Maybe it’s the bright lights of a prime time Monday Night Football game or a potential division lead up for grabs, but the word “rivalry” has been thrown around an awful lot this week leading up to tomorrow night’s showdown between the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.
Frankly, when talking about a rivalry between Phoenix and the Bay Area teams, it’s logical to think about the Diamondbacks and Giants or even the Coyotes and Sharks.
But the Cardinals and 49ers?
Since moving to Phoenix back in 1988, the Cardinals are just 10-16 all-time against the 49ers.
And, until the NFL’s realignment plans forced Arizona to move from the NFC East to the NFC West in 2002, the teams had only played each other six times since the Redbirds moved to the Valley.
With that said, there have been some pressure-packed moments between the two foes over the last couple of decades, so here’s a look back at some of the most memorable games between the Cardinals and 49ers.
November 6, 1988 – In Steve Young and Co.’s first trip to Phoenix, the Hall of Famer took a back seat to Neil Lomax in a wild fourth quarter. Lomax’s two late touchdown passes to Earl Jones and Roy Green capped a 17-point comeback and gave Arizona a 24-23 victory.
September 27, 1999 – In the first Monday Night Football game between the two teams, Lawrence Phillips crashed the party in Tempe, rushing for 102 yards, which included a back-breaking 68-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of San Francisco’s 24-10 victory. But the night’s biggest story wasn’t centered around the final outcome, but rather the hit cornerback Aeneas Williams laid on Steve Young to end the seven-time Pro Bowler’s illustrious career.
October 2, 2005 – This matchup was historic more for where it happened then for what happened. Neil Rackers’ career-high six field goals and Josh McCown’s career-high 385 yards passing paced the Cardinals to a comfortable 31-14 win, but the game will be remembered for the biggest crowd to ever witness an NFL regular season game. 103,467 fans packed the inside of Azteca Stadium to watch the two NFC West teams battle it out on Mexican soil for the first time in league history.
November 10, 2008 – During the Cardinals’ magical run to the Super Bowl in 2008-2009, there were certain instances where it was clear something special was going on with Ken Whisenhunt’s squad. Clinging to a 29-24 lead with 20 seconds remaining on Monday Night Football, Arizona’s defense stopped the 49ers on two carries from inside the one-yard line. The final stop by Clark Haggans came surprisingly on fullback Michael Robinson, who was inexplicably in the game instead of three-time Pro Bowler Frank Gore.
November 29, 2010 – Derek Anderson did little to impress — 16-for-35 with no touchdowns and an interception — during the 49ers’ 27-6 road drubbing on Monday Night Football. But the veteran quarterback made sure to save some fireworks for the post-game press conference, where his extended tirade aimed at a local reporter instantly went viral.
Will tomorrow night’s clash produce another instant classic in this budding rivalry? We’ll find out soon enough.