Collinsworth heaps praise on Cardinals

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

No one is calling the Cardinals the worst playoff team in NFL history at this point. One man who did -- NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth -- remains surprised by Arizona's defensive improvement during the postseason.

Collinsworth took part in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. He thought the Cardinals' knowledge of Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, via Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm, would help them in Super Bowl XLIII. Highlights from Collinsworth:

On the Cardinals: "It's amazing that you can have that kind of transformation in a football team once the playoffs start. I've really only seen it one time and it was the Indianapolis Colts when they won the Super Bowl."

On the Steelers' defense: "They have the opportunity to make Kurt Warner look really bad. If you play against Pittsburgh and Dick LeBeau's defense, they are that good. You can throw five interceptions against them every easily."

On Warner overall: "If you can take the MVP vote at the end of the year instead of at the end of the regular season, he may well be MVP because of what he's done with this football team."

On Warner and the Hall of Fame: "I think he just got in. Making it to the Super Bowl with another team that was so totally unexpected. The force of his will carried this team over the top. I thought if he got them to the Super Bowl that would be enough."
On Todd Haley: "The biggest winner out of Arizona's run is Todd Haley. The brush-ups that were captured on TV last week showed not only can he put a game plan together, but that he can also handle himself on the sidelines during tough situations. For him to keep it together and call the plays to march the ball down the field really showed great presence. He has a great pedigree in football, taught by Bill Parcells with a minimalist approach. He's a youthful, energetic guy, and I think he'll be the coach in Kansas City and I think he'll do a good job."

On knowing the Steelers: It is the biggest advantage to come out of this. The Steelers know Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm, but Whisenhunt and Grimm know Roethlisberger and especially Dick LeBeau and his defense. He [LeBeau] creates confusion as well as anybody. He creates the illusion of pressure, even when there's not pressure. He makes guys hurry up. Kurt Warner has his whole history of fumbling, but if he can hang in there and read this defense, then he has a chance."

On Larry Fitzgerald: "He's off the charts with ability to make plays on the ball in the air. I don't know what Larry Fitzgerald's vertical leap is but he looks like Michael Jordan playing out there to me. If it's a tie, you just throw it up in the air and Larry Fitzgerald comes down with it. He just has remarkable hands.

"I can remember the first time I ever saw Jerry Rice play. It was Mississippi Valley State. I happened to be flipping on the cable and I remember watching this kid, he must have caught twenty balls in this game.

"And he just snatched the ball so casually out of the air and I was like, 'Come on it's not that easy.' I have not seen anybody, Cris Carter to some extent, who has been close to what Larry Fitzgerald has been, just so casually catching the football. It's been really fun to watch."