TEMPE, Ariz. — In the old days, you had to be in the locker room to know what was said in it.
But this is 2015.
With the help of AZCardinals.com, we all got a taste of Cardinals coach Bruce Arians’ speech to his team following a close 19-13 road win over the San Francisco 49ers.
“We’ve got to learn as we go,” the coach said. “We’ve got another one next week, people that we know we don’t like, alright? We know we don’t like. We have to have a little more focus as this week goes along.”
People that we know we don’t like. We know we don’t like.
Tell ’em how you really feel, Coach.
There are reasons why Arians and the Cardinals may have a little more disdain for the Rams than any other team, including the coach’s debut with the team being a loss in St. Louis. Adding to the distaste, Tyrann Mathieu, Drew Stanton and Carson Palmer all suffered season-ending knee injuries against the Rams. Arizona’s first loss of the season in Week 4 was to the Rams, so that probably doesn’t help, either.
But really, what’s so special about St. Louis?
“They’re in our division,” Arians said earlier in the week. “We don’t like anybody in our division, you know?
“I’ll have dinner with them, but I ain’t liking them. I ain’t drinking with them!”
Funny stuff, but at the same time, this seems to be more than just a divisional spat.
“Well, he’s got one, so we have one, you know,” Cardinals QB Carson Palmer said when asked if he, like Arians, has an issue with the Rams. “I look forward to this opportunity to play against them because they’re a very good defense. But if our coach doesn’t like them, then we don’t like them.”
Palmer said he has no bad feelings toward the Rams despite suffering a torn ACL against them last season, and Arians said he never thinks the Rams play dirty in any way.
“They just play very hard and physical, and it just so happened he got hurt without being touched last year,” the coach said.
Maybe Arians was telling the truth when he said the problem with the Rams is that they are in the NFC West and, right now, are standing in the way of the Cardinals and a division championship as well as possible first-round bye.
At 9-2, the Cardinals are certainly the favorite over the 4-7 Rams, but it’s important (and perhaps surprising) to note St. Louis is a perfect 3-0 against NFC West foes.
“You always put a little bit of extra emphasis on division games, and especially home games,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said, recalling Arizona’s early-season loss to the Rams in Glendale. “You only get eight of them during the season. To drop a division game, at home, it was a devastating blow to a good start of the season.
“We definitely, we need to make up for that loss. You can’t ever take them back, but you can have something that’s kind of a make up.”
Fitzgerald went over the teams the Rams have beaten this year and said St. Louis is the most physical team Arizona will face all season.
No doubt, the Cardinals would like nothing more than to avenge their loss, and that in itself would serve as enough motivation to come away with a win this Sunday. There is also the obvious and stated motivation of it being a division game, which always adds a level of importance. There’s also familiarity, which is said to breed contempt.
“When you play them as many times as we have, you really start to dislike that opponent,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “That’s really what it’s about. It’s not that we don’t respect them, it’s just a strong dislike.”
Why do the Cardinals dislike the Rams? Let them count the ways.
Whatever happened in the past between these teams — be it words, actions or whatever — will have little impact on what happens at the Edward Jones Dome. Bad blood will only carry a team so far, though, and reasons for it matter little once the ball is kicked off and the game is underway.
“It’s a division game, we don’t like any of the teams in our division, so it’s as simple as that,” Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson said. “We don’t like the Rams, they don’t like us. It’s going to be a physical game.
“We just have to make sure that we’re ready to play, we don’t let our emotions get in front of us of being about a division game and who we don’t like, and just make sure that we’re handling our business on the field and come out with a W.”
Stories for pre-game reading
NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger thinks Tyrann Mathieu belongs in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.
Dave Burns asks if Chris Johnson and his 2.9 yards per carry are replaceable.
NFL.com’s Adam Schein believes the Cardinals have what it takes to win Super Bowl 50.
The Spike of Shame, Wardrobe Malfunctions and Grappling with Gurley are all in Wednesday’s notes.
The Cardinals are confident they can withstand the loss of Chris Johnson.
David Johnson, who will start in place of the injured Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington, can’t wait for this opportunity.
Tyrann Mathieu was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month.
It’s all coming together for Patrick Peterson this season.
Brittan Golden is making the switch from offense to defense, at least temporarily.
As Craig Morgan writes, dominating the NFC West is a step toward the Cardinals’ ultimate goal.
Jonathan Cooper is no longer the starter at right guard, and he knows he must play better.
-A total of 15 different Cardinals have scored at least one touchdown this season.
-Since 2013, the Cardinals are 23-1 when they outrush their opponent.
-Just eight times in franchise history have the Cardinals reached double-digit wins. A victory Sunday would make it nine, with three in the last three years.
-A win Sunday would give the Cardinals a 6-1 record away from University of Phoenix Stadium, tying the franchise record for road wins in a season.
-Just nine coaches in NFL history have won at least 10 games in each of their first three seasons with a team. By defeating the Rams Sunday, Bruce Arians would become the 10th.
-Larry Fitzgerald is eight yards away from reaching 1,000 on the season. It would be his seventh career 1,000-yard season and first since 2011.
-Carson Palmer is three touchdown passes away from tying Kurt Warner for the franchise record in scoring tosses in one season. Of course, that means he’s four TD strikes away from claiming the record for himself.
-Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro is one point away from becoming the first player in franchise history to tally at least 100 points in each of his first two NFL seasons.
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