By Jim Thomas
Sunday, Oct. 07 2007

St. Louis' football past (the Cardinals) meets its football present (the Rams)
for the 13th time Sunday. But this contest has a feel unlike any of its 12

Look no further than the ceiling of the Arizona locker room for proof. When the
Cardinals showed up for work this week, they saw two mousetraps — one painted
Rams gold, the other painted Rams blue.

It was Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt's not-so-subtle reminder that this is a
trap game for his squad. That's right, he doesn't want the Big Red to take St.
Louis lightly. Imagine that.

"People tell me about the Pittsburgh game, but I tell people all the time, it
don't mean anything if you go out there and lose to 0-4 St. Louis," Cardinals
defensive end Darnell Dockett told reporters in the Valley of the Sun.

Bill Bidwill's Gridbirds are riding high after last week's 21-14 upset victory
over previously unbeaten Pittsburgh. Perhaps that was a revenge game for
Whisenhunt, a former Steelers assistant who was passed over as a potential
successor to Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh.

Who knows? Whisenhunt might want to make another statement Sunday to Rams
management. Namely: You should've waited for me.

Rams president John Shaw was very interested in Whisenhunt as a head-coaching
candidate after firing Mike Martz at the end of the 2005 season.

"They actually were going to come into Pittsburgh (for an interview), but we
were in the midst of the playoffs, so I didn't get a chance to meet with them
individually," Whisenhunt said in a conference call with St. Louis reporters.

Instead, Whisenhunt did a phone interview with the Rams, which he thought went
well. But the Steelers kept winning in the postseason, all the way through
Pittsburgh's Super Bowl XL victory over Seattle. The Rams couldn't afford to
wait for Whisenhunt to finish his playoff run as Steelers offensive
coordinator. So on Jan. 19, 2006, or nearly 2½ weeks before Super Bowl XL,
Scott Linehan was hired to replace Martz.

But back to the present. On a high after the victory over Pittsburgh, the
Cardinals (2-2) come to town Sunday as favorites. For only the second time in
the 13 St. Louis Rams-Arizona Cardinals games, the Big Red enter the contest
with a better record.

The Rams are searching for answer, as well as points and healthy bodies. They
have gone 11 quarters and 31 possessions without scoring an offensive
touchdown. Four offensive starters will miss Sunday's game because of injuries.
A fifth, quarterback Marc Bulger, has been benched in favor of Gus Frerotte to
rest his broken ribs.

Linehan is trying to shake up the X's and O's as well, removing play-calling
duties from offensive coordinator Greg Olson. Linehan will call the plays
Sunday, with Olson moving upstairs to the coaches' booth in the Edward Jones

A loss to Arizona would drop the Rams' record to 0-5, matching their worst
start since the move to St. Louis in 1995, and matching their second-longest
losing streak — period — since the move here.

"The biggest point is not to be lamenting on why or how we got here," Linehan
said. "It's focusing on getting ourselves to 1-4. I think a guy would go crazy
if he worried about the other stuff.

"And I refuse to go crazy."

One thing seems certain: Disgruntled Rams fans aren't going crazy for their
team, either. For only the second time since the move, a regular-season Rams
home game will not be televised locally. More than 3,500 seats remained by
Thursday's deadline.

"I don't even worry about getting into all that, worrying about what the fans
think," Rams cornerback Ron Bartell said. "Personally, I don't care. I'm going
to go out there and play hard every play.

"If you're a real football fan — if you're a real Rams fan — you're going to
continue to support us, support the team. Because we're playing hard. We're
just going through a tough time right now. We'll get it right this Sunday,

And then there's the matter of Kurt Warner. Warner, who led the Rams to two
Super Bowls before his release after the 2003 season, is thriving again as part
of Arizona's unorthodox quarterback rotation system.

What if Warner gets it going off the bench Sunday for the Big Red, and the Rams
continue to struggle? Will the crowd turn against the home team and start
cheering out of nostalgia for Warner?

Stranger things have happened in these parts. Like a former grocery-store clerk
turning into a two-time NFL most valuable player. Or an offense that began the
season with five Pro Bowlers in its starting lineup needing a Trip-tik to find
the end zone.