How far back can we trace the history between the Cardinals and Falcons? To December 11th, 1966, the first season of the new expansion Atlanta Falcons team, who defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 16-10 on a cold, breezy day at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
Led by QB Terry Nofsinger, this was not a great day in Cardinals history, but did include several Cardinal greats from yesteryear like Bobby Joe Conrad, Johnny Roland, Jim Bakken (NFL 60's All-decade team) and future first-ballot Hall of Famer Larry Wilson. Another eventual Cardinals Hall of Fame inductee, tight end Jackie Smith also handled the punting duties for the Big Red that day.
Since that memorable game, the Cardinals have fared much better to lead the all-time series between the two franchises at 16-12-0, that included common former players such as John Abraham, Jay Feely, Eric Metcalf and Chris Chandler. Current Falcon Javier Arenas will be the only player in this game who has played for both teams.
The series has seen many Cardinal greats over the years that includes:
* Six Jim Bakken field goals in a 32-10 Cardinals victory in 1973 that saw a total of nine net passing yards on 10 attempts by the Big Red's Gary Keithley. The Falcons chipped in with 31 of their own for a combined 40 yards passing that more resembled a game from the 1920's. The Cardinals rushed 60 times for 243 yards that day from Terry Metcalf, Donny Anderson and Jim Otis. You know you've had a good day rushing when your 3rd most productive ball-carrier gains 61 yards.
* Cardinals defeat the Falcons 42-21 to close out the 1978 season in St. Louis behind 333 yards passing from Jim Hart (the team's all-time passing leader by nearly 7 miles). The leading receivers that day were Dave Stief (9 catches/183 yards/1 touchdown) and Pat Tilley (7/105/1). Carl Allen chipped in for the defense with two interceptions.
* Neil Lomax passes for 369 yards in a 34-21 Cardinals win at Atlanta in 1987. The leading receiver that day was J.T. Smith with 10 catches for 109 yards and also saw former Cardinal and broadcasting great Ron Wolfley rush for 16 yards on 7 carries. Current Cardinals running-back coach Stump Mitchell also saw action that day with 7 carries for 15 yards.
* Earl Ferrell rushes for 3 touchdowns and Ron Wolfley adds another in a 34-20 Phoenix Cardinals victory in the Falcons first visit to the desert in 1989.
* Fourteen consecutive pass completions by Steve Beuerlein in Atlanta closes out the final season for the team known as the Phoenix Cardinals with a 27-10 victory in '93. Gary Clark caught 9 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown while Randal Hill contributed with 2 touchdowns for the Big Red.
* Greg Davis kicks the game-winning field goal in overtime for the Arizona Cardinals in a 40-37 victory at Sun Devil Stadium in 1995. Larry Centers rushes for 62 yards in addition to 101 receiving yards on 7 catches while Rob Moore added 121 yards on 8 catches. Dave Krieg passed for 413 yards, which included touchdowns to four different Cardinals receivers.
* The Cardinals win 30-27 on the overtime field goal of Neil Rackers in 2007 in a game that saw Kurt Warner throw for 369 yards on 30 completions on 53 attempts with 3 touchdowns. The leading receiver that day was Anquan Boldin with 13 catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
* In the most recent matchup between the teams, the Cardinals came out on top over the Falcons 27-13 in the first season of the Bruce Arians era in 2013. Andre Ellington had very much to do with the outcome with an 80 yard rushing touchdown that contributed to his 154 yards rushing on 15 carries. Larry Fitzgerald also pitched in with a touchdown and two interceptions by Rashad Johnson sealed the deal.
The most important game ever in the series of course would be the only time the two teams have faced off in the postseason. The Cardinals win the first-round 2008 playoff game in Glendale on the road to Super Bowl XLIII, which featured (former Falcon tight end) Ken Whisenhunt as the Cardinals head coach. A total team effort in the 30-24 victory with touchdowns by Anquan Boldin, Tim Hightower and The Fitz. The defense did their part with scoring plays by Antrel Rolle (27 yard fumble return) and a safety by Antonio Smith thrown in just for fun.
Now it's time for the Cardinals to fly to Atlanta and snap on the chin straps with intent on adding to the above.
For those interested in a listing of how (and when) the 32 current NFL teams came to be, visit NFL Team History