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49ers reporter Matt Maiocco: San Francisco doesn’t consider Arizona a major rival

LISTEN: Matt Maiocco, CSN Bay Area 49ers beat writer

Arizona Cardinals players may consider San Francisco as one of their top rivals, but a reporter who covers the 49ers says the feelings aren’t mutual.

The 49ers hold a 26-17 all-time record against the Cardinals since the two franchises first met in 1951. The Niners swept the season series in 2012 and have won seven of the last eight games over Arizona.

The two NFC West teams head into Week 6 with an identical record (3-2) and are getting ready to face each other on Sunday at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

“I don’t sense that there’s a huge amount of credence being placed on the rivalry aspect of this game,” Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area reporter Matt Maiocco told Arizona Sports 620’s Dan Bickley with Vince Marotta Friday. “Right now it seems like it’s the 49ers and the (Seattle) Seahawks.

Maiocco said he thinks rivalries in the NFC West seem to be based on how much of threat another team poses, rather than any geographic considerations. San Francisco and Seattle were largely were picked by most experts to contend for the division title, so it makes sense if their rivalry is stronger at this point.

Maiocco added that the 49ers-Cardinals rivalry might have been stronger “a couple years ago,” such as when the Cardinals still had quarterback Kurt Warner.

San Francisco has a winning record at this point, but it hasn’t been easy getting there. The team won its season opener against Green Bay, but then lost to Seattle and Indianapolis in Weeks 2 and 3. The Niners then turned around and won their next two games against St. Louis and Houston.

“I think if you had asked a lot of people, ‘What will be the 49ers’ record after five games?,’ I think probably the majority of them would have come up with a 3-2 record,” Maiocco said. “I think how they’ve gotten there is a little bit different than how many people had kind of thought it would be.

“In my own mind, I thought the 49ers would be making that transition — as far as an identity — from a defensive team of the past to more of a dynamic, fireworks-on-offense kind of team. And that hasn’t simply been the case.”

The writer said the team has been hurt by injuries in its receiving corps, but the returns of Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham later this season should make the passing game formidable.

“So the 49ers have a chance, if they can stay healthy, of being in much better shape roster-wise with the passing game than they have been in the last two (postseasons),” Maiocco said. “They should be a stronger team late in the season than they have been through this first part of the season.”

Maiocco also said the two-game losing streak was the 49ers’ first under head coach Jim Harbaugh, and it brought their record under .500 for the first time with him as well.

Maiocco explained how the Niners turned it around.

“They got back to basics. They became a run-first team. They ran the ball; they stopped the run on defense; they grinded out a couple wins there,” he said. “And now they’re back on track. And, yes, there’s been a lot of adversity on the field and off the field, but I think Jim Harbaugh and his staff have done a pretty good job of keeping it all together.”