In 1988, the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL made the move to Arizona and became the Phoenix Cardinals. They would change their name to the Arizona Cardinals in 1994 since they never formally played in Phoenix.
Their home stadium for the first 17 seasons was Sun Devil Stadium at Arizona State University in Tempe and that was where the New York Giants made their Arizona debut on November 13, 1988.
The league did not feel the need to move the Cardinals out of the NFC East until 2002, when it expanded to 32 teams and realigned to eight divisions of four teams. So, from 1988 through 2001, the Giants made an annual pilgrimage to the desert.
This particular game pitted Bill Parcells’ first place Giants (7-3) against Gene Stallings’ 6-4 Cardinals. The oddsmakers actually made the Cardinals two-point favorites in this game and would end up being rewarded.
Phoenix jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead, with Pro Bowl quarterback Neil Lomax rushing for one touchdown and tossing another. The Giants narrowed the score to 14-7 in the second quarter on am 8-yard pass from Phil Simms to Maurice Carthon.
After a scoreless third quarter, Phoenix opened up their lead to 21-7 on a 44-yard pass from Lomax to Roy Green and the Giants answered when Ottis Anderson made the score 21-14 on a 1-yard plunge. The teams traded filed goals to close out the game and pull the Cards into a tie for first place in the NFC East with the Giants.
But the Giants had their best shot to tie the game at 14 right before Green’s 44-yard TD made it 21-7.
After Phoenix punter Greg Horne dropped the snap and was tackled at the Cardinals 36, the Giants had their best opportunity to catch up.
They drove to the 15 before stalling and facing a fourth-and-two. Quarterback Phil Simms went to the sideline to chat with Parcells.
“He made up his mind instantly we were going for it,” said Simms.
Forced out of the pocket, Simms tried to hit Lionel Manuel, but his throw sailed out of the end zone.
“It was my decision,” Parcells said.
The Cardinals ambushed the Giants, who would go on to win 10 games but miss the playoffs. Phoenix finished 7-9 but on this day, they prevailed. Not even Lawrence Taylor could make much of a difference in this one.
“L.T. wasn’t much of a factor, because our tackles, Tootie Robbins and Luis Sharpe, did an excellent job,” Lomax said.
“I think we were a little better than New York expected,” backup quarterback Cliff Stoudt said. “They were kind of in shock that we had so many weapons.”