Ken Whisenhunt has seen plenty of drama when his team has faced up against the 49ers. Since his introduction as team coach in 2007, the four games that have played out have been riddled with action, intense games full of sweaty hands, lip biting, and frantic knee rubbing.
Appearing to thrive on the last few seconds on the clock, both teams seem to patiently wait to amaze their fans at the final call, holding the interest of all straight up to the very last second.
How can we forget the 49ers Monday night football win over Arizona from a last-second drive, a pitfall of negligence as they failed to recover a fumble in their own end zone with less than a minute left? This is why we watch football.
Next we saw a profound game sent into overtime by Arizona after an exhilarating comeback, only for Neil Rackers to embarrassingly miss a close field goal well within his grasp. What happened next is remarkable to ponder over, with Kurt Warner fumbling in the 49ers end zone and allowing a game winning score, game San Francisco. Did we really just see that?
But The Cardinals would not stay down, and a back and forth game in Glendale was climaxed by a goal line stop in the last play, ushering in a win by five and bringing the stadium to a roar with the reverberating cheers and raw excitement.
And now we think back to last year's AZ season opener, again played against the 49ers. Debuting at Candlestick Park, the Cardinals won 23-10. Whew.
And now here we are.
We saw a Christmas-like display of color, masses of glimmering red, white, and gold lycra and nylon flashing against the vibrant green on the grass they played upon, earthy and fragrant as their cleats kicked up the dirt.
Both teams had difficulty in the beginning cutting through and finding someone open for any sort of scoring drives, forcing out the kickers. San Francisco scored two field goals, with Joe Nedney completing both a 37 and 50 yard kick in the first quarter.
Warner had a disappointing first half, hardly living up to the reputation forged for him last year as well as being known as the second most all time accurate quarterback, behind Chad Pennington of course.
Picked off two times in the first half, Warner seemed discouraged, helping slide the meter to the left on his career completion average of 65.4%, even straining his wrist in the process.
The Cardinals brought it back, determined to soar, hearts pounding and sweat visible on their brows. Sending out Neil Rackers in the second drive of the second quarter, he made for a successful field goal to bring the first points on the clock.
Second year wide receiver Josh Morgan looked good for San Fransisco, with Shaun Hill frequently finding a way to get him the ball when tight end Vernon Davis wasn’t available.
If it hadn’t have been for two incomplete passes in his direction early in the game, Hill likely would have been more apt to aim more in Morgan’s direction.
Nearing the end of the second quarter, 49ers running back Frank Gore found his way up the middle for a touchdown, bringing the score to 13-3 after the extra point was good by Nedney.
The final 43 seconds of the game had Cardinal fans anxious and hopeful, as quarterback Kurt Warner found Larry Fitzgerald for a 25 yard pass. Warner came alive, the man we all saw last year and know so well, redeeming himself for his first half failings, determinedly leading his team to rouse them to victory.
With the clock ticking down mockingly, he bypassed the huddles and forged the game onward, spiking balls to stop the clock when needed and calling for timeouts twice in the last two minutes.
With eight seconds left on the clock, San Francisco's DE Justin Smith broke through, sacking Warner and forcing a fumble. With the ball out of bounds at the Arizona 28, the clock hit zero, and sealed the fate of the Arizona Cardinals season opener.
In light of the fact that no team has won the Super Bowl after losing their season opener since 1983, they will have to again defy the odds to rise to where they want to be, contending for a first-time Super bowl win.
Expecting the typical final-play dram that is typical with these two teams, Arizona fans were disappointed, to say the least, when the final drive was unable to push forward.
Visiting fans, tight chests and apprehensive over a potential Arizona win by three, simultaneously breathed the winds of relief when the clock ran out, ushering in another San Francisco win against rival Arizona Cardinals.
Looking at their preseason 0-4, we speculate now as to whether or not last year’s Super bowl appearance was a fluke or earned greatness.
This question will not remain unaswered.
With strong players like Fitzgerald and Warner, and under the talented direction of Ken Whisenhunt, this team is certainly not out of the running though yet for a great year.