TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals are inching closer to a playoff berth but this week face two obstacles: a suddenly surging St. Louis Rams team and playing on the road, where they've been inconsistent.
The Cardinals are 7-0 at home but only 3-3 on the road. They scored only three points in a defeat at Seattle on Nov. 23 and lost 29-18 at Atlanta the following week. They have gained only 99 total yards rushing in the past two road games.
This week, they face a Rams team (6-7) that shut out its last two opponents, Oakland and Washington, and they have to do it in a short week.
''To me, it's probably one of the best defenses in the NFL right now,'' Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said Tuesday. ''They're playing hot. They're at home, it's going to be loud, they should have a decent crowd. We beat them once so I'm sure they're going to want revenge.''
The Cardinals beat the Rams 31-14 in Arizona on Nov. 9.
''How do you get rid of the crowd noise? You have to be successful on offense. You have to stay on the grass, you have to make plays,'' Goodwin said, emphasizing the ground attack. ''The previous two road games, we haven't done that. We have to be effective on offense, we have to be efficient on offense. We've got to help our defense out, give them some rest and we've got to put points on the board.''
The Rams' defense may have something to say about that. They've allowed 16.9 points per game over the past eight weeks, fourth-best in the NFL during that time, and no team has more sacks (34) in those eight weeks. St. Louis has allowed 28 or fewer total yards rushing in three of its last five games.
The Cardinals will face that defense on Thursday night without running back Andre Ellington, lost for the season due to a hip injury, and could turn to Kerwynn Williams for the second straight week. Williams was elevated from the Cardinals' practice squad on Friday and rushed for 100 yards on 19 carries against Kansas City last weekend.
''It's always good to get some experience out there and some playing time on the field,'' Williams said. ''It definitely gives you more confidence heading into the next week. But you always have to keep that level head and keep grinding.''
Road teams are 5-8 on Thursday night this season, but the Cardinals hope that the travel factor is neutralized with St. Louis coming off a road game at Washington on Sunday.
''It's not about just getting into the playoffs, it's about putting yourself in a good position once you get there,'' Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.
NOTES: Ellington, placed on injured reserve Monday, tweeted a photo of himself lying down with a thumbs-up gesture, saying ''Surgery went well. Thanks for your support and prayers.'' Ellington had hernia surgery on Tuesday. ... The Cardinals will practice Wednesday morning at their facility before flying to St. Louis. . Fitzgerald compared his team's lack of flashy play to the NBA's San Antonio Spurs. ''Obviously, without the championship rings,'' Fitzgerald said. ''They just kind of methodically get it done. It's never really pretty, pick-and-roll, Tim Duncan shooting off the backboard. It's not sexy ... but it's effective. We get in close games down the stretch so we're able to finish. That's what it's coming down to.'' . CB Antonio Cromartie (thumb) ran at practice Tuesday, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. Cromartie missed Monday's practice and could be a game-time decision.
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