After the national anthem is sung at Candlestick Park, not only will the Arizona Cardinals players take the field, but their pride will follow along with them. The San Francisco 49ers have won the past four games against the Cardinals, and it's gotten head coach Ken Whisenhunt's attention.
"They've had success against us the last couple of years and that's hard with your pride," said Whisenhunt.
The Cardinals appear to be overmatched this Sunday as they line up against the 49ers, who've given up the fewest points per game (15.3), caused the most turnovers (21) and are No. 1 against the run (73.2 yards per game).
Arizona has pride on its side, though.
This season has been a test for everyone's pride in the Arizona organization, from the players and coaches to front-office folks and fans. After starting the season 1-6, doubt didn't just seep into the fans' minds—it stormed in. Another lost season was declared.
Over the past two weeks, however, the Cardinals have managed to find their groove and win two impressive games. The new guy under center, John Skelton, has used his poise to lead Arizona in triumphant fourth-quarter victories.
Arizona knows such late-game defeats all too well. The Cardinals have lost four winnable games late in the fourth quarter this season.
Despite Arizona's tough, winnable losses, they have garnered a reputation as a weak team with no hope for this year. Reputation is one thing; character is another.
They say your reputation is what you do when people are watching, while your character is what you do when people aren't. "They" got it right.
The media is only permitted to view a small portion of Arizona's practice, so what the Cardinals do when no one is watching is where character is built.
From the looks of this season, the Cardinals' character, as a team, is strong.
Sure, their record may not reflect how strong their character actually is. But when you have a 1-6 team string together two late fourth-quarter wins (one actually in overtime), it rings a truth about their character. That truth is that they are still fighting each week, each quarter, each down.
So when the Cardinals line up against the San Francisco 49ers this week, you can rest assured that the home team will have a fight on its hands. With the fight that still remains inside this Cardinal team, don't be surprised to see the Cardinal helmet held high in the air at the end of regulation.
It's the 49ers' seven-game winning streak that's on the line, not the Cardinals' season.