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Cardinals vs. Bears: There's history between Arizona and Chicago

Just because we don't think 'rivalry' between the Cardinals and the Bears doesn't mean there wasn't one. And for good reason as the two oldest teams in professional football happened to play in the same city.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

How far back can we trace the history between the Cardinals and the Bears? To November 28th, 1920, when your great-grandfather's Chicago Cardinals defeated the Decatur Staleys 7-6 at Normal Park, in front of an estimated 5,000 Windy City Cardinals football fans.  This was the inaugural season for what we now know as the NFL and this game represents the farthest back two professional football teams can trace their history.

Things happened fast back then and the Staleys moved to Chicago the following year (the Chicago Staleys won the 1921 league championship) and finally became the Bears another year later in 1922 — the same year the American Professional Football Association (APFA) changed their name to the National Football League (NFL).

As the only surviving charter members of the league and representing the same city, it was only natural the teams became cross-town rivals — the Cardinals played the bulk of their games at Comiskey Park while the Bears did the same in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

The 7-6 score of that first historic meeting is also notable in that the next 17 games played between the teams (twice a year) involved shutouts!  Not only that, 4 of those shutouts were of the ever-exciting 0-0 tie variety (fortunately, I moved to a dryer climate and my home footage survived).

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the Bears lead the all-time series by a large margin 56-27 (with 6 ties thrown in just for fun), but the Big Red still had their moments against the Monsters of the Midway, like sweeping two from the Bears in 1947 on their way to shocking the world when the Cardinals won the world championship!

Even when the team moved becoming the St. Louis Football Cardinals and they no longer played in the same division, it seemed old feuds die hard between teams and it didn't matter if it was only the preseason (you be the judge).


Cardinals Offensive Coordinator Harold Goodwin served as Bears assistant offensive line coach from 2004-2006 and Mike LeachBritton Golden and Drew Butler all signed contracts with the Bears but never saw the playing field.  After the game, Sam Acho,  Antrel Rolle and Harold Jones-Quartey will shake hands with former Cardinals locker mates.

Past Highlights

Ernie Nevers sets the NFL all-time single game scoring record of 40 points (which still stands to this day) with 6 rushing touchdowns and 4 extra points in the Cardinals 40-6 rout of the Bears in November of 1929 at Wrigley Field.  Ernie was the first Cardinal to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The longest touchdown pass in Cardinals history belongs to Pat Coffee with his 97-yard completion to Gaynell Tinsley in December 1937 vs. the Bears as the teams combine for 10 touchdown passes on the day. Oddly enough, this is not the longest pass play in Cardinals history as the Big Red pulled off the rare 98-yard non-scoring pass play in 1972 (more on that in an upcoming story).

Charley Trippi rushes for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns on 13 carries in December, 1951, as the 'visiting' Cardinals take down the Bears 24-14 on the north side of town. Trippi's 5.1 yard rushing average is the best career average in Cardinals history and his name appears on the Cardinals Ring of Honor.

Ollie Matson returns a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown at Comiskey Park as the Cardinals win 21-10 in October of 1952 and send the Bears packing.  Ollie's number '33' is also on the Cardinals Ring of Honor.

Three years later Mr. Matson returns a punt for 77 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinals 53-14 shellacking of the Bears on the south side of town. Ollie Matson is also known as the player who was later traded by the Cardinals for 9 players.

Larry 'Wildcat' Wilson, known to some as 'The Greatest Cardinal Ever', snatches 3 interceptions from the Bears when not helping to contain Chicago Bears' great Gale Sayers to 68 yards rushing in October, 1966. Wilson's third pick results in a touchdown which helps seal the deal 24-17. Larry Wilson is later named to the truly 'elite' NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Jim Otis carries the rock 33 times for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns at Soldier Field in December, 1975, leading his team to a 34-20 victory. The Cardiac Cards go on to win the Eastern Division title that season with an 11-3 record.

Neil Lomax connects with Roy 'Jet Steam' Green 6 times for 166 yards in the Cardinals 38-21 victory under the arch in October, 1984. Ottis Anderson contributes to the cause with 82 yards rushing and a touchdown.

And who can forget that fateful Monday night in Glendale in 2006 that was so eloquently summed up by Denny Green with, "They are who we thought they were, and we let them off the hook!"

Looking Ahead

It would be a stretch to say the old rivals feel the same way since the Cardinals moved to the desert, but they'll be rivals this Sunday just the same because they're on opposite sidelines (which will be roamed this Sunday by Tony Siragusa beginning at 10:00 AM Arizona time on the FOX Network — followed with the always excellent postgame recap by ROTB's one and only Jesse Reynolds).

The teams have never met in the postseason and the last time the Cardinals visited their birthplace was November 8th, 2009, when Kurt Warner led the team to a 41-21 victory at Soldier Field with 5 touchdown passes as the team also rushed for 182 yards.

Carson Palmer is 3-0 lifetime against Chicago and has 8 touchdowns, 1 interception and a 120.3 passer rating in his career against the Bears.

I don't know about you, but I think it's time for history to repeat itself, and you know what that means — Bad News for the Bears!

For those interested in a listing of how (and when) the 32 current NFL teams came to be, visit NFL Team History