Rams struggle in loss to Cardinals
Sunday, November 27, 2011
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Rams thought they’d worked out their problems against the run. They thought they could take Patrick Peterson out of the equation, too.
Peterson tied the NFL record for punt returns in a season with his fourth, Beanie Wells set a franchise mark with 228 yards rushing on 27 carries, and the Arizona Cardinals won their seventh in a row in St. Louis with a 23-20 victory Sunday.
No doubt, the Rams (2-9) heard the boos that began early in the game.
“I understand it, I understand the fans are frustrated,” quarterback Sam Bradford said. “I understand they expect and want more out of us. I can tell them that I expect and want more out of this offense, 10 times more than they do.”
Wells’ career day included gains of 71 and 53 yards, the latter setting up Jay Feely’s go-ahead 22-yard field goal with 4:12 remaining. Rookie Sam Acho also had a career day on defense with two sacks and a fumble recovery.
That was enough for Arizona (4-7) to overcome another awful outing by John Skelton, who threw two interceptions.
Brandon Lloyd’s 16-yard TD catch from Bradford tied it at 20 midway through the fourth quarter. Nick Miller had an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter for the Rams (2-9) only three days after he re-signed with the team.
“Once I went around that corner, I just saw nothing but blue jerseys and freedom,” Miller said. “I wish we’d have gotten the win.”
Peterson was untouched on an 80-yard return up the middle in the third quarter, dodging a few tacklers before finding clear sailing to put Arizona up 20-10. His 99-yarder in overtime beat the Rams three weeks ago in Arizona, and St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo had vowed the rookie would not beat them again.
“The intent was not to go down the middle,” Spagnuolo said. “We got bit again.”
The cornerback from LSU, the fifth pick in the draft, is the fourth player with four punt returns in a season and the first in NFL history with four returns of 80-plus yards.
Wells was an even bigger factor, eclipsing the previous franchise mark of 214 yards by LeShon Johnson in 1996 at New Orleans. In the earlier meeting against the Rams, Wells had just 20 yards on 10 carries.
The Rams are last in the NFL against the run and have surrendered two franchise record days this season, also giving up 253 yards to Dallas’ DeMarco Murray in Week 6. In the four games since then, they held two opponents to fewer than 100 yards, but Arizona totaled 268 yards with a 7.1-yard average.
“It wasn’t like he was chunking us for 15 yards a clip and pounding it down our throat,” cornerback Justin King said. “He had two big runs. I don’t think he did anything out of the ordinary, he did what a great NFL back does, makes you pay for your mistakes.”
Acho has five sacks, three against the Rams. His fumble recovery set up Wells’ 7-yard scoring run midway through the third quarter.
The Cardinals overcame three turnovers to keep their dominance going in St. Louis, the town they fled for the desert in 1987. It’s their longest winning streak against any opponent. They’re 2-5 on the road this year, also winning at Philadelphia earlier this month.
The Rams re-signed Miller on Thursday after placing wide receiver Mark Clayton on injured reserve with a knee injury. He gave them the lead on their only big play of the first half, skirting the defense and scoring untouched with a convoy the last 30 yards of the return.
Arizona was 0 for 5 on third down in the half and had one big play, too. Wells’ career-best 71-yard run to the 11 late in the first quarter set up a short field goal.
Poor clock management might have cost the Rams a chance for another touchdown at the end of the half.
Lloyd adjusted his route on an underthrown 26-yard pass to the Arizona 3 with 43 seconds left, then St. Louis went backward with a false start and Acho’s second sack for a 9-yard loss. Coaches wasted at least 10 seconds before calling the last timeout with 12 seconds to go, and Bradford overthrew Lloyd in the end zone before the Rams settled for a field goal and a 10-3 lead.
“We were in a little bit of disarray,” Spagnuolo said. “Certainly, we’ve got to find a way when we’re at the 3 to get in the end zone. Certainly, it would have made a big difference.”
The other players with four punt returns for a TD are Devin Hester (2007), Rick Upchurch (1978) and Jack Christiansen (1951), who was a rookie when he first set the record.
Notes: Wells has a career-best eight touchdowns rushing, one more than his rookie year in 2009. ... Wearing a No. 1 Rams jersey, St. Louis hip hop artist Nelly participated in the coin toss. ... Miller’s punt return for a TD was the Rams’ first since an 85-yarder by Dante Hall on Sept. 30, 2007 at Dallas.