TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -The San Francisco 49ers won three games a year ago. Two of them came against Arizona, excruciatingly close losses that prevented the Cardinals from winning a spot in the playoffs.
Those games are fresh memories to the Cardinals as they prepare for the season opener Sunday at San Francisco.
``It definitely lingers,'' Arizona Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said after practice Wednesday. ``... When we had our last team meeting (a year ago), we looked at those two games and we're 10-6 going to the playoffs. We let those two games slip away.'''
Arizona opened its season in San Francisco a year ago, too, the debut of the Cardinals under new coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Arizona took a 17-13 lead on a 5-year touchdown pass from Matt Leinart to Anquan Boldin with 6:40 to play. The 49ers needed an 86-yard scoring drive to win it behind quarterback Alex Smith, who had an awful game up until then.
San Francisco had it fourth-and-1 on the Cardinals 45 with 1:43 to play when Smith ran 25 yards to the 20. Three plays later, on third-and-13 at the 23, Smith threw to Arnaz Battle, who fumbled into the end zone at the 1.
The Cardinals' Eric Green misplayed a chance to recover it and the ball went back to the 1. Battle scored from there on an end-around with 22 seconds left to give San Francisco the win.
The rematch came in Game 11 in Glendale on Nov. 25.
Kurt Warner, who had replaced the injured Leinart five games into the season, directed an 81-yard drive to the San Francisco 1 where Neil Rackers' 19-yard field goal as the fourth quarter ended forced overtime.
Rackers made a 25-yard field goal that would have been the winner in overtime, but it was nullified by a delay-of-game penalty. Pushed 5 yards back, Rackers missed the subsequent 32-yard attempt.
The game finally ended when Warner fumbled in the Arizona end zone. The 49ers' Tully Banta-Cain pounced on the ball for the winning score.
Little wonder those losses stand out like a neon sign in Las Vegas on a schedule that had Arizona finishing 8-8.
``We've been thinking about that all offseason,'' linebacker Karlos Dansby said. ``We're dialed up for this one and we're ready to go. We've got a lot of motivation.''
Warner will be back at the controls on Sunday with Leinart on the bench. Smith won't be starting, either. He was beat out by J.T. O'Sullivan in the preseason.
Whisenhunt tried to minimize the impact of the two losses a year ago.
``There were a lot of games like that,'' he said. ``I don't think we can focus on those two. I think the Washington game was another one like that, even the Baltimore game. Any one of those games that we could have won at the end could have made the difference.''
The only reason the San Francisco losses meant more was that the 49ers are a division foe, Whisenhunt said.
``That was the only thing that was difficult,'' he said. ``But we had a lot of close games last year.''
But those two came against a San Francisco team that 13 other NFL squads were able beat.
``You know what, it doesn't matter in the NFL,'' Whisenhunt insisted. ``It doesn't matter what an opponent's record is on any given week. It's hard to win in this league.''
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