Warner no longer emotional against old team

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Cardinals quarterback is concerned with getting his team into the playoffs.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There is no special emotion for Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner facing St. Louis anymore.

The Rams team that comes to the new Cardinals Stadium on Sunday has little resemblance to the ones Warner led to Super Bowls in 1999 and 2001.

"So many things have changed," he said. "There are still a lot of familiar faces there, which I always enjoy seeing. But I feel like this is my home, this is my team. I want to go out and accomplish things with this team. What happened in St. Louis was a long time ago, as great as it was."

Mike Martz and "The Greatest Show on Turf" are gone, replaced by the more conservative approach of new coach Scott Linehan. St. Louis still has wide receiver threats Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, but the philosophy is to control the ball with the rugged ground game of Steven Jackson.

Linehan points out that the team has no turnovers in two games -- compared with five for the opposition -- and that Jackson is averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

But Marc Bulger was sacked six times and averaged just 3.7 yards per pass completion against a San Francisco defense that allowed 367 yards in a loss at Arizona in its season opener. In two games, the Rams have one touchdown and eight field goals.

"We aren't scoring as well as we feel we will, but it's a work in progress," Linehan said. "I know some people don't want to hear that. Impatience will test that, whether you're an outsider looking in or an insider looking out, but that's where we are, and we're working hard every day to get better."

Both teams are 1-1 going into the second regular-season game played at the Cardinals' $455 million new digs. Arizona plays three of its next four at home, not far from the neighborhood where St. Louis center Richie Incognito grew up. The packed house will be far different than what the Rams used to see in Arizona when they played in the extreme heat of mostly empty Sun Devil Stadium.

"Before, they couldn't even give tickets away to Sun Devil Stadium," Incognito said. "Now they're sold out. They've got a lot of hype. They've got a good ballclub down there, so it's an exciting time."

The Rams face an unpredictable, gambling Arizona defense under coordinator Clancy Pendergast that kept Shaun Alexander in check most of last week. Jackson said he's studying what the Cardinals threw at Seattle, knowing there's a good chance he will face something far different this week.

"Their defensive coordinator does a great job with that," Jackson said. "He's going to make you spend time studying things he may not throw at you, but you have to because he ran it. We have to take a look at what he did, and kind of be mad scientists ourselves, thinking what else he could possibly dial up."

Like Arizona, St. Louis has had problems on the offensive line.

Tackle Orlando Pace is questionable after sustaining a concussion against the 49ers. Left guard Todd Steussie moved to Pace's left tackle spot and Adam Goldberg moved in at guard.

Arizona, for the first time this season, expects to have the starting offensive line it envisioned when training camp started. Oliver Ross will be back at right tackle after being sidelined since the opening week of camp to recover from knee surgery. His return will allow Reggie Wells to move back to the left guard spot.

The Cardinals want to rediscover their wide-open offense that was stifled in last Sunday's 21-10 loss at Seattle.

The Rams, under new defensive coordinator and former New Orleans coach Jim Haslett, play a gambling style, too.

"They've got a lot of speed defensively, much improved, and they blitz a lot," Arizona coach Dennis Green said. "They play a lot of man coverage. They're willing to take some chances on the pass defense and try to load up on the run."

Cardinals wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin relish the possibilities.

"We're excited about that," Fitzgerald said. "There could be a lot of opportunities for us down the field, but they do a good job pressuring. We've got to protect against it or get something deep downfield."

The passing game misfired several times against the Seahawks, who sacked Warner five times.

"That's the great thing about this league is we can look forward to this next game and prepare for the Rams," Fitzgerald said. "They've got a good ballclub, got a great defensive coordinator, but they're somebody we feel we can beat."

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