Football games, as we all know, are never won or lost by a single player.
 
But quarterbacks, as we also all know, make an inordinate impact on the outcome of football games.
 
And few players have made more of an impact in a single game than our favorite old warhorse, Kurt Warner, did Sunday afternoon in Arizona's somewhat shocking 32-25 win over perpetual bridesmaid Philly in the NFC title game.
 
Warner surpassed Joe Montana
Warner was virtually flawless against one of the league's toughest defenses: the Eagles entered the NFC title game ranked No. 2 in our Defensive Hog Index and No. 5 in Defensive Passer Rating (72.9).
 
Warner torched this unit as if it were a Protestant on a stake during the Spanish Inquisition, completing 21 of 28 passes (75.0%) for 279 yards, 9.96 YPA, 4 TD, 0 INT and a 145.7 passer rating.
 
The performance gives him this eye-popping postseason line for his career. 
  • 230 of 360 (63.9%), 2,991 yards, 8.31 YPA, 23 TD, 12 INT, 97.3 passer rating.
If it looks impressive, it is. In the process of his nearly perfect statistical performance Sunday, Warner leaped past Joe Montana (95.6) and into second place on the all-time postseason passer rating list.
 
Only the great Bart Starr (104.8), for our money the best quarterback in history, was more effective than Warner in the postseason.
 
Warner surpassed Big Ben
Three quarterbacks entered the 2008 postseason with 5-2 records in postseason play: Jake Delhomme, Ben Roethlisberger and Warner.
 
Delhomme crashed and burned with four picks in Carolina's home loss to the Cardinals in the divisional round. Big Ben, a longtime Cold, Hard Football Facts favorite, needed just two wins to reach the Super Bowl this year.
 
Warner, meanwhile, added three more wins to his postseason resume for a 9-7 Cardinals team forced to play in the wildcard round.
 
That gives Warner an 8-2 mark in postseason play as he heads to the Super Bowl for the third time. Among active quarterbacks, only Tom Brady has a better playoff record (14-3; .824) or has played in more Super Bowls (four).  In all of history, only Brady and Starr (9-1) boast better postseason records.
 
Warner surpassed Brett Favre
When we published our list of the 10 greatest quarterbacks in history last year, we put Brett Favre at No. 10 out of respect to his longevity and gaudy volume stats.
 
Since we published that list, Favre fell apart in the fourth quarter and overtime of the 2007-08 NFC championship game – only his team's biggest game in a decade – then orchestrated a sorrowful off-season soap opera, and then hijacked his new team's playoff hopes with his trademark critical picks throughout the year.
 
Over the same period, Warner led Arizona through the greatest stretch of football in team history, and reaches the Super Bowl with what's easily the worst defense (426 points allowed) that's ever appeared in a championship game.
 
If and when we re-republish that top 10 list, you're far more likely to see Warner on it than Old Yeller.
 
Warner surpassed Peyton Manning
This is going to go over well in Indy, but too freakin' bad.
 
Here it is: Warner is a better quarterback than the Chosen One.
 
The "pundits" will argue otherwise. But the compliant pundits are helpless in the face of the true Chosen One of gridiron analysis, the Cold, Hard Football Facts.
 
Given their respective career accomplishments, we'd take Warner over Manning to lead our team six days a week and certainly on Sunday – especially if that Sunday is in January.  
 
There are a lot of similarities between the two: they both joined the NFL in 1998. They both spent the bulk of their careers playing in domes, giving them plenty of opportunity to cook up fat, juicy stats. And both were often surrounded by great offensive talent. Hell, both of them played with Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James.
 
The similarities are apparent in the numbers:
  • Manning is second in NFL history with a 94.7 career passer rating.
  • Warner is third in NFL history with a 93.8 career passer rating.*
The one difference is in the postseason, where Warner has been better than Manning any which way you want to slice it and dice it. Hell, cut it up with the mighty SlapChop from Vince of ShamWow fame.
 
Warner in the postseason:
230 of 360 (63.9%), 2,991 yards, 8.31, 23 TD, 12 INT, 97.3 passer rating.
 
Manning in the postseason:
348 of 565 (61.6%), 4,207 yards, 7.4 YPA, 22 TD, 17 INT, 84.9 passer rating.
 
Here's what we see in these numbers:
  • Warner's postseason passer rating is actually better than his regular-season passer rating. Manning's postseason passer rating is much lower than his regular-season passer rating.
  • Warner is better than Manning in every single efficiency stat and has actually thrown more postseason TD passes than Manning (23 to 22) – despite the fact that he's played in five fewer postseason games.
Warner is much more likely to play well in the postseason:
  • Warner produced a passer rating of 90.0 or better in six of 10 postseason games.
  • Manning produced a passer rating of 90.0 or better in six of 15 postseason games
Warner is far less likely to lay an egg in the postseason:
  • Manning has had a postseason passer rating of less than 40 three different times in 15 games.
  • Warner has never had a game that bad, let alone three – in his worst statistical game, his passer rating was 56.2.
More importantly, Warner's teams are much more likely to win the playoffs:  
  • Warner's teams are 8-2 in postseason play.
  • Manning's Colts are 7-8 in postseason play.
Warner surpassed all expectations for Arizona
It's as simple as this: the Cardinals had won two playoff games in 88 years of NFL football from 1920 to 2007.
 
They've won three playoff games here in January alone. They'll now appear in the first Super Bowl in franchise history and the organization's first NFL championship game since it played in Chicago in 1948.
 
Warner surpassed doubt that he'll get into the Hall of Fame
Perhaps Warner's greatest accomplishment this week is that he virtually secured himself a spot in Canton. As we stated in the middle of the season, he was already a candidate for HOF honors and probably deserved it. But, win or lose in Super Bowl XLIII, there's literally no way to keep him out now.  
 
He's as good statistically as any quarterback who's ever played the game. He's also a two-time MVP, a Super Bowl champion and a Super Bowl MVP.
 
He'll soon be on the short list of quarterbacks who have started three Super Bowls and he's on an even shorter list – a list that includes only him – of quarterbacks who got to those three Super Bowls with two different teams.
 
More remarkable is that he's done it with historically dysfunctional organizations. Before Warner, the Rams had reached just one Super Bowl (XIV) in their history, including their time in Los Angeles. Warner led the franchise to its only Super Bowl victory and to its first NFL title since 1951. The Rams have also fallen off the face of the earth since he left.
 
But reaching a Super Bowl with a 9-7, defensively deficient Cardinals team – with an organization that's easily the worst in the history of the NFL – is nothing short of a miracle.
 
It's a career filled with performances that leave no doubt that Warner belongs in the Hall of Fame.
 
***
 
* Cowboys fans will point out that Tony Romo, like Manning, has a 94.7 career passer rating. But Romo has attempted just 1,307 attempts in his short career. "Official" NFL records require a minimum of 1,500 pass attempts.