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49ers a trap game in theory more than reality for Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. -- To Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, there is no such thing as a trap game.

He has seen countless examples in his 12 years of teams losing to teams they should have beaten. They weren’t the so-called "trap games" -- games in which all signs point to a team letting down after big wins and losing to a team they should beat. Like Arizona, this week, against San Francisco.

"You can get your butt whooped any single week," Fitzgerald said. "If we don’t go in there and play good, they’ll put a loss on us. We understand that, and we want to make sure that we’re doing everything to go out there and play a football game that’s clean and error-free."

On paper, yes, Sunday’s game against the 49ers can look very much like a trap game.

The Cardinals are coming off the high of two emotional wins against Seattle and Cincinnati, both on Sunday nights, and the 49ers, once the dominant team in the NFC West, have been in a state of disarray all season. They are 3-7 with a roster that has been depleted because of injuries. They also have lost their franchise quarterback for the season.

"The one thing I believe is that certain storms, you can’t go around," 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said. "You’ve got to go right through them, and we’re steering right through."

San Francisco has scored the fewest points in the league (139), has the fewest points per game (13.9), has scored the fewest touchdowns (13), has the largest negative point margin (-113) and has accumulated the fewest yards (2,882).

In reality, the trap is more of a figment of anyone’s -- everyone’s -- imagination.

But there is one reminder as to why Sunday at Levi’s Stadium could be the dreaded trap game: The Cardinals haven’t won in San Francisco since 2008.

"That’s been talked about a lot," Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said.

After losing four straight from 2012 to 2013, Arizona has won two of the past three, but both were at home in University of Phoenix Stadium.

Even though it’s a game against a downtrodden former NFC West contender, Sunday’s game still carries enough weight to catch Arizona’s attention because of when it’s played, defensive tackle Calais Campbell said.

"The games in November are very important," he said. "This is how you set yourself up for the playoffs. Each game is critical, especially division games."

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was pleased this week with his team’s approach to practice.

There was a good focus, he said, along with "a lot of energy." If anyone’s focus in the locker room strayed, Palmer said the veterans would have corrected it. But he didn’t see his teammates overlook the 49ers this week.

"It’s a very tunnel-vision focus right now," Palmer said. "Guys understand that it’s about one day at a time. This is not a trap game. This is not a letdown game. We understand how important this game is to us and what it would mean to them to knock us off.

"We haven’t won in San Francisco since my kids were alive, so it’s been awhile. There are a lot of guys in that locker room that have been here for some butt-whippings against them, and there are a lot of extra things thrown on this game for us. We’re very focused for this game."

If there was any singular reason needed for the Cardinals to not look past Sunday and think themselves into a trap game, Arians summed it up.

"It’s the Niners," he said. "It’s the Niners. We haven’t beaten the Niners very often, so they’re still the Niners."