Cardinals 19, Saints 17
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) _ Maybe the Arizona Cardinals are good enough for the playoffs. Any team that has Jake Plummer at quarterback has a chance.
Plummer led the Cardinals on another last-minute desperation drive, setting up Chris Jacke’s final-play, 36-yard field goal to give Arizona a 19-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
The Cardinals (8-7), who last made the playoffs in the 1982 strike season after a 5-4 record while playing in St. Louis, can claim the final NFC wild-card berth with a home victory over the San Diego Chargers next Sunday.
The Cardinals haven’t been to the playoffs in a non-strike year since 1975.
The loss eliminated the Saints (6-9) from contention, leaving only Tampa Bay and the New York Giants alive. If the Cardinals lose, they can still make the playoffs if Philadelphia beats the Giants.
Plummer passed for 394 yards and threw the final block to spring Adrian Murrell on a 21-yard scoring run _ Arizona’s only touchdown _ with 8:16 left in the third quarter.
The victory was the eighth for the second-year quarterback in 10 games when Arizona was tied or trailing in the fourth quarter. He directed the 73-yard drive in the final 1:16 to set up Jacke’s game-winner that went through as the clock ran out.
Jacke had three earlier field goals, from 21, 38 and 46 yards.
Saints free safety Sammy Knight returned an interception 39 yards for a TD that gave the Saints a 7-3 lead in the second quarter. The teams exchanged field goals and the Saints held a 10-6 halftime lead.
Knight recovered a fumble by Murrell on the Arizona 18-yard line with 12:28 left in the game. But Cardinals linebackers Mark Maddox and Jamir Miller stopped Lamar Smith for no gain on fourth-and-1 at the 9 to preserve a 13-10 Arizona lead.
After Jacke’s field goal with 6:48 to play gave the Cardinals a 16-10 lead, Kerry Collins took the Saints on a 14-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 13-yard TD pass to Cameron Cleeland. It was New Orleans’ first offensive touchdown in more than nine quarters and gave it a 17-16 lead with 1:21 left.
The kickoff return took five more seconds, and Plummer took over on his own 8. He hit Frank Sanders for 25 and 28 yards on the first two plays, then scrambled for 21 yards as he moved the Cardinals into position for the winner.