March Madness arrived at University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday, as Gonzaga and North Carolina staved off frenetic rallies to advance to Monday night’s college basketball national championship game.
While this is the first time a Final Four has been played at the stadium, those two games are just the latest in a long line of unforgettable postseason finishes at the Cardinals’ home (which has only been around since 2006).
As the Tar Heels and Bulldogs prepare to tip off for the title, here is a look back at the thrilling contests of the past:
Jan. 1, 2007: Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42 in the Fiesta Bowl
Boise State was a heavy underdog heading into the game, but used several gadget plays to pull out the win. The Broncos forced overtime on a 50-yard hook-and-lateral, scored a touchdown on a fourth-down halfback pass in overtime and won it with a two-point conversion on a Statue of Liberty handoff. It’s still one of the best bowl games of all-time.
Feb. 4, 2008: Giants 17, Patriots 14 in Super Bowl XLII
The Patriots were zeroing in on the first 19-0 season in NFL history, but the Giants spoiled the party. New York’s pass rush kept New England’s potent offense at bay, and the helmet catch by little-used David Tyree on the Giants’ game-winning touchdown drive will be forever ingrained in the memories of fans on both sides. Plaxico Burress had the deciding points on a 13-yard touchdown throw from Eli Manning with 35 seconds remaining.
Jan. 3, 2009: Cardinals 30, Falcons 24 in the NFC Wild Card round
The team that was supposed to wilt quickly in the playoffs forgot to heed that message, beating Atlanta in its playoff opener behind big games from
Jan. 18, 2009: Cardinals 32, Eagles 25 in the NFC Championship game
The Cardinals demolished the Panthers on the road to pull within one win of advancing to the Super Bowl. The Cardinals dominated Philadelphia early, jumping out to a 24-6 lead, but the Eagles rallied back to go ahead 25-24 with 10:56 remaining. The Cardinals marched down the field and scored to go-ahead points on a screen pass from Kurt Warner to Tim Hightower to advance to the Super Bowl.
Jan. 10, 2010: Cardinals 51, Packers 45 in overtime of the NFC Wild Card round
While the Cardinals’ quest to return to the Super Bowl ultimately fell short, it started off with another wildly entertaining victory. Warner and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers put on a show, as the teams combined for the most points in an NFL playoff game. While offense was all the rage, this one was decided on a defensive play when Karlos Danbsy picked up a Rodgers fumble in overtime and returned it 17 yards for a score.
Jan. 10, 2011: Auburn 22, Oregon 19 in the BCS national championship game
Cam Newton and the Tigers used a last-minute drive to clinch the title. Wes Byrum hit a 19-yard field goal for the win, which was set up by a 37-yard run by Michael Dyer when everyone on the field stopped because they thought he was down.
Feb. 1, 2015: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24 in Super Bow XLIX
Two years later, the interception by Malcolm Butler is still plain as day in everyone’s minds. The Seahawks could have handed the ball off to Marshawn Lynch, but instead tried a slant, and Russell Wilson was intercepted. Seattle looked like a dynasty in the making but missed on a chance for another title and hasn’t been back to the Super Bowl the past two seasons.
Jan. 11, 2016: Alabama 45, Clemson 40 in the BCS national championship game
The Tigers got their revenge in another great championship game this year, but it was the Crimson Tide which came away victorious at University of Phoenix Stadium. Alabama used an onside kick to reverse the momentum and then struck last in a fantastic back-and-forth affair.
Jan. 16, 2016: Cardinals 26, Packers 20 in overtime of the NFC Divisional round
The Hail Mary from Rodgers. The Hail Larry from Fitzgerald. The Cardinals dominated Green Bay late in the regular season but the playoff rematch was a thriller. Michael Floyd’s touchdown reception on a tipped pass gave the Cardinals the lead in the fourth quarter, but Rodgers connected on a pair of long bombs on a desperation final drive to tie the game. Fitzgerald saw to it that the Packers never got another chance in overtime.