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ARIZONA 34, SAN FRANCISCO 27

New Stadium Inspires Warner and Cardinals

September 11, 2006|From the Associated Press

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Playing in front of a sellout crowd of 63,407 in the Arizona Cardinals' new $455-million, air-conditioned stadium, quarterback Kurt Warner said the atmosphere reminded him of his heyday with the Rams in St. Louis.

The difference showed in the NFL's long-suffering Cardinals, who christened the place with a 34-27 season-opening victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

"It was fun," Warner said. "We're building something new here, and I think it's great to get a win the first time out."

It was the first time the Cardinals opened at home since moving to Arizona in 1988.

Former USC star Matt Leinart remained in his understudy role as Warner completed 23 of 37 passes for 301 yards and three scores, and the Cardinals turned two first-quarter San Francisco turnovers into touchdowns.

Beneath the stadium's translucent roof, the place filled with the kind of noise this team seldom has heard.

"It feels really good," Arizona cornerback Eric Green said, "compared to Sun Devil Stadium, where you're out there and there's 10,000 fans screaming for you and 20,000 screaming for the other team."

The Cardinals took a 21-7 lead, scoring three touchdowns in the first quarter for the first time in 31 years -- then withstood a last-minute San Francisco rally for their first season-opening victory since 1999.

Larry Fitzgerald caught nine passes for 133 yards, including a pivotal 28-yard reception on third and 10 from the Arizona 37-yard line late in the game.

Edgerrin James had a decent debut for the Cardinals behind Arizona's suspect line, gaining 73 yards in 26 carries, including a one-yard touchdown run.

Frank Gore carried 16 times for 87 yards and two touchdowns for San Francisco but fumbled to set up an Arizona touchdown.

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