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A Rather Plane Play

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Larry Fitzgerald makes the catch on a play drawn up on the team's charter flight to Carolina.

The play that sparked the Cardinals in the Divisional playoff game was drawn up on the plane to Carolina, late enough that offensive coordinator Todd Haley had to scribble it down on the play sheet in magic marker.

The long bomb to Larry Fitzgerald for 41 yards on third-and-1 set up the Cards' first touchdown, allowing them to tie the game at 7-7 en route to 33 straight points and a 33-13 win.

The play was called "Fake Toss, 339 Taxi Pass" and Haley already has fond memories of its impact.

"If we go all the way," Haley said Monday, "I'm going to frame that sheet of

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paper."

Haley drew up the play, based on some film he saw of Carolina defenders against plays the Cards don't normally run. Then he talked to the coaches and the appropriate players on the plane. The team wanted to avoid running the play in their Friday walkthrough, because the field was in the shadow of Bank of America Stadium and the Panthers' offices. So instead, there was more verbal direction.

Haley admitted assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm was "biting his fingernails" worried that Haley would actually try the play But with the ball at the Arizona 49-yard line, Haley found himself in just that situation. Warner faked the handoff and let one fly to Fitzgerald, who made another acrobatic catch between two defenders.

"It was a big play at a big time for us," Haley said.

ON THE RUN

Haley said the offense has been better with a better play-action ability, since the Cardinals are clearly running the ball more effectively. Against the Panthers, the Cards had 43 attempts for 145 yards while they grinded the clock in the second half.

The most memorable sequence on the ground came in the fourth quarter, when the Cards had a 13-play drive for a field goal that ate up 7:37 on the clock – and all 12 offensive snaps were runs by rookie Tim Hightower.

"I was so caught up in the moment, you don't worry about being tired," said Hightower, who gained 48 yards on the drive. "I felt like the team was counting on me. I was upset at myself for not scoring. You get that close, you hope somehow, some way, you get in."

Hightower had three rushes from the 6 on in, but couldn't get closer than the 2. He said he has to find a way to score in such a situation, because that touchdown may be crucial in another game. But Hightower, who ended up with 76 yards on 17 carries (Edgerrin James added 57 on 20), acknowledged the run game is in a better place than earlier in the season.

"Hey, it is coming at the right time," Hightower said. "It is coming at the perfect time."

BOLDIN WAITS

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he will continue to monitor the progress of wide receiver Anquan Boldin's injured hamstring.

"I just want to get out there for a couple of days and get a couple practices under my belt before I step on the game field," Boldin said.

SPACH DONE

Starting tight end Stephen Spach tore his the ACL in his right knee in the playoff game against the Panthers and will be placed on injured reserve. Spach had been playing well, Whisenhunt said, but he expected Leonard Pope and Ben Patrick to fill in fine.

Whisenhunt said the team will sign another tight end this week. He did not say who, but a likely candidate is Jerame Tuman, the veteran who was with the team until he was released Christmas Eve.


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 1/12/09.

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