Best moments in Arizona/St. Louis Cardinals history

Kevin Kaduk
Yahoo Sports
University of Phoenix Stadium marked the first time in decades the Cardinals had a stadium to call their own. (AP)
University of Phoenix Stadium marked the first time in decades the Cardinals had a stadium to call their own. (AP)

What are the best moments for each NFL franchise? Yahoo Sports provides our opinion, which you are free to disagree with (and we’re sure you will).

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5. Chris Jacke’s 52-yard field goal sends Cardinals to playoffs in 1998

When’s the last time you saw NFL fans storm a field and try to tear down the goalposts? Though Arizona Cardinals fans ultimately couldn’t get the job done, the excitement in the desert following Chris Jacke’s 52-yard-goal to end a 16-13 win over the San Diego Chargers in the final week of the season was undeniable. The victory pushed the Cards to 9-7 and into their first playoff appearance since moving to Arizona 10 years earlier. (It was actually the franchise’s first playoff team since the 1982 St. Louis squad qualified during a strike-shortened season.) While Football Outsiders says the ‘98 Cardinals are the third-worst playoff team since they began calculating ratings, the party didn’t end with Jacke’s big kick. The Cardinals would go on to upset the Dallas Cowboys 20-7 in the wild card round for the franchise’s first playoff win since the 1947 title game.

4. University of Phoenix stadium opens

This might seem like an odd choice for a “best” moment but stop for a moment to consider what it represented. From Chicago’s Comiskey Park to St. Louis’ Busch Stadium to Tempe’s Sun Devil Stadium, one of the NFL’s most itinerant franchises had always shared less-than-stellar facilities with other squads that ranked higher on the food chain for local sports fans. With the 2006 opening of the University of Phoenix Stadium, the Cardinals finally had a place to call their own after decades of having a roommate. And it wasn’t just any old place. The new stadium was a $500 million marvel, a behemoth that would draw the interest of people who throw Final Fours, college title games and even Super Bowls. After decades of being an afterthought on both a local and league level, the new digs legitimized the franchise and would soon play host to some of the franchise’s most memorable moments. More than a decade after it opened, it remains one of the NFL’s best venues.

3. Chicago Cardinals win 1947 world title

Quick: With the Cubs having quenched their title thirst in 2016, what’s the franchise with the longest title drought in sports? It’s indeed the Cardinals, who last won an NFL title one year before the Cleveland Indians started their dry spell. Now, there probably aren’t too many current Cardinals fans running around the valley talking about glory days of the “Million Dollar Backfield” of Charley Trippi and Co., but there are still a few staunch South Siders who remember the Cardinals’ second and last world championship (the first one came in 1925). The 1947 season was especially sweet as the Cardinals beat the defending NFL champion Bears twice, including in the final game of the season. The Cardinals then beat the Eagles on a cold December day at Comiskey Park, giving the Windy City’s “lesser” team its brightest moment in the sun. The Cardinals would leave for St. Louis 13 years later.

2. The 2004 NFL draft

For most of their history, the Cardinals were an irrelevant franchise, a team you could always count on to post four or five wins a season and nothing more. But that changed in 2004, when the 18th-best draft class in NFL history (according to Pro Football Reference) set the foundation for the team’s first Super Bowl run and improved the Cardinals’ reputation as a franchise. The Cardinals got off to a great start drafting WR Larry Fitzgerald out of Pittsburgh with the third overall pick. Fitzgerald was an absolute jackpot. He’s the greatest player in franchise history and a surefire Hall of Famer. But GM Rod Graves and first-year coach Dennis Green weren’t done there. They’d also draft three other 10+ year players in Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby and Antonio Smith. Though the Cardinals have had both good and bad years since that draft, those four players were instrumental in changing the Cardinals from a league laughingstock to a team that could win.

1. The flea-flicker in the 2008 NFC championship game

The touchdown that sent the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl was an eight-yard toss from Kurt Warner to Tim Hightower with about three minutes remaining in a 32-25 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. But to pick that as the best moment in the best Cardinals game would be to overlook how dominating Larry Fitzgerald was that day. The receiver caught nine passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns en route to a record-setting 546 receiving yards for the entire playoff run. The biggest catch of the bunch was a second-quarter touchdown grab off a Kurt Warner-J.J. Arrington flea-flicker that gave the Cards an early 14-3 lead. A couple hours later, the Cardinals, who went 9-7 during the regular season, would clinch the franchise’s first trip to the Super Bowl in front of a delirious home crowd.

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