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Ravens, Cards pull big upsets

THE Baltimore Ravens survived their grudge match 13-10 against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, while the Arizona Cardinals stunned the bumbling Carolina Panthers 33-13 in the NFL playoffs on Saturday.

The Ravens and Titans, two teams with an extreme dislike for each other, never stopped pounding it out in the wind and rain.

The difference: Baltimore forced three turnovers and never gave away the ball.

And when quarterback Joe Flacco led a 51-yard drive in the dying minutes to set up Matt Stover's winning 43-yard field goal with 53 seconds remaining, the Ravens were headed to the AFC championship game. Led by the first rookie quarterback to win two playoff games, the Ravens will play at Pittsburgh or San Diego next week for the right to go to the Super Bowl.

The Cardinals are a victory away from their first Super Bowl appearance. The target of jokes for years with their history of ineptitude, the Cardinals became the last NFC team to reach the conference championship since the 1970 merger with a win few saw coming in Charlotte.

Entering as a 10-point underdog and ridiculed for their 0-5 record on the East Coast, Arizona raced to a 27-7 halftime lead and cruised past the mistake-prone Panthers.

Next weekend, the Cardinals will either visit the New York Giants or host the Philadelphia Eagles.

Baltimore's victory was engineered by a brutal defense that forced mistakes by the Titans, who had the league's best record this season.

It was so rugged that the highlight-reel play was All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis' explosive second-quarter hit on Titans fullback Ahmard Hall near the sideline. Hall's helmet flew off and both players began jawing at each other.

Perhaps the biggest Tennessee turnover came with about 9 minutes to go when Alge Crumpler fumbled near the Baltimore goal line. Fabian Washington recovered, preventing the Titans from taking a late lead.

The once discarded Kurt Warner was steady for the Cardinals, throwing two touchdown passes, while Carolina's Jake Delhomme threw five interceptions and lost a fumble.

"The defense played great, the offensive line played tremendous. We ran the ball, we were able to throw the ball, big plays everywhere," Warner said. "It was a team effort and that's the only way you win at this level."


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