Cardinals seek road rebound against stingy Rams

ST. LOUIS (AP) Bruce Arians makes no effort to hide his distaste for short turnarounds between games.

Good for the Arizona Cardinals coach to get it all out of his system now, with an opportunity at getting closer to a playoff spot and facing an opponent with a stingy defense.

''I'm on the record about Thursday night football,'' Arians said. ''Hopefully we don't have Wednesday night football. You just do what you have to do.''

The NFC West-leading Cardinals (10-3) are tied with the Green Bay Packers for the top record in the conference entering a tough finishing stretch.

Walkthroughs and film study had to suffice against the Rams (6-7), who have consecutive shutouts for the first time since 1945.

''They don't know what day it is, and that's the way you approach it,'' coach Jeff Fisher said.

Traveling adds to the burden for Arizona, which is 7-0 at home, but has lost its past two on the road.

The Cardinals will get extra rest before facing the Super Bowl champion Seahawks at home next week and finish at San Francisco.

They have double-digit victories in consecutive years for the first time since 1975-76 and are closing in on a playoff spot.

''We're playing for something,'' defensive end Calais Campbell said. ''This is a game we have to have.''

Here are some things to watch for in Cardinals-Rams:

STIFLING DEFENSES: Since November the Rams have the best scoring defense in the NFL, according to STATS, allowing a 12.5-point average. The Cardinals are fourth-best during that stretch, allowing 16.5 points per game, and have been among the league's best all season.

The Rams are 11th in total defense. The pass rush led by Robert Quinn has 13 sacks the past two games and they've been particularly tough of late against the run.

They've won by a cumulative score of 76-0 the past two weeks against Oakland and Washington.

The Cardinals have 23 sacks the past five games. Eleven players have at least one sack in that stretch, with Campbell (six) and Alex Okafor (five) leading the way.

Last month at home, Arizona got two defensive touchdowns in a 21-0 fourth-quarter burst that erased a 14-10 deficit last month. St. Louis was 1 for 10 on third down.

The next week, Fisher benched Davis in favor of veteran Shaun Hill.

FAST STARTERS, STRONG CLOSERS: The Rams have outscored opponents 59-6 in the first quarter at home, but squandered an early 14-0 lead against San Francisco and a 21-0 first-half cushion against Dallas.

''We're prepared. Wish we could carry that on to the other three quarters,'' Fisher said.

Arizona has been outscored each of the first three quarters, but has outscored opponents by 59 points in the fourth quarter - second most in the NFL. In games decided by 10 or fewer points, the Cardinals are 6-0.

TRAINING TABLE: Arizona cornerback Antonio Cromartie (ankle) could be a game-time decision. He was limited Tuesday and Wednesday and listed as questionable.

Kerwynn Williams, elevated from the practice squad last week, made his first career appearance at running back in place of Andre Ellington (hip, injured-reserve) and had 100 yards on 19 carries in a 17-14 victory over the Chiefs last week.

''He's the only guy on the field that made you go `wow' for the last couple of weeks, and our defensive players saw it, too,'' Arians said.

The Rams' lone injury concern is defensive end Chris Long, a full participant Wednesday but listed as questionable because of soreness in his surgically repaired left ankle. Fisher said he was ''very optimistic.''

AUSTIN UNLEASHED: Tavon Austin had a 78-yard punt return for touchdown last week and totaled 143 punt return yards, most in the NFL this season. He also had 46 yards rushing on five carries, showing off versatility that led the Rams to draft him eighth overall last year.

''I definitely feel more comfortable,'' Austin said. ''They believe in me.''

STAND-IN QBS: Drew Stanton and Hill were teammates on the Lions in 2010-11, Stanton as Hill's backup most of `10 and then with behind Matthew Stafford in '11. Both made their first starts since 2010 this year in place of injured Carson Palmer and Sam Bradford.

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AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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