In the Cardinals win over the Atlanta Falcons in the early game, Arizona used the big play and an inspired defensive effort against the run to hold off the Falcons 30-24. Quarterback Kurt Warner connected with Larry Fitzgerald for a 42-yard touchdown in the first quarter and Anquan Boldin on a 71-yard scoring play in the second quarter to stake an early 14-3 lead.
Meanwhile, the defense kept the league's second-leading rusher in Michael Turner in check, holding him to just 42 yards on 18 carries. And it was a key play on the defensive side of the ball, after the Falcons had battled back to take the lead, that gave control of the game back to Arizona for good.
On the Falcons first possession of the second half, safety Antrel Rolle picked up a fumble on a botched hand off by quarterback Matt Ryan and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown. Another touchdown in the third quarter and a safety early in the fourth opened up a 30-17 lead and the Cardinals were on their way to the division round of the playoffs.
The second game of the day, between the Chargers and Indianapolis Colts, was a classic back-and-forth battle that took overtime to decide. And fittingly, Chargers running back Darren Sproles, who racked up 328 total all-purpose yards Saturday night, ripped off a 22-yard touchdown run in the extra period to end the game, 23-17.
And just like that, the league's MVP Peyton Manning and the hottest team in the NFL were ousted from the playoffs.
Opponents for the victors of Saturday's games will be decided with the results of Sunday's games, and chances are each will hit the road for their next contest. That should be a stiff test for each.