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Cardinals Return To Mexico Needing To Top 49ers Again

Murray remains game-day decision to play

QB Colt McCoy throws a pass during last week's win in Los Angeles.
QB Colt McCoy throws a pass during last week's win in Los Angeles.

In the fifth and final international game this season, the Cardinals return to Mexico City for the first time in nearly two decades.

Cornerback Antonio Hamilton Sr. is one of the few players on the Cardinals roster with experience playing outside the country and is excited to return Monday night when the Cards face the 49ers at Estadio Azteca.

"It was dope," said Hamilton, who played for the Raiders in the 2017 game. "It wasn't a vacation because it was work, but I got to leave the country for the first time. It was a fantastic experience for me.

"I always look forward to these games. Whenever I sign with a team, I'm like, let's see if we're going to Paris or whatever. So I can make it a trip, so my family and I can experience this together for the first time. I get to play and get paid too? Aw man. It's a win-win."

Monday is another must-win divisional game for the Cardinals (4-6), seeking to turn their season around from a struggling start. They took care of the Rams in Week 10, moving up the conference and division standings. And hope for similar results following a victory against the 49ers (5-4).

It won't be easy. The 49ers remain on the heels of the division-leading Seahawks riding a two-game win-streak. Coach Kyle Shanahan already sported an offense filled with Pro Bowl weapons, including receivers Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and tight end George Kittle. Then the Niners added running back Christian McCaffrey into the fold.

They're just as elite on defense. Through 10 games in 2022, the 49ers have the NFL's No.1 ranked unit in total yards allowed (280.6).

Based on what is at stake, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph didn't downplay the magnitude of the upcoming matchup.

"Every year, you have games like this," he said. " In Cincy one year, we had to win three in a row to make the playoffs. So I've been there before. But this is a big game for us, being a divisional game and (hopefully) two in a row for our team. Everyone is locked in, and hopefully, we will play our best football on Monday."

Kyler Murray is among the players without international experience, and like his teammates embraces the upcoming advantage. The quarterback has heard about the difference playing in Mexico, like the noise fans make throughout the game instead of simply on third downs in the United States.

Murray is uncertain to play on Monday with a hamstring injury. Colt McCoy is ready for his second straight start if Murray can't go.

Whether he does or not, the importance for the Cardinals winning this game remains the same.

"Vibes around the team are positive," Murray said. "That's the one thing about this team, staying alive in the fight. It's not over. The season has not gone the way we wanted, but we're still in it, the season is not over.

"We know this team is talented enough to go on a run we can go on. That's the mission and mentality right now."