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The Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback situation may not be conventional, but it appears to be working. Nothing seems to be going right for the St. Louis Rams, who are forced to make a change at the position.
The Cardinals look to build off a huge victory and continue their best start in five years Sunday when they visit the winless Rams, who will be without injured starting quarterback Marc Bulger.
With Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner again sharing time, Arizona (2-2) handed Pittsburgh its first loss of the season with a 21-14 home win last Sunday. The victory was special for first-year Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, who spent the last three seasons as the Steelers offensive coordinator.
“The thing that I’m the proudest about is that our football team beat a good football team that nobody gave us a chance to do,” said Whisenhunt, who looks to guide the Cardinals to a winning record through five games for the first time since they opened 3-2 in 2002.
St. Louis (0-4), meanwhile, will try to bounce back from a 35-7 loss at Dallas last Sunday without Bulger, who has been playing with two broken ribs.
The injury-riddled Rams will turn to Gus Frerotte, who will try and help the team score its first offensive touchdown since the first quarter of a 17-16 loss to San Francisco in Week 2. The Rams are looking to avoid starting 0-5 for the first time since 2002.
“Bulger is hurt, and Frerotte is the quarterback until Bulger’s ribs heal,” Rams spokesman Rick Smith said Wednesday.
The 36-year-old Frerotte started 15 games in 2005 for Miami, where Rams coach Scott Linehan was the offensive coordinator at the time. Bulger, who signed a six-year, $65 million contract extension in training camp, will be Frerotte’s backup against the Cardinals.
“If he has to, he will play,” Smith said.
The Cardinals’ offense has played well for the most part, averaging 21.0 points and 339.2 yards per game. Leinart has started all four games this season, but former Rams Super Bowl MVP Warner has come off the bench to lead a no-huddle formation in the last two contests.
“I think we have two guys that are unique in that we have two unselfish guys that have a very good relationship,” Whisenhunt said. “I know it’s a little bit different. It’s a harder thing to get your mind around a substitution at the quarterback position than it is maybe as a receiver or a running back or a tight end.”
Whisenhunt introduced the no-huddle attack against Baltimore in Week 3, when Warner led Arizona to 17 fourth-quarter points to tie the game before the Ravens won on a last-second field goal.
Last Sunday, Leinart was 7-for-14 for 93 yards, while Warner finished 14-for-21 for 132 yards and a touchdown. Neither threw an interception, but Leinart has three on the season to go with two TD passes.
Leinart, the team’s first-round pick last season, hasn’t been shy about his apparent displeasure of a two-quarterback system.
“I’d be lying if I said I was happy with the way things are going,” said Leinart, who has a 63.8 passer rating to Warner’s 125.1. “But at the same time, it’s pushing me to become a better football player.”
Whisenhunt doesn’t plan to change things Sunday against the Rams, whose defense ranks 24th, allowing 349.2 yards per contest.
“It’s really not pulling one guy to put another guy in,” Whisenhunt said. “It’s more of a package thing.”
Leinart was 15-for-24 for 186 yards and a touchdown in a 34-20 win at St. Louis last Dec. 3. Warner threw for 256 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions as a starter in a 16-14 loss to his former club on Sept. 24, 2006. He is 1-2 against the Rams.
While Arizona’s offense hopes running back Edgerrin James can record a second straight 100-yard game against the Rams after rushing for 115 yards on 26 carries in last December’s win, its defense will try for another solid performance.
The Cardinals had four sacks - three by Darnell Dockett - and two interceptions against Pittsburgh. They could have a similar game against St. Louis, which has not scored an offensive touchdown in its last 11 quarters.
Dante Hall returned a punt 85 yards for St. Louis’ lone score against the Cowboys.
Running back Stephen Jackson could miss a second straight game with a groin injury. Rookie Brian Leonard rushed for 58 yards on 15 carries against Dallas in Jackson’s place.
The Rams are also expected to be without guard Adam Goldberg, who hurt his left knee and is the team’s fifth offensive lineman lost to injury in 2007.
“We are the walking wounded right now,” defensive end Leonard Little told the team’s official Web site. “We have a lot of guys injured but that’s why you are NFL players. Second-team guys have to step up and make plays.”
St. Louis has lost its last two home games against Arizona after beating the Cardinals three straight times on its own field.
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