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Annual Monday With The Niners

Cards meet rivals with both teams desperate for win

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Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson celebrates a turnover during last seasons' Arizona-San Francisco Monday night game in the Bay Area.




There was a fumble the Cards couldn't fall on in Ken Whisenhunt's first game.

Then there was a goal-line stand.

Then a shocking turnover meltdown by the Cards.

Every year since Whisenhunt took over as coach of the Cardinals, a Monday night game against the San Francisco 49ers has been part of the schedule. And a memorable moment (or moments) occur.

"It's always something," Cardinals wide receiver Steve Breaston said.

There used to be more at stake, however. The fourth Monday meeting in four years doesn't have much to give in terms of the NFC West, unless one considers the loser has the inside track to last place. The winner, even though both teams are 3-7, actually remains a viable candidate for the division title.

At this point, though, that's not a popular subject for either side.

"I understand logically what that means," Whisenhunt said. "Right now, we have to win a football game. That's the only thing that matters. I'm worried about trying to get our team to play the way it's capable of playing and winning a football game. Our fans deserve that."

That "we're focusing on ourselves" mantra extends to both sidelines this week. San Francisco coach Mike Singletary said a couple of times earlier this week he hasn't paid close attention to the Cardinals because it was too important for him to be watching his own team.

Picked by most to win the NFC West, the 49ers started 0-5 and while they have rallied from three games back to tie the Cards in the standings thanks to Arizona's five-game losing streak, a no-doubt shutout home loss against Tampa Bay last week kept the Niners in a funk.

"When you say how disappointing (the season has been), forget about the expectations," Singletary said. "It's disappointing, period, when you're not doing the things you know you should be doing or you're not at the place you thought you were."

It made sense that the powers-that-be wanted this to be a prime time game, with the trash talking between the teams and what have usually been close outcomes. If cornerback Eric Green had grabbed a fumble near the end of the 2007 season-opener, Whisenhunt would have been a winner in his first game in San Francisco.

If the Cards hadn't stuffed fullback Michael Robinson on the final play in 2008, the 49ers would have stolen a road win during the Cards' Super Bowl season.

Last year, the Cards were feeling good about closing in on another NFC West title, but were terrible in San Francisco, letting the nation see seven turnovers in a disappointing blowout loss.
This year? The Cards hope they can get a blowout win of their own, and snap the losing streak.

Regardless, "it's going to be rock 'em, sock 'em, no question about that," said safety Matt Ware, who has been with the Cards since 2006.

Breaston said in the moments after last week's loss in Kansas City the Cardinals needed to be ready for this game. It's about the rivalry, yes, and also about finally getting a victory. But it was also about pride, given the stage.

With what the Cardinals have been going through, perhaps that's exactly the motivation they need right about now.

"When you have the nation watching you on TV, that's something special," Breaston said. "That's what you want. All eyes on you."

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