10 Greatest Wins in Arizona Cardinals History

Andrew Harner

greatest-wins-in-arizona-cardinals-history
Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald celebrates after scoring a touchdown.The long-time star has been a part of some of the greatest wins in franchise history.© Rob Schumacher, The Arizona Republic via Imagn Content Services, LLC

What Are the Top 10 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. Heres a quick look at the broad history of the Cardinals.

  • All-Time Record: 558763-41 (100 seasons)
  • Playoff Record: 79
  • Championships: 2 (1 Super Bowl appearance)
  • Winning Seasons: 30
  • Playoff Appearances: 10
  • Best-Ever Regular Season: 133 in 2013
  • Worst-Ever Regular Season: 010 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 teams future.

10. Sept. 10, 2006Cardinals 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 Sportsmans Park and Busch Stadium with the St. Louis Cardinals. After relocating to Phoenix, the Cardinals still didnt 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 stadiums first regular-season touchdown, but Arizona quickly recovered, scoring three unanswered touchdowns and establishing a 217 lead after the first quarter. The season-opening victory wasnt a long-term boost, however, as the Cardinals would lose the next eight games of the season on the way to a 511 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, 1929Cardinals vs. Providence Steam Roller

  • Score: 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 Wednesdayin 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 Rollers 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 teams points. The victory wasnt 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 wasnt until Monday Night Football debuted in 1970 that night games became a regular part of the NFL schedule.

8. Nov. 28, 1920Cardinals vs. Decatur Staleys

  • Score: 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 76 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 100 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, 2010Cardinals vs. Packers

  • Score: 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, Arizonas Karlos Dansby returned a fumble 17 yards for a touchdown in overtime to seal a 5145 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 170 and 3110, 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.

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Cardinals receiver Roy Green celebrates after scoring a game-tying touchdown against the 49ers in 1988.© Michael Meister / The Republic via Imagn Content Services, LLC

6. Nov. 6, 1988Cardinals vs. 49ers

  • Score: 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 230 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 49ers 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, 1998Cardinals vs. Chargers

  • Score: 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 franchises first winning season since 1984. Since moving to Phoenix in 1988, the Cardinals had finished at .500 just once.

Jackes 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 2017 in Week 15 and then kicked a 36-yarder with six seconds to go for a 1917 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, 2016Cardinals vs. Packers

  • Score: 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, its 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 2620 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.

Fitzgeralds 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 Arizonas 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 hasnt 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, 1999Cardinals vs. Cowboys

  • Score: 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 hadnt 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 games 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 Arizonas season, and they helped the Cardinals build a 200 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 makingthe Cardinals hadnt won in the playoffs since beating the Eagles in the 1947 NFL Championship game. The game was Arizonas 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 4121 win to end Arizonas season the next week. It would be another 10 seasons before the Cardinals made it back to the postseason.

2. Dec. 28, 1947Cardinals vs. Eagles

  • Score: 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 franchises rebuild started when Jimmy Conzelman was hired as head coach and implemented a new offense, but the biggest acquisition was running back Charley Trippiwho 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 teams 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 titlethe last championship for the franchise. A year later, the Cardinals finished the year at 111 but lost 70 to Philadelphia in a rematch of the championship game. The Cardinals wouldnt make another postseason appearance until 1974, and their 1947 championship win was their last postseason victory until 1998.

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Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and the rest of the team celebrate after winning the 2008 NFC championship.© MICHAEL CHOW, THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC via Imagn Content Services, LLC

1. Jan. 18, 2009Cardinals vs. Eagles

  • Score: 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 hadnt been to the playoffs since 1998, and though they entered with a lackluster 97 record, they had a magical run that culminated with the franchises 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 Rices record for the most receiving yards in one seasons playoffs. Including the Super Bowl, Fitzgerald had 546 yards, and his record still stands easily above second-place Hakeem Nicks (444 yards).

The Cardinals wouldnt 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.

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Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald reacts after scoring against the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.© MICHAEL CHOW, THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Other Notable Games

Here 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, 1930Cardinals vs. Bears

  • Score: 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 matchupa charitable game to help those unemployed due to the Great Depression. And while it wasnt 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, 2009Cardinals vs. Steelers

  • Score: Steelers 27, Cardinals 23
  • Significance: Arizona falls in lone Super Bowl appearance

The outcome wasnt what the Cardinals had hoped for, but playing in Super Bowl XLIII was a monumental moment for the long-suffering franchise. The Cardinals hadnt played for a championship since 1948, but a surprising run to the NFC championship put Arizona into its first Super Bowl, despite a 97 regular-season record.

The Steelers took a 207 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Cardinals got two touchdown catches from Larry Fitzgerald and a safety to take a 2320 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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Comments (1)
No. 1-1
Mason Kern
Mason Kern

Editor

A good stroll through memory lane here.


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