard line with just seconds left when he looked for Anquan Boldin. Edge-man James Harrison, known for his pass-rushing prowess, dropped into coverage on this play and Warner never saw him. Harrison proceeded to run the pick back to the house in an incredible 100-yard interception return. The fact that Warner came back from this to play so well in the second half is just another aspect to his legend.

4. Cardinals 31, Jaguars 17 (2009)

Warner was simply marvelous on the day. Granted, the opponent was not exactly "Sacksonvillle," but what Warner accomplished was outstanding no matter who the opponent. Kurt carved up the Jaguars, completing 24-of-26 passes for 243 yards and two scores. This game demonstrated that the 38-year old Warner was about to sling it around the yard in this, his final season.

3. Rams 49, Vikings 37 (1999 NFC Divisional Playoffs)

In his first ever playoff game, Warner and the "Greatest Show on Turf" 1999 Rams lived up to the billing. Minnesota was well-known for being an offensive juggernaut at the time as well thanks in large part to the unprecedented wideout play of Randy Moss. However, it took St. Louis exactly one play from scrimmage to strike. Warner hit Isaac Bruce for a 77-yard score and the Rams were off and running. Down 17-14 at the half, the Rams exploded for five consecutive touchdowns and a 49-17 lead. Moss got his too little, too late. Warner and Vikings quarterback Jeff George combined for 814 passing yards and nine touchdown passes.

Watching Warner play in 1999 is reminiscent of Terry Bradshaw, Dan Marino and Joe Montana as he had perhaps the most accurate deep ball I had ever seen. This game put on display a microcosm of what he accomplished during his breathtaking 1999 campaign.

2. Cardinals 51, Packers 45 (OT) (2009 NFC Wild Card Playoffs)

Warner was forced to outduel Aaron Rodgers which is never an easy proposition. However, it was especially difficult on this day as Rodgers threw for 423 yards and four TDs. Well, Warner did it. Indeed, this goes down as one of the great performances by any quarterback in any game in NFL history. In winning the highest combined scoring playoff game in NFL history, Warner threw more touchdowns (5) than incompletions (4)! It was Warner’s last home playoff game, ending his career 7-0.

One week later his season and career would come to an end when Sean Payton’s eventual-Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints knocked him out while he was attempting to make a play on an interception return. But, in the duel in the desert, Warner gave us one final glimpse of his greatness.

1. Rams 23, Titans 16 (Super Bowl XXXIV)

Kurt's magical 1999 MVP season culminated with a magical Super Bowl MVP game. He went from grocery store bagger to bagging a World Championship in a dramatic performance for the ages. His 414-yard, two-touchdown output, capped by a 73-yard scoring pass to Bruce late in the fourth quarter, lifted the Rams to a 23-16 win over Tennessee.

St. Louis marched up and down the field in the first half but were held to five field goal attempts and a slim 9-0 lead. But, Warner and the Rams went to work early in the third, hitting Tory Holt to give St. Louis a 16-0 advantage. Steve McNair and the Titans were gallant in defeat coming back to tie it late. That's when Warner found Bruce as he was being drilled by Jevon Kearse. Bruce weaved his way to the end zone. Tennessee got within a yard, but linebacker Mike Jones saved the day with a tackle of a lifetime. Warner did it. The Hall of Famer will always be known as a Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

Brandon Fazzolari (@spot_bills) is a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan and a Vegas sports reporter for Vegas the Network.

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