Rapid Reaction: Cardinals 30, Falcons 24

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Cardinals appear considerably more legitimate as a playoff contender after beating the Falcons at their own game.

With Edgerrin James running effectively to set up big pass plays, the Cardinals showed they could follow the traditional formula for playoff success. That makes them more of a threat to compete in the divisional round.

The Cardinals also dramatically improved their tackling after letting too many running backs and receivers escape their grasp in key situations during the regular season.

Arizona can point to a 14-play, 76-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter as the turning point in their evolution from potential pass-happy pretenders to a team with staying power.

The Cardinals' aggressive play-calling is another strength moving forward. Coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive coordinator Todd Haley play to win.

Instead of sitting on the ball while protecting a 30-24 lead with four minutes remaining, the Cardinals completed pass plays of 15, 25 and 23 yards. This team heads into the divisional round with confidence, an evolving identity and nothing to lose.