Monday night usually belongs to the San Francisco 49ers, even these not-so-awesome 49ers, even with Steve Young knocked woozy just before halftime.
These might not be the 49ers of old, but they were good enough for a 24-10 victory over the young Arizona Cardinals tonight.
"We took a step forward," Coach Steve Mariucci said. "We beat a playoff team on the road."
Lawrence Phillips's 68-yard touchdown run with 1 minute 42 seconds left in the fourth quarter added the exclamation point to Mariucci's seventh victory in as many tries on Monday nights.
"I didn't get touched," Phillips said. "Anybody could have scored that ball."
Young staked San Francisco (2-1) to a 17-0 lead before being knocked out of the game with a mild concussion with 28 seconds left in the first half.
Jake Plummer, the quarterback San Francisco passed up in the 1997 draft, has rallied Arizona to victory 10 times in his 29 games with the Cardinals. But this one fell short.
Young threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Rice -- the 85th time the two have combined on a scoring pass -- before he was knocked out of the game by the blitzing Cardinals.
Young said he thought he could have gone back in the game.
"I was shocked," Young said of the hit he took. "At first, I didn't know what happened. I hear boxers talk about `the flash.' I sat for a second, got my wits and actually felt pretty good."
But after talking to team doctors, Mariucci decided not to play Young in the second half.
Arizona (1-2) rallied with 10 points in the fourth quarter, but Chad Stanley's 49-yard punt pinned the Cardinals on their 3-yard line with 9:17 to play. Arizona moved the ball down the field, but Adrian Murrell lost six yards, then Plummer was sacked for the fifth time, and the Cardinals chose to punt on fourth and 11 at the San Francisco 40 with just over 2 1/2 minutes to play.
"It was fourth and 11, and we'd been playing very well defensively," Arizona Coach Vince Tobin said. "They had their quarterback in there. We felt if we pinned them back, we'd get the ball back with two minutes or so to go."
But instead, the 49ers got a first down, then Phillips broke free for the biggest play of his troubled brief NFL career.
Phillips, given a chance by the 49ers after a big season in NFL Europe, burst through the line and raced to the end zone for the game-clincher. The former Nebraska all-American finished with 102 yards on nine carries.