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Cardinals: Beating a good team is nice, better when it’s the 49ers

When the Arizona Cardinals took a 7-6 lead over the San
Francisco 49ers in the second quarter Sunday, they led
their rival for the first time since Week 1 of the 2009
season.

San Francisco’s dominance spanned 17 quarters and nearly
three seasons, but Arizona finally broke through and not
only took the lead, but won the game.

And while head coach Ken Whisenhunt said he’s more pleased
with beating a 10-2 team – 49ers or not – the players in
the locker room certainly took a little more from this
one.

“What makes it even sweeter is that they are division
champs,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “Our mindset
is that we are going to go out and show that we can beat
the division champs, try to make a run at this and
hopefully get to the playoffs.”

The Cardinals started the season 1-6, so the fact they can
still legitimately talk about the playoffs is as amazing
as it is surprising. But winning five of six will give a
team some confidence, and beating a team that has run
roughshod over the rest of the league on the way to a
division title will give it some swagger.

The fact that the 49ers hammered the Cardinals
just a few weeks back only added to the great afternoon
for Big Red.

“This whole thing was really fun,” linebacker Clark
Haggans said. “The crowd was into it; it was very
indicative of a playoff atmosphere.”

It didn’t start out that way.

Early on University of Phoenix Stadium was relatively
quiet, with the sold out (but not full) stadium filled
with fans who were hoping for a win but, based on recent
history, probably not expecting one. The 49ers jumping out
to leads of 6-0, 12-7 and 19-7 didn’t help things, either.

But then the defense got stops and the offense got going,
and the Cardinals found themselves with a 21-19 lead and a
chance to end the game with a stop. The crowd was
certainly alive by then, and the building erupted when
Alex Smith’s fourth down pass fell incomplete.

John Skelton kneeled on the ball a few times and the
Cardinals walked off the field, leaving some more bad
history in the dust.

“In the end, to be able to come out with a win against the
division champs was great,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald
said. “To break the five-game skid that we had against
them was even better.”