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Rams rally past Cardinals 27-24

Monday, 09 September 2013 07:30 Published in Sports

ST. LOUIS (AP) — It had been seven years since the St. Louis Rams won their opener, with Jeff Fisher dropping his debut to the Lions last year on the heels of three failures from Steve Spagnuolo and two more from Scott Linehan.

Getting the best of the Arizona Cardinals was cause for celebration, no matter how the Rams got there.

After Greg Zuerlein kicked the go-ahead 48-yard field goal with 40 seconds to go, capping a fourth-quarter comeback from an 11-point deficit in a 27-24 victory Sunday, Fisher did not hesitate when asked what he remembered best.

"Watching the game clock tick to zero, that's my most favorite part," Fisher said. "You know, we're really excited. You take them when you get them like that."

Linehan dropped his first eight games in 2007 and was fired after an 0-4 start in '08. Spagnuolo's teams opened 0-7, 0-2 and 0-6, but the Rams won in Week 2 last season under Fisher.

Next week at Atlanta, they'll be trying for their first 2-0 start since 2001, their last Super Bowl season.

"We had some good plays and some bad plays," offensive tackle Jake Long said. "No one panicked. We just kept pushing."

Bruce Arians was the NFL coach of the year last season, going 9-3 with the Colts as the interim coach. His true head coaching debut with the team's he's overhauled after a 5-11 season was going well until the final 15 minutes.

"I wanted to win," Arians said. "We didn't come to play close and build for next year. We felt like we gave this game away."

Five reasons why the Rams are feeling pretty good about themselves, warts and all, and why the Cardinals know they can do better:

1. TIGHT END UNLEASHED: Fisher drafted Jared Cook in the third round in 2009 when he was the Titans' coach, and made him a priority pickup in free agency. Cook opened with a gaffe when he got stripped by Tyrann Mathieu a few long strides from the end zone and a 55-yard breakaway that would have been the game's first score.

He didn't mope about it, catching seven passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns — the first multi-touchdown game of his career. Cook had a key 25-yard reception that set up Zuerlein's winning field goal.

Mathieu was a difference-maker at LSU, where he forced 11 fumbles and recovered eight fumbles, two for touchdowns, in two seasons. But the third-round draft pick cost the Cardinals three points later in the half when he was whistled for a 38-yard interference penalty on rookie Tavon Austin, resulting in one of Zuerlein's four field goals.

2. UNDER PRESSURE: Keeping Carson Palmer healthy is key to Arizona's chances. It wasn't a good sign when Arians was asked whether he'd consider a replacement tackle Levi Brown, victimized by all three of Robert Quinn's sacks that ended with forced fumbles.

The Cardinals surrendered an NFL-worst 58 sacks last year and gave up four in the opener. Plans for this year took a hit when first-round draft pick Jonathan Cooper, the starting left guard, broke his left leg in the third preseason game. Brown did not play last year and has had trouble with speed rushers.

"He is our guy," Arians said of Brown. "There is no position change. Someone would have already beaten him out."

3. MR. CLEAN: Sam Bradford was not sacked the last two games of 2012 and the Cardinals couldn't get past the protection package boosted by Long, the Rams' other big free-agent pickup. Rodger Saffold missed a couple series while having a knee injury checked.

Bradford was sacked 36 times in 2011 when he missed four games with an ankle injury, and 35 times last year.

4. HE'S OPEN: Acquiring Palmer helped put Larry Fitzgerald back in the picture. Fitzgerald caught two touchdown passes — half of last year's season total while working with an assortment of quarterbacks.

Fitzgerald caught eight passes for 80 yards and his 24-yarder late in the third quarter put the Cardinals ahead 24-13. But he had no receptions in the fourth quarter as Arizona foundered with 67 yards and four first downs.

5. RUNNING SOME: The Rams haven't tried to replace Steven Jackson, a bruiser who's going for his ninth consecutive 1,000-yard season in Atlanta, counting on last year's backup with unproven players in reserve.

They de-emphasized the run game in the opener, leaning on the next-to-last pick of last year's draft and also keeping the chains moving with short passes.

Daryl Richardson had 63 yards on 20 carries, accounting for all but 4 of the yards and four of the carries. Rookie backup Zac Stacy had one carry for 4 yards and Isaiah Pead, a second-rounder last year, returns next week after serving a one-game suspension.


 

Wainwright moves Cards into first in NL Central

Saturday, 07 September 2013 21:47 Published in Sports

 

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Adam Wainwright bounced back from back-to-back sub-par outings with seven shutout innings and David Freese homered to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night.

The victory moved the Cardinals into first place, a half-game ahead of the Pirates in the NL Central with their third win in four games. Pittsburgh has lost four of six including the first two of the three-game set. The Pirates remain stuck on 81 wins, one shy of assuring them a winning record for the first time since they went 96-66 in 1992.

Wainwright (16-9) had given up 15 earned runs over his previous two starts, both against Cincinnati. He allowed a career-high nine runs in two innings of a 10-0 loss Aug. 28. But he regained his form against the Pirates allowing just two hits. He struck out eight and walked two.

Wainwright, who ended his performance with four successive strikeouts, is tied with Jordan Zimmermann of Washington and Jorge De La Rosa of Colorado for the most wins in the NL.

Freese drove in two runs for the Cardinals, who moved into sole possession of first place for the first time since Aug. 29. Matt Holliday, Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso also added RBIs.

Freese homered off reliever Jeanmar Gomez in the sixth to push the lead to 4-0.

Pittsburgh left-hander Jeff Locke (9-5) allowed three runs on three hits over five innings. He was making his first start since Aug. 27. Locke was sent down to Double-A Altoona to clear his mind, but he did not make an appearance.

Yadier Molina started a two-run outburst in the fourth inning with a double that followed a leadoff walk to Carlos Beltran. Freese then brought in Beltran with a sacrifice fly to left. Kozma added an infield single to bring in Molina.

Notes: RHP Michael Wacha (2-0, 3.20) will face Charlie Morton (7-3, 3.00) in the final game of the three-game series on Sunday. ... Pittsburgh has hit an NL-leading 79 home runs on the road. ... The Pirates have out-homered St. Louis 19-5 in the 18 games between the teams this season. ... St. Louis had nine successive hits in a seven-run seventh inning during Friday's 12-8 win. The nine in a row is the most by any team in the majors this season.

 

Missouri pulls away to beat Toledo 38-23

Saturday, 07 September 2013 21:45 Published in Sports

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — James Franklin made crucial big plays on consecutive scoring drives in the second half and Missouri pulled away from Toledo for a 38-23 victory on Saturday.

Missouri (2-0) led 24-23 after Toledo (0-2) scored its first two touchdowns of the year but Franklin's 21-yard keeper set up Henry Josey's second 1-yard touchdown run of the game which extended Missouri's lead to eight.

The quarterback later had a 6-yard carry on fourth-and-3 and an 11-yard gain on third-and-9 to set up Marcus Murphy's 8-yard run to conclude the scoring with 10:29 to go.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel beat the school at which he's a Hall of Famer and the career wins leader with the help of a few goofs by the visitors.

Toledos' David Fluellen had 111 yards on 14 carries and 10 catches for 100 yards.

Markus Golden got a gift 70-yard interception return in the third quarter when the ball squirted out of Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens' hands and right into his arms. Jeremiah Detmer hit three field goals in the first half, connecting from 24, 46 and 41 yards, but punted a low line drive into the back of a Toledo lineman, a 9-yard net to the Rockets' 44 that gave Missouri a short field on the Murphy score.

Owens scored on a 4-yard keeper and hit Alonzo Russell for a 41-yard score, most of it on a sideline sprint that capitalized on blown coverage, in a span of 5½ minutes in the third quarter to shave the deficit to one.

Attendance was announced at 56,785 in a game that began in 90-plus degree heat. Less than half remained for the finish.

Golden's touchdown came just a few plays after linebacker Andrew Wilson, one of Missouri's top defensive players, was ejected for a borderline targeting hit on Marcus Reedy on an incomplete pass. Golden was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct after planting the ball on the turf in the end zone, and Reedy's resulting 59-yard kickoff return helped set up Owens' touchdown.

Dorial Green-Beckham beat one-on-one coverage from Jordan Martin on a 9-yard touchdown catch with 1:14 to go in the half for a 17-9 lead. Missouri got a big stop in the other end zone to end the half, with Matt White intercepting a pass from Owens that was tipped.

Levi Copeland's 51-yard diving reception at the 7, with three defenders in futile pursuit, set up Josey's first 1-yard run.

The officiating crew needed alternate Chad Walker after umpire David Parker sprained his left knee in the first quarter.

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