Rams pull out win over Cardinals on late field goal by Zuerlein

News-DemocratSeptember 9, 2013 

— It was almost in spite of themselves that the St. Louis Rams opened the season with a win for the first time in seven years.

Greg Zuerlein's 48-yard field goal with 40 seconds left helped the Rams overcome a myriad of their own mistakes to beat the Arizona Cardinals 27-24 Sunday before 55,279 fans at the Edward Jones Dome.

The Rams won despite:

* Cardinals defensive tackle Dan Williams scoring a touchdown on a 2-yard interception return off a batted ball.

* Rams tight end Jared Cook having the ball poked out from behind as he was racing to the end zone for a touchdown.

* Trailing 24-13 going into the fourth quarter.

"It would have be really easy for this team as young as we are to get down after going down by 11 in the first game at home, but the mood on the sideline never changed," Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said. "The confidence -- nothing ever left us. We knew we were the ones stopping ourselves, and if we went out there and executed, things were going to be OK."

The Rams' game-winning drive started at their own 20 with 1:45 left in the fourth quarter.

The key play of the drive was a 25-yard pass from Bradford to Cook that moved the ball to the Arizona 37.

The Rams played it safe after that, handing the ball to running back Daryl Richardson twice and throwing a short pass to him before sending out the field-goal unit.

"That was the thought process there," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "Trust our kicker to win the ballgame for us."

With no timeouts left, the Cardinals were able to run only three plays before time expired.

"Hey, you take them when you can get them like that," Fisher said. "We're very excited to open the season with a win here at home against a divisional opponent, but we have a long way to go.

"There's a lot of areas we have to address, and most of those were self-inflicted wounds."

Bradford completed 27 of 38 passes for 299 yards. He threw two touchdown passes and one interception for a quarterback rating of 100.7.

Cook redeemed himself for the fumble on the sure touchdown by catching seven passes for 141 yards and two TDs.

The Rams' offensive line allowed no sacks, even though the Cardinals blitzed early and often.

"I can't say enough about those guys up front,'' Bradford said. "They played outstanding today, and I think it shows that we've taken leaps and bounds from where we were last year.''

On defense, the Rams got four sacks and an interception.

Defensive end Robert Quinn had three of the sacks and forced two fumbles.

"Things just worked in our favor, I guess," Quinn said. "I got off the line with the ball, my defensive line kept double teams off me and the defensive backs and linebackers covered well to give me time to get back there.

"Sacks don't come from a one-man show. It takes a whole defense working together to get a sack."

Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer completed 26 of 40 passes for 327 yards and two touchdowns.

Palmer threw two TD passes to star receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The two connected on a 4-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter and a 25-yard TD pass with 1:47 left in the third quarter.

The Cardinals' offense responded to Cook's fumble by putting together an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown.

The key play of the drive was a 44-yard pass from Palmer to Michael Floyd.

Two plays later, Palmer threw to Fitzgerald in the left corner of the end zone to put the Cardinals ahead 7-0 with 14:11 left in the second quarter.

A 38-yard pass interference penalty on Cardinals rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu against rookie receiver Tavon Austin helped the Rams get on the scoreboard with a 38-yard field goal by Zuerlein.

Arizona put together another long drive after being pinned back at its own 8 on the ensuing kickoff, but this time the Cardinals had to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Feely with 5:32 left in the second quarter.

There was no Cardinals receiver in the vicinity as Johnson picked off a Carson Palmer pass at the Arizona 33 and returned it to the Arizona 4.

After being unable to get into the end zone, the Rams sent in Zuerlein for his second field goal of the game.

Bradford threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jared Cook with 26 seconds left in the second quarter to tie the score at 10-10.

Cook dove and extended his arms with the ball over the pylon as he was being knocked out of bounds on the play, which was upheld on replay review.

A 50-yard field-goal attempt by the Cardinals' Jay Feely on the final play of the first half was wide right.

An interception by Trumaine Johnson set up a 25-yard field goal by Zuelerein early in the third quarter, but Arizona's Matt Shaughnessy and Williams combined to put the Cardinals back in front.

Williams scored on a 2-yard interception return after grabbing a Bradford pass that was batted into the air by Shaughnessy.

The Rams closed the gap to 24-21 on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Bradford to Cook with 12:56 left in the fourth quarter. Bradford ran for the 2-point conversion.

Quinn's third sack of the game forced a fumble -- recovered by Chris Long at the Arizona 22 --that led to Zuerlein's 38-yard field goal that tied it at 24-24.

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

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