Outside Phoenix and San Francisco, football fans don’t consider Cardinals vs. 49ers as one of the premier rivalries in the NFL.
Maybe they’ll change their minds Monday night when the two teams meet on the field at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
But among members of the two teams, this is a very heated rivalry. Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell said earlier this week that he hates the 49ers “with a passion.” In the same interview, Campbell outed teammate Darnell Dockett as the player who dislikes San Francisco more than anyone else on the roster.
Thursday, Dockett was asked which team had the better defense. Guess what he said?
“I’m gonna say us,” Dockett answered. “I feel we have the best defense, that’s just how I feel.”
Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but statistically, the 49ers rank first in the league in total defense (272.3 yards per game) while the Cardinals rank seventh (312.1). The 49ers are also rank first against the pass and second in scoring defense, while Arizona ranks fourth and fourth, respectively.
The Cardinals have an advantage in forcing turnovers (15 to 11) and quarterback sacks (22 to 11).
“But again, it don’t matter what I say, we’ve got to go out there and show it on Monday,” Dockett said. “My guys will back me up, we’ll work hard, we’ll keep competing throughout practice and we’ll make sure we do extra for this game.”
The game is a pivotal one in the NFC West standings. Coming into Week 8, the 49ers sit atop the division with a 5-2 mark, with the Cardinals just a game back at 4-3. Dockett says those records are immaterial.
“It wouldn’t matter if both of us were sitting at 0-7. Out there, we would probably still try and kill each other — it just is what it is,” Dockett said. “I’m pretty sure they’ve been waiting for this game for a long time. I know for a fact we have.”
The 49ers are seeking revenge from the last meeting between the teams, which the Cardinals won 21-19 last December. It was just one of three regular season losses that San Francisco suffered a year ago. They’d go on to the NFC Championship Game before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champ New York Giants, while the Cardinals finished 8-8.
Dockett is expecting another physical matchup between the teams.
“It’s one of those games where you’ve got to put your big boy pads on, expect to be in the cold tub from Tuesday to Friday, expect to get beat up on — on both sides of the ball, and that’s for them, too.
“I’m ready for it, I’ll be ready for it.”
Arizona Sports’ Bryan Gibberman contributed to this report