After losing three of their last four games and falling one game out of first place in the NFC West, the St. Louis Rams know they need to start winning.
Before ending the regular season against two teams most likely headed to the playoffs, the Rams need a victory against the Arizona Cardinals to keep their hopes of a winning record alive.
St. Louis has lost four straight road games, including Sunday’s 20-7 defeat to surging Carolina. That loss dropped the Rams into a tie with the Panthers for the final wild-card berth in the NFC.
Although St. Louis trails first-place Seattle by one game, the Rams have won both meetings with the Seahawks. However, the Rams end the season with a pair of tough home games against the Philadelphia Eagles, who already have clinched the NFC East title, and New York Jets, current leaders of the AFC wild-card race.
“Find a way, and that has to be the motto, you just have to find a way to get it done,” Rams coach Mike Martz said. “Fix what’s broke and move on. You have to have a short memory about this stuff, and not let yourself get beat down emotionally where you can’t pick yourself back up.”
The Rams’ offense certainly was in need of repair against Carolina. Backup quarterback Chris Chandler made his first start of the season and threw a career-high six interceptions as the Rams fell to 2-5 on the road. At one point in the second half, Martz called nine straight runs for third-string running back Arlen Harris.
“He got a little rattled,” Martz said of Chandler. “He’s a guy that’s been in a lot of systems and had a lot of different coaching, and when you get under pressure like that sometimes you revert back to another system or how you were doing things in the past.”
The 39-year-old Chandler, who played with the Cardinals from 1991-93, was 16-of-29 for 243 yards and a touchdown. He had made just 13 starts over the previous two seasons with the Chicago Bears.
Starting quarterback Marc Bulger has a sprained shoulder and is not expected to play against the Cardinals. Harris again is expected to get the bulk of the carries because Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson are still nursing knee injuries. Faulk may be available for limited action and Jackson had fluid drained from his right knee Sunday.
“He was on the treadmill (Monday) running full speed, and that’s encouraging to me,” Martz said about Jackson. “I think he’s still pretty sore. Who knows?”
One thing is certain. Free safety Aeneas Williams probably will be sidelined for the remainder of the season with a neck injury.
Williams, an eight-time Pro Bowl player, met with team doctors Wednesday about an arthritic condition. Martz expects Williams to decide his future soon regarding an injury that could be career-threatening.
“I told him to take the night and I gave him two alternatives,” Martz said. “Aeneas is probably done for a while.”
St. Louis has not won on the road since a 33-27 overtime victory over Seattle on Oct. 10, but has won the last five meetings with Arizona.
The Cardinals have lost their last four games and will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss Sunday.
Josh McCown threw for a career-high 307 yards in his first start in four weeks, but Arizona lost 31-28 in overtime to the San Francisco 49ers last week. McCown was 26-of-44 and directed three touchdown drives in the second half. But the Cardinals gained just four yards on their only possession in overtime and Todd Peterson kicked a 31-yard field goal with 8:38 left to give San Francisco the win.
Arizona, which will have a losing record for the sixth straight season, is the only team to lose to San Francisco this season.
Emmitt Smith rushed 18 times for 53 yards and a TD. Smith, the all-time leader in rushing yards and touchdowns, has 732 yards on 202 carries this season.