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What I Learned – 10 Greatest Wins in Arizona Cardinals History

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What Are the Top 10 Arizona Cardinals Wins of All Time?The Cardinals have won just 558 of 1,362 regular-season games over their 100-year history in the NFL, and while 70 of those seasons ended with a losing record, the franchise has still had plenty of memorable wins. From their roots in Chicago, where the Cardinals won two championships, to more recent playoff success in Arizona, the franchise has provided fans with glimpses of greatness. Here’s a quick look at the broad history of the Cardinals.All-Time Record: 558–763-41 (100 seasons)
Playoff Record: 7–9
Championships: 2 (1 Super Bowl appearance)
Winning Seasons: 30
Playoff Appearances: 10
Best-Ever Regular Season: 13–3 in 2013
Worst-Ever Regular Season: 0–10 in 1943 and ‘44
Below are the 10 most memorable victories in Cardinals history (and a look at two other significant games that ended in losses). Selections are based on historical significance, as well as how much the win impacted the team’s future.10. Sept. 10, 2006—Cardinals vs. 49ers Score: Cardinals 34, 49ers 27
Significance: Cardinals christen University of Phoenix Stadium with divisional victory
For the first time in over 80 years as an NFL franchise, the Cardinals had a home stadium to call their own. In 2006, they christened University of Phoenix Stadium with a victory over the rival 49ers.When they were based in Chicago, the Cardinals primarily shared Comiskey Park with the Chicago White Sox, and when based in St. Louis, the Cardinals shared Sportsman’s Park and Busch Stadium with the St. Louis Cardinals. After relocating to Phoenix, the Cardinals still didn’t have their own stadium, instead sharing Sun Devil Stadium with Arizona State University. It wasn’t until 2000, when voters approved a package of taxes to fund a new stadium, that the Cardinals’ days of sharing finally had an end in sight. Construction on the project broke ground in 2003.San Francisco produced the new stadium’s first regular-season touchdown, but Arizona quickly recovered, scoring three unanswered touchdowns and establishing a 21–7 lead after the first quarter. The season-opening victory wasn’t a long-term boost, however, as the Cardinals would lose the next eight games of the season on the way to a 5–11 record. Still, the $455 million, state-of-the-art facility became the foundation for a series of successes for the Cardinals, who won three NFC West championships and made four playoff appearances from 2008 to ‘15.9. Nov. 6, 1929—Cardinals vs. Providence Steam RollerScore: Cardinals 16, Steam Roller 0
Significance: Cardinals win the NFL’s first night game
The Cardinals unexpectedly found themselves making NFL history in the middle of the 1929 season. Torrential rains forced the postponement of their road game against the Providence Steam Roller, which left the teams to play on a Wednesday—in the first night game in NFL history. Lights were strung up at Kinsley Park in Providence, creating a curious sight. About 6,000 fans watched that evening, a 25% increase in the Steam Roller’s typical gate, and it was said that the ball, which had been painted white, looked like an egg.The Providence News reported that future Cardinals Hall of Famer Ernie Nevers was “outlined against the white glare of the flood lights” after he had a hand in all 16 of his team’s points. The victory wasn’t too surprising for the Cardinals, considering the Steam Roller had played a game the day before. Providence played back-to-back games again just four days later.While that type of scheduling will never be seen again in the NFL, things were different before night games became a regular occurrence. It wasn’t until Monday Night Football debuted in 1970 that night games became a regular part of the NFL schedule.8. Nov. 28, 1920—Cardinals vs. Decatur StaleysScore: Cardinals 7, Staleys 6
Significance: Cardinals are victorious in the first game of a century-old rivalry with the Bears
One of the oldest rivalries in the NFL started with two teams playing as regional rivals, and while the Cardinals no longer play in Chicago and the Bears changed their name and left Decatur, the rivalry between the teams is still an important piece of NFL history. In their first matchup, the Cardinals came from behind for a 7–6 win in a game with no offensive touchdowns.The Staleys entered the game as heavy favorites (they had yet to lose a game) and seemed to set the tone from the start by recovering a Cardinals fumble on the opening kickoff and returning it for a touchdown. Early in the third quarter, however, the Cardinals returned a Staleys fumble for a touchdown and converted the point-after kick for the final margin.One week later, the Staleys won 10–0 in a rematch, but the Cardinals went 2-0-1 in the next three games in the series. The Staleys became the Bears in 1922 and have since dominated the rivalry, holding a 59-28-6 all-time record.The NFL was known as the American Professional Football Association in 1920 and ‘21, and in that inaugural season, the Staleys wound up finishing second in the standings to the Akron Pros, while the Cardinals finished fourth.7. Jan. 10, 2010—Cardinals vs. PackersScore: Cardinals 51, Packers 45
Significance: Arizona prevails in overtime in the highest-scoring playoff game in NFL history
In one of the wildest playoff games in NFL history, it was a defensive play that ended an offensive shootout. In the 2009 first-round matchup between the Cardinals and the Packers, Arizona’s Karlos Dansby returned a fumble 17 yards for a touchdown in overtime to seal a 51–45 victory in the highest-scoring postseason game of all-time.The teams combined for 1,024 yards of offense and a record 13 touchdowns. The Cardinals held leads of 17–0 and 31–10, but the defense was unable to contain Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 423 yards and four touchdowns and nearly led Green Bay to what would have been its greatest postseason comeback ever.The victory was a fond farewell for Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who retired after the season. He is the only quarterback in franchise history to lead Arizona to the Super Bowl and one of two to win back-to-back division championships. In what proved to be his final home game, Warner completed 29 of 33 passes for 379 yards and five touchdowns. The following week, Arizona would lose on the road to the Saints.6. Nov. 6, 1988—Cardinals vs. 49ersScore: Cardinals 24, 49ers 23
Significance: Cardinals beat eventual Super Bowl champions with the second-biggest comeback in team history
The 1988 Cardinals started the season with two losses, four wins and two more losses. After winning their ninth game of the year, it sure looked like they were headed back to the .500 mark in Week 10 after the 49ers built a 23–0 lead by the start of the third quarter. But the Cardinals weren’t going to give up. Playing in front of a home crowd during their first season in Phoenix, the Cardinals strung together 24 unanswered points to edge past the eventual Super Bowl champions. Their 23-point comeback is the second-largest in Cardinals history, and the 49er’s collapse the second-worst in their history.The Cardinals got on the board in the third quarter when quarterback Neil Lomax connected with Roy Green for a 35-yard touchdown. Still trailing by 16 points entering the fourth quarter, the Cardinals watched Al Del Greco connect on a 24-yard field goal and Ernie Jones catch a five-yard strike from Lomax to set up a chance for a game-winning drive. Ultimately faced with a 66-yard field and no timeouts, Lomax led his team down the field and tossed a nine-yard touchdown to Green with six seconds to play, sealing the Cardinals’ only win against the 49ers during the 1980s.5. Dec. 27, 1998—Cardinals vs. ChargersScore: Cardinals 16, Chargers 13
Significance: Game-winning field goal pushes the Cardinals into the postseason for the first time since 1982
Chris Jacke was probably used to the pressure. In his first season with the Cardinals, the veteran kicker lined up for a 52-yard field goal in the 1998 season finale. With just three seconds to play, he knocked through his third straight game-winning kick and sent his team to the playoffs for the first time since 1982. Euphoria followed as fans rushed the field to celebrate the franchise’s first winning season since 1984. Since moving to Phoenix in 1988, the Cardinals had finished at .500 just once.Jacke’s kick was set up after Eric Metcalf returned a kickoff into Chargers territory and Jake Plummer completed a pass to Frank Sanders to get into field-goal range. The win was the culmination of a late-season surge for the Cardinals, who won each of the last three games on their schedule by three points or less. Jacke booted a 32-yard field goal in overtime to defeat the Eagles 20–17 in Week 15 and then kicked a 36-yarder with six seconds to go for a 19–17 win against the Saints in Week 16. That momentum continued into the playoffs, as the Cardinals won in the first round against the Cowboys for their first postseason victory since 1947.4. Jan. 16, 2016—Cardinals vs. PackersScore: Cardinals 26, Packers 20
Significance: Arizona wins the first divisional-round game that they earned a bye into
After playing in the highest-scoring playoff game in NFL history six years earlier, it’s hard to believe the Cardinals and Packers could produce a more exciting postseason matchup, but here we are. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers forced overtime by launching a 41-yard Hail Mary pass for a touchdown as time expired in regulation of a second-round playoff matchup. Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald promptly broke multiple tackles as he scampered 75 yards on the first play of overtime to set up his own five-yard touchdown reception and a 26–20 win. The stunning win continued what had been the best season in franchise history, record-wise, but Arizona would lose to the Panthers the following week.Fitzgerald’s play was quickly dubbed “Hail Larry,” and was one of the most iconic NFL playoff moments of the decade. For Fitzgerald, it further heightened his playoff legacy. He had gained 546 yards and scored seven touchdowns during Arizona’s four-game run to the Super Bowl in 2008, and with another 176 yards against the Packers, it was his fifth postseason game with at least 100 yards. In nine total playoff games, he has 942 yards and 10 touchdowns. Fitzgerald hasn’t had a chance to expand on that legacy since losing to the Panthers, as the Cardinals have failed to finish above .500 every season since then.3. Jan. 2, 1999—Cardinals vs. CowboysScore: Cardinals 20, Cowboys 7
Significance: Arizona wins first postseason game since 1947
It was the unlikeliest of playoff wins for the Cardinals, which made it all the more memorable. Arizona came into the first round of the 1998 postseason riding a three-game winning streak, but they had to travel to Texas to face the Cowboys, who had won 16 of the previous 17 matchups against the Cardinals and hadn’t lost to the Cardinals at home since 1989. But momentum trumped history.Big plays were in order for Arizona, with quarterback Jake Plummer firing a 59-yard pass to Frank Sanders to set up the game’s opening touchdown and running back Adrian Murrell barreling his way 74 yards to set up the first touchdown of the second half. Those were the longest plays from scrimmage of Arizona’s season, and they helped the Cardinals build a 20–0 lead. Hall of Fame defensive back Aeneas Williams also had a pair of interceptions, including one on the first play of the fourth quarter.This postseason victory was 51 years in the making—the Cardinals hadn’t won in the playoffs since beating the Eagles in the 1947 NFL Championship game. The game was Arizona’s first postseason appearance in 16 years, which at the time was the longest drought in the NFL. The Cardinals drew a second-round matchup against the 15-win Vikings, who would claim a 41–21 win to end Arizona’s season the next week. It would be another 10 seasons before the Cardinals made it back to the postseason.2. Dec. 28, 1947—Cardinals vs. EaglesScore: Cardinals 28, Eagles 21
Significance: Cardinals win their first NFL championship game
After winning the 1925 NFL title, the Cardinals had a winning season in just three of the next 21 seasons. In 1945, owner Charles Bidwill set out to change that; he began a two-year process to create a “Million Dollar Backfield” in hopes of bringing back winning ways to Chicago.The franchise’s rebuild started when Jimmy Conzelman was hired as head coach and implemented a new offense, but the biggest acquisition was running back Charley Trippi—who Bidwill signed to a record $100,000 contract. Altogether, the Cardinals’ offense featured quarterback Paul Christman, along with running backs Trippi, Elmer Angsman and Pat Harder. Together, they put together a season to remember in 1947, but Bidwill died in April and never saw the team’s success.The Cardinals beat the cross-town rival Bears in the season finale to earn a spot in the championship game. On the frozen, slippery grass of Comiskey Park, the Cardinals outdueled the Eagles for the NFL title—the last championship for the franchise. A year later, the Cardinals finished the year at 11–1 but lost 7–0 to Philadelphia in a rematch of the championship game. The Cardinals wouldn’t make another postseason appearance until 1974, and their 1947 championship win was their last postseason victory until 1998.1. Jan. 18, 2009—Cardinals vs. EaglesScore: Cardinals 32, Eagles 25
Significance: Arizona stuns Philadelphia to advance to only Super Bowl in franchise history
The Cardinals had never even been close to making a Super Bowl until the 2008 season. But that season was one for the books. Arizona hadn’t been to the playoffs since 1998, and though they entered with a lackluster 9–7 record, they had a magical run that culminated with the franchise’s Super Bowl debut. The Cardinals rolled up back-to-back 30-plus-point performances to make their first NFC Championship game and rekindle an old rivalry with the Eagles.Arizona blew an 18-point halftime lead to fall behind, but Tim Hightower caught an eight-yard pass from Kurt Warner with 2:53 to play to move ahead and seal a berth in the Super Bowl.The early lead was built on a brilliant effort from wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who caught three touchdown passes in the first half on his way to a 152-yard showing. That gave him 419 yards in the postseason, which broke Jerry Rice’s record for the most receiving yards in one season’s playoffs. Including the Super Bowl, Fitzgerald had 546 yards, and his record still stands easily above second-place Hakeem Nicks (444 yards).The Cardinals wouldn’t win that Super Bowl, losing 27-23 when the Steelers scored a touchdown with 35 seconds to play, but the run-up to it remains a big piece of franchise history.Other Notable GamesHere is a quick look at two other important games the Cardinals played. Though they ended in losses, they still hold significant value to NFL or franchise history.Dec. 15, 1930—Cardinals vs. BearsScore: Bears 9, Cardinals 7
Significance: Chicago’s cross-town rivals play charitable exhibition in first pro game ever contested indoors
The NFL season was already over, but the Cardinals and Bears decided to host one final matchup—a charitable game to help those unemployed due to the Great Depression. And while it wasn’t an official game, it still marked the first time a professional football game had been held on an indoor field. It drew a crowd of nearly 10,000.The floor inside Chicago Stadium was covered with about six inches of dirt to give the players footing, but the length of the field was reduced to about 80 yards from goal post to goal post. Because of that, every play saw 20 yards subtracted from the gain.Feb. 1, 2009—Cardinals vs. SteelersScore: Steelers 27, Cardinals 23
Significance: Arizona falls in lone Super Bowl appearance
The outcome wasn’t what the Cardinals had hoped for, but playing in Super Bowl XLIII was a monumental moment for the long-suffering franchise. The Cardinals hadn’t played for a championship since 1948, but a surprising run to the NFC championship put Arizona into its first Super Bowl, despite a 9–7 regular-season record.The Steelers took a 20–7 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Cardinals got two touchdown catches from Larry Fitzgerald and a safety to take a 23–20 lead with 2:37 to play. Pittsburgh, however, would drive 78 yards and score with 35 seconds to play to secure the win.


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