Defensive end Calais Campbell sacks Rams quarterback Sam Bradford during the Cards' 17-13 victory to open the season Sept. 12.
When Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo earlier this week put on the tape of his team's Week One game against the Cardinals, he said it felt like the game had been three years ago rather than the beginning of September.
For Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt? "It seems a heck of a lot longer than three years ago."
"It's been a pretty tough stretch for us," Whisenhunt added.
A lot has changed since that season-opening meeting, a 17-13 Cardinals' win in St. Louis. The Cardinals have won just two of 10 games since, and have lost six in a row. The Rams have crawled out of the NFC West basement they have occupied for so long and, behind rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, actually have a share of first place in the division with a 5-6 record.
Thinking too much about that first game may not have a lot of technical merit -- "Certainly they're not going to do the same things they did in that game and we're probably not either," Spagnuolo said – but that doesn't mean it won't matter.
The game was the defense's finest hour in many ways. Safety Adrian Wilson had a spectacular start to the season, intercepting two passes, sacking Bradford once and blocking a field goal. Safety Kerry Rhodes also made an interception, and the Cards made sure to hold on despite a crucial late Tim Hightower fumble.
And offensively, while quarterback Derek Anderson and the passing game was inconsistent and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald estimates he was at "about 25 percent" after hurting his knee in preseason, the Cards did do enough – including a late touchdown drive to win the game.
That's why Whisenhunt made it a point to play up the teams' first meeting this week, when intensity and technique were better than right now.
That game was "like an eternity ago," Fitzgerald said. "But turning that (video) on, you are encouraged."
Only to a point, however.
Wilson wasn't really interested in recalling that trip. His season has mirrored that ideal – he had a good game that day, and has struggled since – and with 10 games and 11 weeks between now and then, Wilson doesn't see how it translates.
"It's very hard to go back to Week One," Wilson said. "We're playing bad, for obvious reasons. When you go back and look at the first game, that's what it was, the first game.
"We can't re-live what happened in the first game, and how we played. Yeah we played with passion, with energy and made plays. But you have to sustain that throughout the course of the year and we lost that magic somewhere down the line. We've got to find it again."
Finding it Sunday is possible. The Cardinals have beaten the Rams eight straight times and the Rams haven't won back-to-back games on the road (they won in Denver last weekend) since 2007. Maybe it'll create the win the Cardinals have been so desperately seeking.
And then they won't have to lean on a win from so many weeks ago.
"We made our share of mistakes in that game," Whisenhunt said. "We were able to overcome that. Maybe it's a great learning tool for us."
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