There is an NFC West division matchup on this week’s NFL schedule pitting the San Francisco 49ers against the Arizona Cardinals, and for this week’s Throwback Thursday feature we’ll go back to a game played between these 2 franchises on Halloween in 1976. The Cardinals were based in St. Louis at the time, and played in the Eastern Division of the NFC while the Niners were an NFC West team. Played at Busch Stadium, the game featured a matchup of Cardinal coach Don Coryell’s wide-open offense, guided by veteran quarterback Jim Hart, against a San Francisco team led by former top draft pick Jim Plunkett, who had been a bust in New England and was trying to revive his career with the 49ers. Both teams entered the game with 6-2 records so it was an important game for their respective playoff chances. It was a close, exciting game, with the 49ers riding the hard running of Delvin Williams, who rushed for 194 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Cardinals countered with a balanced attack as Jim Otis ran for 109 yards while Hart threw for 3 touchdowns, including a 77 yard bomb to Mel Gray that tied the game at 20-20 at the end of regulation, sending it into overtime. Hart then led his club on a drive culminating in a game-winning 21 yard field goal by Jim Bakken. The Cards won 23-20, a typical win for coach Coryell’s team, who had made a habit of winning these types of nail-biters over the years, earning the nickname of the “Cardiac Cards”.
Ironically, neither team made the playoffs that year. San Francisco faded in the second half of the year and wound up at 8-6, finishing second in the NFC West. The Cardinals wound up with a better record at 10-4, but they were third in their division, the extremely competitive NFC East. Plunkett’s play eroded as the season went on, and he was dispatched by the Niners. It appeared as if his playing days were over as he failed with a second team. However, he found a home after that with the Oakland Raiders, a club known for taking chances on troubled players, and went on to great success, winning a pair of Super Bowls as the Raiders’ quarterback.
St. Louis’ Jim Hart calls signals behind his dominating offensive line