(AP) — The Arizona Cardinals haven’t been the same since they faced the St. Louis Rams back in October.
Now Arizona will likely look very different.
The Cardinals will try to end their six-game losing streak when they give rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley his first career start Sunday against the visiting Rams, who are winless in their last five.
Arizona (4-6) was 4-0 before suffering a 17-3 loss Oct. 4 at St. Louis (3-6-1) that started its longest slide since a seven-game skid two years ago. The Rams, meanwhile, have gone 0-4-1 since that contest.
Kevin Kolb was the Cardinals starter then. Coach Ken Whisenhunt turned to John Skelton in subsequent weeks before benching Skelton during last Sunday’s 23-19 loss at Atlanta in favor of Lindley.
Lindley was just 9 of 20 for 64 yards, but Whisenhunt is hoping the sixth-round pick out of San Diego State will spark an offense ranked 31st overall and 30th in passing.
“He did a nice job in a hostile environment handling the game, without a lot of practice during the week,” Whisenhunt said. “So where we are as a team and as an offense, it gives us a chance to see what he can do, see if he can’t get, with a week of practice, if he can get in there and get us going and help us move the ball and score some points.”
Lindley was a four-year starter in college, making a San Diego State record 49 consecutive starts. He set Mountain West Conference records for completions (961), attempts (1,732), passing yards (12,690) and total offense (12,415).
“I don’t really get nervous,” he said. “I think more right now it’s just getting the reps in practice is what I want to do. I just want to make sure I’m ready because if I’m prepared, I’m ready to go, come Sunday it’s just about getting it done and there’s nothing really to it but to just do it when I’m out there.”
Lindley was sacked 49 times and threw 48 interceptions in his college career, although he was picked off only a career-low eight times as a senior.
He may not have to worry about throwing an interception against St. Louis, which hasn’t forced a turnover during its winless run to tie for the NFL’s longest such stretch since 1950.
Only the 2011 Indianapolis Colts and 2006 Washington Redskins have gone five games without a takeaway in the last 62 years. The Rams’ last turnover forced was a lost fumble by Kolb.
“We’re stripping, the ball’s flying around, it’ll just happen,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “But I don’t think I’ve been in a stretch before that long.”
St. Louis had eight interceptions through four games, but a defense that is being guided in part by assistant head coach Dave McGinnis – the Cardinals coach from 2000-03 – then failed to pick off Kolb in 50 pass attempts to start this dreadful drought.
“It’s tough,” safety Quintin Mikell told the Rams’ official website. “That’s kind of the way it goes sometimes. You get a bounce here and there, but right now they’re not bouncing our way.”
The Rams’ defense will get a chance to try to strip Beanie Wells of the ball. The running back has been activated from the NFL’s new injured/designated to return list for his first action since sustaining a severe turf toe injury against Philadelphia in Week 3.
Wells’ best career effort was a franchise-record 228-yard performance the last time he played the Rams in a 23-20 victory Nov. 27, 2011.
“Obviously, I have respect for him as a runner,” Rams defensive end Chris Long told the Cardinals’ official website. “If we didn’t before that last game last year, we do now. That guy runs hard, he’s tough. He’s athletic. He’s a smart runner. He exposed us on that day. We were playing bad defense but he exposed us.”
St. Louis, meanwhile, has plenty of respect for an Arizona defense that intercepted league MVP candidate Matt Ryan five times last week.
Although the Rams were victorious in the first meeting, Sam Bradford completed 7 of 21 passes for 141 yards. It marked Bradford’s worst career completion percentage in a game and his second-worst yardage total.
“It was just one of those days,” Bradford said. “I think it was just a combination of everything. Give them credit, they played well, they covered us at times but then we had opportunities at times. I think I missed a couple of throws that I usually make.”
St. Louis is 1-15-1 in its last 17 on the road against NFC foes, with the lone victory over Arizona two seasons ago. The Rams fell 27-13 to the Jets last week.