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I: Sept. 17, 1920
II: Nov. 7, 1920
III: Nov. 28, 1920
IV: Oct. 7, 1923
V: Nov. 26, 1925
VI: Dec. 6, 1925
VII: Nov. 6, 1929
VIII: Nov. 28, 1929
IX: Oct. 24, 1933
X: Nov. 28, 1935
XI: Oct. 14, 1945
XII: Apr. 19, 1947
XIII: Dec. 28, 1947
XIV: Dec. 19, 1948
XV: Mar. 23, 1959
XVI: Mar. 13, 1960
XVII: Dec. 6, 1964
XVIII: Nov. 7, 1965
XIX: Nov. 16, 1970
XX: Dec. 27, 1975
XXI: Jan. 8, 1983
XXII: Dec. 16, 1984
XXIII: Nov. 8, 1987
XXIV: Mar. 15, 1988
XXV: Dec. 23, 1990
XXVI: Dec. 24, 1994

December 23, 1990: Rising From the Ashes

- - - - - The move to Phoenix did not change much for the Cardinals. Since relocating in 1988, the team has failed to have a winning season or to earn a post-season berth. Only three times did the Big-Red seriously contend for the playoffs, but only once, in 1994, were the Cardinals still alive in the season's final week.
- - - - - The 1990 season was not one of those years Phoenix was in the playoff race. Under new head coach Joe Bugel, the team got off to a slow start, suffering a 31-0 opening day loss to Bugel's old bosses in Washington. For much of the season, bright spots were few and far between, yet the team did manage to down the improved Cowboys, 20-3. The following week in New York, the Cards had the undefeated Giants on the ropes, but fell in the final seconds, 20-19. This loss was followed by four more, and by the end of November, Phoenix was among the league's worst clubs at 2-8.
- - - - - Then, things started to change. A light schedule saw the team run off three straight wins, against New England, Indianapolis, and Atlanta. Then, the Cardinals headed to Dallas for the rematch against the Cowboys. Dallas, fresh off a 1-15 season, was at 6-7 and making a run at the playoffs. Their 41-10 dismantling of Phoenix, virtually assured them of the post-season berth in the weak NFC, while virtually eliminating the Cardinals.
- - - - - At 5-9, the Big-Red needed a big string of upsets and a 2-0 finish in the final two weeks to land the final wild-card spot. The 7-7 Cowboys had to lose twice, and since the Cardinals were short on tie-breakers, the 6-8 Packers, Vikings, Buccaneers, and Saints had to also finish 0-2. Meanwhile, the Rams had to lose to the 4-11 Falcons and the Lions had to beat Green Bay, but then lose to Seattle. Five spots were already clinched and six teams were fighting for the remaining berth.
- - - - - As unlikely as this seemed, the Cardinals came as close as anyone could to earning a trip to the playoffs. On Saturday, the 5-9 Lions eliminated the Packers with a 24-17 victory while the Raiders ended the Vikings' playoff aspirations by the count of 28-24. On Sunday, several more pieces fell into place, as the Bucs, Cowboys, and Rams all lost. When the late games kicked off, only three teams remained in search for the final spot: Dallas (7-8), New Orleans (6-8), and Phoenix (5-9). The Saints were up against the 14-1 49ers, but since San Francisco had already clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, many of their starters played little. Meanwhile, the Cardinals were faced with the 11-3 Giants. Trailing throughout much of the game, Phoenix came alive in the game's final minutes. A late touchdown narrowed the lead to only three points, and a successful on-side kick gave the Cards one final chance. Not far away, the 49ers were close to scoring the winning TD, or at the very least, set up a tying field goal.
- - - - - Everything seemed to be falling into place for the Cardinals. But, this could not last forever. Time expired, as did the Cards' playoff hopes, as the team was desperately trying to put together a winning score. Instead, they lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champion, 24-21. Minutes later, San Francisco fumbled the game away deep in the Saints' territory, and went on to lose 13-10. Thus, the Cardinals' hopes for championship glory were dashed; there would be no amazing comeback season in 1990, no rise from the ashes.
- - - - - Yet, it is still interesting to look at how the final week unfolded. Only two teams, Dallas (7-8) and New Orleans (7-8) remained alive for the final wild-card spot. Tampa Bay lost 16-14 to the lowly Jets, while the Packers fell 22-13 to the even lowlier Broncos. The Cowboys were upset by the 4-11 Falcons, while the Vikings and Lions each dropped their season finale. Although these teams were no longer in the playoff race, their losses would have been needed by the Cardinals. Only the Saints' last-second 20-17 win over the Rams and the Eagles' narrow 23-21 escape versus Phoenix went against the Cards' needs.
- - - - - When the dust had finally settled, Joe Bugel and his Cardinals finished at a less-than-respectful 5-11, yet it was the closest Bugel would come to the playoffs as head of the team. Dallas finished with seven victories, a six-game improvement from 1989, but fell short of the post-season due to their 0-2 finish. The Saints, on the strength of a 2-0 finish, earned the final playoff spot with an 8-8 record. Looking at these records it is hard to imagine that Phoenix, who finished three games behind New Orleans and the playoffs, came up only eleven points short in the final two weeks to making a miraculous post-season appearance.

NEXT : December 24, 1994 - Despite putting together a dangerous playoff contender, Joe Bugel is unceremoniously dumped in favor of the dumpy Buddy Ryan. Ryan's initial season brings moderate success, but leaves fans wondering what could have happened with a real coach in charge of the team.

1996-2001, by "The Cardinal"
(This page is not affiliated with the NFL or the Arizona Cardinals)