clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cardinals vs. 49ers: There's history between Arizona and San Francisco

A look back at the history between two teams who eventually became 21st century division rivals

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

How far back can we trace the history between the Cardinals and the 49ers? To November 18th, 1951, when Chicago defeated San Francisco 27-21 behind the running of Charley Trippi at Kezar Stadium.  Wearing jersey #62 and listed as a halfback, Trippi was later enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and also has his place on the Cardinals Ring of Honor today as a member of the Cardinals' championship team of 1947. Hats off to Charley Trippi.

In that first meeting, both teams averaged more than five yards per carry as the visiting Cardinals out-rushed the Niners 248-231 that afternoon by the bay. This was the 2nd season for the 49ers as a member of the National Football League, who along with the Cleveland Browns joined the NFL moving from the newly-defunct, short-lived AAFC.

Interestingly enough, two other teams from the All-American Football Conference who elected to fold rather than carry on with pro football were named the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers.


Over the years, many great players wore both Cardinals and 49ers uniforms in their careers including John David Crow, Sonny Randle, Tim McDonald and Garrison Hearst.  Current connections between the teams are former Cardinal Anquan Boldin while Mike Iupati hopes to play against his former team.  Cousins Andre and Bruce Ellington will re-unite after the game.

The teams have never met in the playoffs but they do share something unique, being the first to play a regular season game outside the borders of the United States. A new NFL attendance record of over 103,000 fans at Azteca Stadium, Mexico City in 2005 that saw the Cardinals become the first NFL team to win on foreign soil beating the 49ers 31-14 (click here for highlights).

Great Moments

The St. Louis Cardinals return to Kezar Stadium in '64 and beat the 49ers 23-13 behind the passing of Charley Johnson to receivers Sonny Randle and Bobby Joe Conrad. Multi-purpose yards by John David Crow and an interception by Pat Fischer helped seal the deal.

The Big Red finished the season at 9-3-2  good for 2nd place in the NFL Eastern Conference behind the 10-3-1 Cleveland Browns.

Unfortunately, the only postseason in those years was the league championship game between the two conference leaders (seven teams each) so the Cards fail to advance.

You're looking at what many consider to be the NFL's best offensive line ever

Jim Hart (Cardinals all-time leading passer) leads yet another Cardiac Cardinals comeback with a 4th-quarter 77-yard strike to Mel Gray to tie the game under the Arch as the Big Red goes on to win in overtime 23-20 on the leg of Jim Bakken (Cardinals all-time leading scorer).

Terry Metcalf (dare you to watch the video) and J.V. Cain also scored touchdowns that day in a game that moved the Cards to 6-2 and on their way to a 10-4 season record that failed to earn the team a berth in the 1976 playoffs! (the crime of the century)

Marcel Shipp tugs the Arizona Cardinals along in the wake of his 165 rushing yards on 35 carries in Tempe and the Big Red go on to win 16-13 in overtime on Tim Duncan's 39 yard field goal in 2003. The Cardinals rush for 221 total yards in the third of six overtime games in the two team's history.

Throwing for a whopping 484 yards with 34 completions on 48 attempts, Kurt Warner's two touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald (156 yards receiving) and the rushing of Edgerrin James help bring the Cardinals back to force overtime on a Neil Rackers field goal at the end of regulation in '07.

On the Cardinals road to Super Bowl XLIII, the 29-24 victory over the 49ers moved the team to 6-3 on the year. Warner tosses three touchdowns to Anquan Boldin (2) and Larry Fitzgerald (1) but the leading receiver was Steve Breaston with 124 yards.

All Time Record

Through the 70's the Cardinals won 7 of the first 10 meetings between the teams, but the emergence of the Walsh-Montana-Rice and Young dynasty ended that trend and contributed greatly to the current 49er advantage of 29-18 all-time. There was one great exception during that period though that many may remember when ...

The Cardiac Cards Arrive In The Desert

Perhaps the best game ever between the teams and one of the most exciting finishes ever seen at Sun Devil Stadium came in the debut season of the Phoenix Cardinals ('88), and the last complete game for Neil Lomax (the Cardinals 2nd all-time leading passer).

Trailing 23-0 in the 3rd quarter, the Big Red fight back against that year's eventual world champions to win with a touchdown strike at the buzzer to Roy 'Jet Stream' GreenThe place went mad and the cups were flying!

Lomax led the Cards to a 7-4 record that year, but sadly the very next week his career was cut short when he went down in his prime. In this writer's opinion, the most devastating injury in memory for the franchise and the team then proceeded to lose their final five games of the season. As it turned out, it also marked the beginning of exactly 20 years of lean times in the desert.

Looking Ahead

The teams were never division opponents during the 20th century, but since league realignment in 2002, the teams have steadily moved towards where we are today — two teams who clearly don't like each other (rivals even).

No player in NFL history has more career TD receptions against the 49ers than Larry Fitzgerald and something along the line of last year's 24-13 beating of the 49ers at home might be in order if John Brown has anything to do with it (he did for 2 TD's), but odds are the scoring will be higher this time around.

I reckon it's time for a little déjà vu (all over again) and you know what that means ...

Bad News for the 49ers!

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