Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (90) and Rams quarterback Sam Bradford watch the end of a play after a meeting in the backfield during the Cardinals' 23-20 win in St. Louis in 2011.
The last time the Cardinals lost a game in St. Louis, Larry Fitzgerald and Darnell Dockett were rookies, Dennis Green was the coach and Emmitt Smith rushed for 87 yards on 16 carries.
Since then, the Cards have won seven straight in the city the franchise once called home, and will try for eight when they visit the Rams on NFL Network's "Thursday Night Football." Only three current Cardinals – Fitzgerald, Dockett and Adrian Wilson – have ever lost a game there as a Card.
"If there was an answer to that formula, I wouldn't reveal it," center Lyle Sendlein said with a chuckle.
"You can't go in with the mindset that just because our organization has had success in the past you can't just show up on Sunday – or in this case Thursday – and win. We're going in thinking if we work hard and do what we need to do, success will happen. But I can't put my finger on why."
Through much of that stretch, the Cardinals have simply been a better team while the Rams have tried to regain the success they had in the first part of the century. The streak began while the Rams were still playing well, but the Cardinals signed former Ram Kurt Warner – who clearly got up for games against his former team in a city that still loved him.
Then coach Ken Whisenhunt arrived to upgrade the Cards' arc.
"Over the years we've been a pretty good team and they were in a rebuilding mode, trying to get back right," cornerback Michael Adams said. "We don't think about it as a team. As a player I do. Certain teams at certain times, they shouldn't beat you. But it's your job to go out there and win games.
"I feel like, when we were 5-11 (in 2010), if the Packers played us, they probably would have thought 'We should beat these guys.' But you still have to go out and get it done. You have to respect every opponent and do the job."
It's been close most of the time. Of the last five Cards' wins, four were determined by one score. In 2010, the Cards opened their forgettable season with a four-point win only after wide receiver Steve Breaston improbably chased down a Ram returning a fumble for a sure touchdown and caused a fumble himself that the Cards recovered.
"I don't know what it is," Fitzgerald said. "We've had tough games there. In 2010, we were dead to rights, and there have been some crazy things, like (guard) Reggie Wells recovering a fumble in the end zone (for a score in 2007). We've managed some wins. But now, that doesn't matter."
PETERSON'S PUNT RETURNS
Patrick Peterson's punt returns were not good against the Dolphins, a shock to anyone who has been watching him since he arrived in the league. He had three fumbles on returns (although he didn't lose any) and fair-caught a punt at his own 3-yard line.
Peterson, though, insisted it was a bad day, and not because – after four punt return touchdowns a year ago – he is trying to live up to his own high bar of expectations.
"It was just that day, playing against my hometown team, I just wanted to make something happen so bad," Peterson said. "I believe that made me press, I wasn't focusing. I was all over the place. This week, I'm back to the normal Patrick Peterson."
That would make sense against the Rams, since two of his four TDs a year ago came against St. Louis.
"I think that with the type of player and person that Patrick is," Whisenhunt said with a smile, "that's something he'll get worked out."
AIMING FOR 300
The Cardinals are 4-0 although they have yet to have a game with 300 yards of total offense – and players kind of shrug their shoulders at the yardage mark.
"The numbers are something for (the media) to talk about," Fitzgerald said, adding that if he had been told the offense would have had four sub-300 yard games before the season yet the Cards would be 4-0, he would be "ecstatic."
The Cards know they need to generate more yards, but they have still scored 27 and 24 points the past two games and with the defense they have, it's enough.
"We show flashes, and that's the thing; we have to be more consistent," quarterback Kevin Kolb said. "There are very few games you come out of and you say, 'Wow, we've executed 95 percent today.' That just doesn't happen. That's the mindset of a lot of quarterbacks and a lot of offenses, just making sure to keep striving to get better, and we're doing the same thing. Again, it's nice to make corrections on victories."