Owner Bill Bidwill met recently with his St. Louis-Baltimore-Phoenix-Columbus-Memphis Cardinals, at which point quarterback Neil Lomax stood up and asked:

"Mr. Bidwill, what are we going to do, sir? I was about to buy a house here in St. Louis, but should I?"

"Neil," Bidwill said, "don't buy that house."

Nonetheless, Lomax's desire to make himself a homebody was a step in the right direction, considering what happened to him this last offseason. Cardinals Coach Gene Stallings had berated Lomax for spending too much time in Portland, Ore., (Lomax's home) and not enough time in St. Louis working out. One threat was moving Cliff Stoudt into Lomax's starting spot; another was giving Lomax to Al Davis; another was drafting a hot-shot quarterback.

As it turns out, the Cardinals took Kelly Stouffer of Colorado State in the first round, and Lomax -- awakened at 5:30 a.m., Pacific time, on draft day to hear the great news -- said: "I guess I'm outta here."

Then, after daydreaming what it would be like to wear silver and black, he got in great shape, just in case the Raiders got a shot at the Cardinals this season.

Some call it, "The Revenge of the Nerd," but Lomax wound up staying with the Cardinals and now leads all NFL quarterbacks in yards per game (301), touchowns per game (2.1) and comebacks per game (one almost every week).

The Cardinals (5-6) suddenly find themselves in a three-way, second-place tie in the NFC East, so Sunday's matchup with the Washington Redskins at Busch Stadium is probably their season.

"Maybe we'll have 27,000 or so {at Busch}," Lomax said, cackling.

Lomax ought to be putting people in the seats, then on the edge of them. Against Dallas opening day, he threw three touchdowns in the final three minutes and St. Louis won. Against San Diego, the Cardinals trailed, 28-0, at halftime, but would have won if Earl Ferrell hadn't dropped an end zone pass.

Against Philadelphia, Lomax overcame a 21-6 deficit, only to lose. He beat Tampa Bay with three touchdown passes, after the Buccaneers led, 28-3, in the fourth quarter. He overcame a 10-point deficit to the Rams, until the Rams scored late.

Last year, he struggled because he had receivers nobody knew, including the coach. During an interview last year, Stallings reminded writers they'd just signed a new wide out.

"Who?" asked a writer.

"Don," Stallings said.

"Don who?" asked a writer.

"I don't know," Stallings said. (Holmes was the guy's last name.)

"Last year, {Stallings} was introducing us to new receivers every week," Lomax said this week.

And linebackers kept introducing Lomax to the turf. In 1985 and 1986, no quarterback was sacked more -- 113 times. And he never got hurt.

Eventually, Stallings benched Lomax, which didn't work because his replacement, Stoudt, led the Cardinals to a 43-17 loss to San Francisco.

By the end of the year, Lomax was back at the helm, but Bidwill made some interesting comments. In the Cardinals newsletter, Bidwill wrote that the team drafted Stouffer "because we think we needed stronger leadership at quarterback."

Bidwill also wrote: "It can be {Lomax's} job again -- if he earns it."

He has. Stouffer is the only unsigned draft pick, and Lomax has 17 touchdown passes in eight starts. Last year, he had 13 in 14 starts.

"I've been {to the Pro Bowl} before," said Lomax, who continually credits his offensive line. "It'd be real nice to go again. It's unexpected, the year we're having. We've turned it around from last year."

Like it or not, he and the team might not be in St. Louis next year. Baltimore? Phoenix? Columbus? Memphis? Anything's possible.

Of the potential move, he said: "Well, right now, I think everybody {wants to move}. Obviously, it's up to Mr. Bidwill to decide. I'll put it this way: If some other city wants us more than St. Louis, then we should go and play there because they'll . . . support us."

If the team stays put, he's going to break down and apply for a mortgage.