Bradford tosses three touchdown passes in Rams' win over Jaguars

News-DemocratOctober 6, 2013 

— Needing a win in the worst way, the St. Louis Rams were fortunate enough to have the downtrodden Jacksonville Jaguars next up on their schedule.

Sam Bradford threw three touchdown passes and safety Matt Giordano had an 82-yard interception return for a touchdown as the Rams beat the Jaguars 34-20 on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.

The Rams (2-3) snapped a three-game losing streak, while the Jaguars (0-5) suffered their 10th straight loss stretching back to last season.

"Any victory in the NFL is big,'' Giordano said. "It just takes a snowflake to start an avalanche, so hopefully we can keep this thing going.''

The Rams had 10 days to make corrections and do some soul searching after their wretched performance in a 35-11 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in a Thursday night home game.

"It seemed like a long 10 days, but it was a good win for us,'' Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "As we've been talking about the last week, there were things that we set out to do, things that we needed to do differently, and fortunately we were able to put those things in motion a little bit.''

Fisher's No. 1 objective was getting the running game in gear, and the Rams were able to accomplish that goal with rookie running back Zac Stacy getting the first start of his career.

As a team, the Rams rushed for 143 yards.

"When you have 36 rushes and 34 pass attempts, the balance suggests that you are keeping the ball and creating third-down situations that are convertible,'' Fisher said.

Stacy had 14 carries for 78 yards before exiting late in the game with a rib injury. Daryl Richardson had 13 carries for 48 yards and Benny Cunningham had four carries for 13 yards.

"I thought Zac did a great job today,'' Bradford said. "I think he showed everyone what he was about. He ran hard, he ran physical, he ran downhill. I don't think you could ask for much more from him today.''

Bradford completed 19 of 34 passes for 222 yards. He had a season-high quarterback rating of 105.3.

Not all of the Rams' problems were fixed.

Their special teams continued to struggle with penalties. The unit had six penalties for 53 yards and also had a punt blocked.

Tavon Austin had a 23-yard punt return and 49-yard punt return negated by penalties.

"Out of fairness to Tavon, we can't even get close to any blocks in the backs or holds now because he has a chance to make some plays for us,'' Fisher said.

The Jaguars had an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown by Ace Sanders in the first quarter called back by a penalty for an illegal block in the back.

Jacksonville still got on the scoreboard first as quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw a 67-yard touchdown pass to Justin Blackmon, who was wide open due to blown coverage by the Rams.

Fisher said the Rams coaching staff was late getting the play call communicated to the defense on Blackmon's touchdown.

Left tackle Luke Joeckel, chosen by the Jaguars with the second overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, suffered a season-ending broken right ankle after getting his leg rolled up on a running play.

On the next play, Rams defensive end Robert Quinn got around Joeckel's replacement, forcing Gabbert to step up as he was making a pass.

Gabbert's overthrown ball was picked off by Giordano, who returned the interception 82 yards for a touchdown with 3:08 left in the first quarter.

The Jaguars regained the lead on a 48-yard field goal by Josh Scobee with 13 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Greg Zuerlein kicked a 31-yard field goal with 12:03 left in the second quarter as the Rams tied the score at 13-13.

Rams safety Darian Stewart, with some assistance from rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree, forced and recovered a fumble by Jacksonville tight end Clay Harbor.

Stewart returned the fumble 19 yards to the Jacksonsville 16.

On the Rams' first play after the turnover, Bradford threw a 16-yard TD pass to Lance Kendricks.

The Rams later put together a 12-play, 90-yard drive that was capped by a 4-yard touchdown pass from Bradford to Austin Pettis with 27 seconds left in the first half.

On the Rams' opening possession of the second half, Jacksonville's Paul Posluszny blocked a punt by Johnny Hekker.

The ball was recovered at the St. Louis 25 after a scramble, and that's where the Jaguars took over.

Scobee kicked a 23-yard field goal on fourth-and-goal from the St. Louis 5.

There was a defensive offsides penalty called against the Rams' Janoris Jenkins on the field goal, and the Jaguars opted to take points off the board and accept the penalty.

Their first attempt on fourth-and-goal from the St. Louis 2 ended with a double pass interference penalty against Harbor and the Rams' Trumaine Johnson, forcing the down to be replayed.

On the second try, Gabbert was intercepted in the end zone by Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis.

Chad Henne replaced Gabbert, who left with a hamstring injury, on the Jacksonville's next offensive series.

Gabbert, a St. Louis native, completed 9 of 19 passes for 181 yards with two touchdowns. He was intercepted twice.

Henne engineered a drive that produced a 34-yard field goal by Scobee.

The Rams answered with a 37-yard field goal by Zuerlein early in the fourth quarter.

Henne guided the Jaguars on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended with him throwing a 4-yard touchdown pass to Cecil Shorts.

The touchdown cut the Rams' advantage to 27-20 with 10:22 left to play.

The Rams once again answered as Bradford capped an 80-yard drive with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Pettis with 5:45 on the clock.

Pettis ended up with four catches for 49 yards and two touchdowns.

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

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

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