By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Wednesday, Sep. 14 2005

Can you name the NFL team that lost its season opener away from home Sunday
despite having significant advantages in yards, first downs and time of
possession?

If you answered the Rams, you were correct. But you also get full credit if you
picked the Arizona Cardinals, who will play host to the Rams on Sunday.

"There were some similarities between the two games," Rams coach Mike Martz
pointed out. The Cardinals "had some breaks go against them on the road. And
that happens; that's the NFL."

Despite dominating the ***** statistically, the Rams lost 28-25 in San
Francisco. They were done in largely by poor special-teams play, the most
notable blunder a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown.

The Cardinals not only yielded a 52-yard TD on a punt return, they also gave up
a 95-yard kickoff return for a score. Both came in the second half, as the New
York Giants roared back from a six-point halftime deficit to a 42-19 triumph.

"We had a lot of opportunities and we didn't take advantage of them," Arizona
coach Dennis Green said, echoing Martz's postgame comments nearly word for
word.

With quarterback Kurt Warner at the controls, the Big Red offense rolled up 318
total yards to the Giants' 275, had a 20-14 edge in first downs and enjoyed a
whopping 10 1/2-minute bulge in time of possession. Warner completed 27 of 46
yards for 264 yards and a touchdown, with one interception.

Martz said the Cardinals "played at times very well, particularly on defense."
And he had kind words for his own defenders, too. "We had a couple of big plays
go against us; other than that, I was pleased with the defense," he said.
"We're making progress."


Holt: Don't panic

Wideout Torry Holt has a message for vexed Rams supporters: Don't punch the
alarm button just yet.

"I wouldn't panic too much, I would say to the people out there," said Holt,
who had a team-high 10 receptions for 125 yards Sunday. "We as players aren't
panicking, the coaches aren't panicking, and that's the most important thing."

Still, Holt said he could appreciate the fans' concern after the inelegant loss
to the *****, who were an NFL-worst 2-14 in 2004.

"We all know that we shouldn't have lost that game, so I can kind of
understand," he said. "They're wondering if this is going to be a reflection of
what happened to us last year," when the Rams fell to 8-8 after going 12-4 in
'03.

"But I think this is a football team that's together, we understand what we
didn't do to win that ballgame, and we have another opportunity against another
divisional opponent on the road to redeem ourselves," Holt said. "It'll be up
to us as players to go out there and do that."


Learning curve

The Rams' top two draft choices were on the inactive list vs. the *****.
First-rounder Alex Barron, a tackle from Florida State, still is trying to
catch up after skipping the first 21 training camp practices in a contract
dispute.

Second-round pick Ron Bartell, a cornerback from Howard, missed only the first
day before wrapping up his negotiations. Yet newcomer Chris Johnson was the
fourth cornerback Sunday, and Bartell sat.

Bartell said he was somewhat surprised that he didn't dress, but added: "It's
no big deal, not something I'm worried about. The only thing I can do is go out
there and practice hard, and go from there."

Martz said Bartell, who at 6 feet 1 and 208 pounds measures up well with the
Cardinals' big wideouts, needs to smooth the rough edges in practice before
earning a spot on the 45-man squad.

"He can't make mistakes; he can't guess," Martz said. "He needs to use his
speed and be very consistent in making plays out here."


Ram-blings

Rex Tucker (calf) won't play Sunday. Cornerback Terry Fair (neck) was listed as
"doubtful" and wide receiver Kevin Curtis (ankle) as "probable" on the week's
first injury report. . . . If the mercury soars to triple digits Sunday, as
forecast, it would mark the ninth time since the Cardinals moved to the desert
after the 1987 season that a game there has been played in temperatures of 100
or higher. . . . Contrary to some reports, the game is not sold out. As of
Wednesday afternoon, about 20,000 tickets remained. Capacity at Sun Devil
Stadium is 63,000.