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Cardinals Aim To "Return The Favor" Against Rams

Posted Dec 31, 2016

Motivation present in season finale after early-season loss to division rival

Cardinals wide receiver John Brown runs after the catch in the Week 4 loss to the Rams.

LOS ANGELES – After a season filled with so much disappointment and a roster filled with so many impending free agents, a lackluster performance in Seattle last week would not have been a surprise.

Instead, the Cardinals (6-8-1) put together one of their most inspired outings of the year, knocking off the Seahawks to make the holidays a little sweeter.

“That game was all about pride,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “We didn’t want to just go lay down and give them the ‘W.’”

There is one more game remaining to wrap up the regular season, and a similar feeling emanated from the team’s training facility this week. The Cardinals still can’t make the playoffs, but they can again knock off a heated division rival.

This time it’s the Rams, a team which hasn’t been as competitive on a grand scale as the Seahawks but has always been a thorn in the side of the Cardinals. They spoiled Bruce Arians’ coaching debut in 2013 and gave the Cardinals one of their three regular-season losses last season.

It was the Rams who pushed the Cardinals lowest in their opening-season spiral, winning at University of Phoenix in Week 4 to drop the hosts to 1-3. Arians sniped at the Rams after a road win in 2014, reprimanding those who picked against his 11-win team in that contest in favor of “a team that is always 8-8.”

Rams coach Jeff Fisher shot back after this season’s win, telling NFL.com that his team delivered the Cardinals “their Christmas present. We see them after Christmas. This was their Christmas present. We just gave it to them early, OK?”

Arians laughed off the back-and-forth in a conference call with Los Angeles media this week, admitting there wasn’t much he could do after his team lost.

“Hey, when you win, you get to say things,” Arians said in the conference call. “When you lose, eat it.”

The feud won’t continue on New Year’s Day, as Fisher was fired after a 42-14 loss to the Falcons in mid-December which dropped the Rams to 4-9. Too bad, Arians said.

“We've always had our little barbs,” Arians said. “They're out of fun. I think it was out of respect for each other. I started it, and I wish he had a chance to finish so I could say, ‘Happy New Year.’”

The Cardinals still have plenty of motivation, as quarterback Carson Palmer would love to “return the favor” of knocking off the Rams in their house after losing the first one at home.

This road destination will be new, as the Cardinals will visit Los Angeles for the first time since the Rams relocated there this offseason. While the Rams are struggling badly, losers of 10 of their past 11, they have played the Cardinals too tough in the past to take them lightly.

“The one thing about playing against the Rams is they’re really built to play against every team in this division,” defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said. “No matter what their record is, they always give us a tough time, whether they come in our house or whether we go there. It’s always a good game.”

The NFL made sure schedule-makers lined up division games late in the year because playoff spots and division titles are often on the line. The Cardinals aren’t playing for those, but motivation for a strong finish has been made easier with the back-to-back outings against the Seahawks and Rams to wrap up the campaign.

“Since coach Arians got here, playing those two teams has definitely gotten the stakes a little higher,” Peterson said. “And when you’re playing division opponents, that’s what you want. You want those stakes to be high. You want both teams to not like each other, because that’s when you have a recipe for great football.”

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