A growing rivalry with uncertain roots
Oct. 24, 2012
TEMPE, Ariz. – Nobody’s really certain when the Cardinals-49ers rivalry began. Maybe it was simply when the Cardinals moved from the NFC East to the NFC West in 2002, forcing them to play the 49ers twice a year.
Maybe it was born when 2-14 San Francisco posted both of its season wins over the Cardinals – with Dennis Erickson as 49ers coach.
Maybe it was the goal-line stand in 2008 in which Arizona linebacker Clark Haggans stuffed San Francisco fullback Michael Robinson to preserve a 29-24 win after a bad officials’ spot of the ball and an apparent 49ers touchdown had been wiped out one play earlier.
Maybe it was Adrian Wilson’s unnecessary-roughness penalty for a hit on 49ers tight end Vernon Davis in the season opener in 2009.
Maybe it was Darnell Dockett’s Twitter war with Davis.
Whatever the genesis, the teams have certainly played some memorable and marquee matchups. Including next Monday’s game, the 49ers have been the Cardinals’ opponent in six of Arizona’s last seven Monday Night Football appearances.
The 49ers were also the first team to face the Cardinals at newly opened University of Phoenix Stadium in 2006. They played each other in Mexico City in 2005, and the 49ers were the Cardinals’ first opponent in Ken Whisenhunt’s first season as coach in 2007.
That led Wilson to suggest to Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic that it was the league that created the rivalry, but there’s no question it exists.
“I don’t know the history of this rivalry,” said Whisenhunt, who served as an assistant with Pittsburgh before coming to Arizona. “I know the feeling that I have from being around it just these couple years is that it does feel like Pittsburgh-Cleveland, Pittsburgh-Cincinnati.
“This division is becoming a lot like that division … a physical, smash-mouth type, defensive division. These division games become brawls.”
Monday’s game will also be for at least a share of first place in the NFC West.
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