Some kind of excitement. Maybe 30,000, even 35,000 people in the stands. NFL opening day, Buddy Ryan's Arizona debut, and possibly the Rams' last season in Anaheim.
The Cardinals haven't had a winning season since 1984, the Rams since 1989. The Cardinals are 20-44 over the last four years, the Rams 19-45. The Cardinals have lost three of their last four opening-day games, the Rams four straight. And today, none of that matters.
The playoffs are still in reach, the Super Bowl isn't out of the question, all of Phoenix is in a lather over Buddy Ball, and Chris Miller has yet to be sacked.
"A very, very important game," said Anthony Newman, Ram safety and defensive team captain.
"This will be one of the most important games I have ever been involved in as a Ram.
"We need to come out with something very positive. We have to win this game."
The Rams, 0-4 in exhibition play, understand they lack credibility. They have done nothing to excite the local population, and if this contest is to capture any national attention, it will be because of Ryan, his "Tombstone Defense," and the body bags fans intend to display for every sack registered.
"It's no picnic to play us," said Ryan.
Ryan employs intimidation, and has been accused of posting a bounty on the opposition's starting quarterback. Call it a coincidence, but someone in the Cardinal organization this week noted on the team's bulletin board that Miller has a history of knee problems.
"We tried to get him to come here," Ryan said of Miller. "But you all made him a better offer than I could, so he went to your place. I wanted a backup quarterback."
Miller is the Rams' starting quarterback. He has undergone surgery on his left knee twice in the last two years and has not played in a regular-season game since last September, but the rust has worn off in three exhibition starts.
The Rams' success this season undoubtedly will rest on Miller's continued soundness, but so far the team has been unable to protect him. The shuffle continued along the line last week when starting guard Bill Schultz was cut and Keith Loneker moved into Schultz's spot.
"I certainly feel like we're in for a severe test," said Jim Erkenbeck, Ram offensive line coach. "It will tell us where we are and give an indication of where we're going.
"This kind of defense tries to fool you, not necessarily beat you with mismatches. I do know this, having been involved with Buddy while he was in Chicago, having been involved with him when he was in Philadelphia and Houston, it certainly can be done."
The Houston Oilers last year employed Ryan's "46 defense," named for former Bear safety Doug Plank's jersey number, and the Rams tore it up, 28-13.
The 46 makes it tough to run--Jerome Bettis and Cleveland Gary were held to 56 yards in 26 carries--but it's a defense that can be hit hard by pass.
Quarterback Jim Everett, who later was dispatched to New Orleans for a seventh-round pick, completed 19 of 28 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns against Ryan's defense.
"I feel good about our team," Miller said. "And the best scenario in the world would be for us to go out and beat Arizona. Then we can look at all (reporters) and say, 'What did we do in the preseason? What was the preseason all about? Who cares.' "
Ryan, the NFL's No. 1 in-your-face talker, has a different agenda. Hired to replace Joe Bugel, he has recruited some of his former defenders--end Clyde Simmons, linebackers' Seth Joyner and Wilber Marshall and safety Terry Hoage--to lift Phoenix from its funk.
"You play against this defense and you feel like you're in a war zone the whole game," Miller said. "They just bring heat on you all day. You expect to take more hits, but then at the same time you expect to have more opportunities to make big plays.
"They leave guys uncovered, banking you won't find them or the rush is going to get there before you get the ball out. They play a lot of man-to-man, so there is an opportunity on the corners if you get the ball up quickly. It's a defense that does present protection problems, so you definitely have to be flawless in execution to get those big plays."
The Cardinals' offense, guided by quarterback Steve Beuerlein, features running back Ron Moore and a trio of troublesome receivers--Gary Clark, Ricky Proehl and Randal Hill.
"Everyone knows we need a win," Ram Coach Chuck Knox said. "We need to come out and show something, and I think we're going to play well. This is a good football team we're playing, but we just need to find a way to win."