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ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Rams ran only 41 plays last week while riding a wave of turnovers to an easy win at Houston.

Still, Sam Bradford found a way to get almost everyone involved, with nine players combining for 12 receptions and three running backs getting touches.

Bradford is off to his best start of his career. Through six games, he is sixth in the NFC in completions (126) and tied for fourth in the NFL with 13 touchdown passes.

After a humbling 35-11 loss to San Francisco, the Rams were 1-3. In the last two weeks, Bradford has thrown three touchdown passes in each game, both wins. The Rams have outscored their last two opponents 72-33 to improve to 3-3.

Coach Jeff Fisher is happy with Bradford's play.

"Been great. No mistakes," Fisher said. "There's only two quarterbacks, I think, in the NFC that have more touchdown passes than he and one is (Cowboys QB Tony) Romo and the other's (Saints QB Drew) Brees. He's got 13 and they've got 14, so he's coming on. He enjoys what he's doing. He's managing the thing and practicing well. His feet are excellent right now in the pocket, so he's playing well."

Against Houston, the Rams scored 38 points while running just 42 offensive plays. Bradford threw just 16 passes with no interceptions against the Texans. He finished with a 134.6 passer rating, the highest of his career for a single game.

There's more to it than Bradford: The Rams have been using multiple tight end sets and the running game has benefited. Rookie running back Zac Stacy started for the second consecutive game. Against Jacksonville, Stacy gained 78 yards on 14 carriers. He followed that with 79 yards on 18 carries against Houston.

The balanced attack is a welcome one for the Rams, who missed departed Steven Jackson early this season.

"You've seen the past two weeks just having some balance between the run game and the pass game, I think it's led us to be more efficient," Bradford said. "We've kept defenses off balance with what we're doing. I think it's been really good for all aspects of our game."

Distributing the ball to different receivers shows growth for Bradford, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. Bradford has been sacked just 13 times, none by Houston.

Throwing to multiple receivers also shows the Rams have depth, Schottenheimer said.

"We have a lot of weapons. We use a lot of different personnel groupings. We mix and match the pieces pretty well," Schottenheimer said. "Again, he just shows his ability to go through progressions. He's willing to take what the defense gives him."

The receivers know that. The ball can come at any time to any one depending on what the defense does.

"I think that shows how much Sam knows and that he can read the defense," Austin Pettis said. "I think he is playing really well, absolutely. You wouldn't really know that because of his demeanor."

There are six receivers who have caught 12 or more passes. Twelve different players have caught a pass this season. Six receivers have caught touchdown passes. Tavon Austin leads the receivers with 24 catches. Pettis has 23 receptions and a team-high four touchdowns. Tight end Jared Cook has 22 catches.

"Sam is doing a good job spreading it around," Cook said. "Everybody is getting some balls which is a good thing and making plays when needed."

Notes: RB Stacy (chest) and DE Chris Long (thigh) both returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's workout.

Thursday, 17 October 2013 23:15
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Growing up in Ohio, Maty Mauk stood on the sideline at Kenton High School watching older brother Ben star at quarterback while father Mike coached the Wildcats to consecutive state championships in 2001 and 2002.

Football ran in the family, and Maty jumped right in. At Kenton with his dad still the coach, he broke national prep records in passing yards (18,932), touchdown passes (219), completions (1,353) and total offense (22,681).

The gaudy numbers led to a scholarship to play quarterback at Missouri, where Mauk hoped he would have the opportunity to play in pressure situations. Last Saturday would probably qualify as one, when the redshirt freshman trotted unexpectedly onto the field with a two-point lead in the fourth quarter at Georgia.

Mike Mauk says he wasn't nervous as he watched from the stands of Sanford Stadium with his wife, Gwyn, and nearly 93,000 others. He wasn't surprised, either, when his son and protege led two touchdown drives to stave off the Bulldogs' comeback and win 41-26.

"It's something that ever since he's been a young kid starting to play athletics — you enjoy competition, you enjoy playing against the best," said Mike Mauk, who with his wife travels to all of the Tigers' games. "That's what competitors enjoy doing."

Maty Mauk figures to be involved in more of these situations as he leads No. 14 Missouri (6-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) into its game Saturday against No. 22 Florida (4-2, 3-1) in place of James Franklin, who sprained his right shoulder at Georgia and is out for at least three weeks. At 6 feet and 200 pounds, Mauk gives up 2 inches and 30 pounds to Franklin, but he likes to run, so he says don't expect anything different in the team's play calling.

"Last year, I kind of struggled," Mauk said. "I didn't know as much. But now I know that playbook like the back of my hand, man."

He'll be surrounded by a physically and statistically healthy offense, one that's producing 45.7 points and 515.7 yards per game. Mauk started practicing with the first string this week after taking "mental reps" with it all season.

Teammates told him to just be confident in himself and to not try to do too much. Even former Missouri quarterback and current Kansas City Chiefs backup Chase Daniel requested Mauk's phone number to pass along some advice.

"He's probably going to make some mistakes like all kids do," coach Gary Pinkel said. "But the big thing is you don't want him to be a robot out there. You want him to do what he does and play quarterback the way he plays quarterback."

Quarterbacks coach Andy Hill said not much fazes Mauk, who has a "cool demeanor" that likely arose out of the trials and successes he went through in high school. Occasionally, however, that attitude can lead him astray.

In just his first few weeks on campus in August 2012, police arrested Mauk on suspicion of leaving the scene of an accident on a scooter. Mike Mauk said that incident turned into a growing opportunity for his son, who communicates with his parents almost daily.

Regardless, the elder Mauk says he's proud of Maty and everything he's been able to accomplish since the day he was born. That's why the quarterback's parents still make every effort to watch their son play, and will do so again — this time with older brother Ben — Saturday in Columbia.

"He likes people, enjoys being around people," Mike Mauk said. "And sometimes, maybe he's got his guard down too much. But at the same time, I think he's learned some things and situations that have occurred that have helped make him a better person. That's what most of us go through in our lives."

Thursday, 17 October 2013 23:13
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CHICAGO (AP) -- T.J. Oshie scored the lone goal in the shootout, Jaroslav Halak stopped all three Chicago shooters in the extra session and the St. Louis Blues defeated the Blackhawks 3-2 on Thursday night.

David Backes scored a power-play goal for St. Louis, while Alexander Steen was credited with an even-strength score in regulation in the Blues' first road game.

Chicago's Marian Hossa scored on a breakaway and set up Brandon Pirri's first NHL goal in regulation. All but one of the Blackhawks' (4-1-2) first seven games have been decided by one goal.

The Blues (5-1-0) started the season with five straight home games, and won the first four before losing 6-2 to San Jose on Tuesday.

Chicago's Corey Crawford made 26 saves and Halak had 27.

Both goalies made a handful of tough stops early before Pirri opened the scoring at 7:42 of the first.

After taking Hossa's perfect pass, Pirri sent a one-timer from the left circle that ticked off the post and into the upper left corner of the net.

Backes' power-play goal at 10:14 of the first tied it at 1. He was parked in front of Crawford and deflected in Jay Bouwmeester's wrist shot from the left point.

The Blues dominated early in the second period. Any momentum was broken when St. Louis' Barret Jackman hit Chicago star Patrick Kane hard from behind and was sent off for boarding at 7:18.

Hossa put Chicago ahead 2-1 with 2:38 left in the second on a breakaway. After the puck slipped past the Blues' defense, both Hossa and Patrick Sharp skated in alone, and Hossa fired a shot past Halak on the stick side.

Steen was credited with a goal 51 seconds later that was inadvertently knocked in by Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith and tied it at 2.

Steen was 30 feet out in the slot, and deflected Bouwmeester's shot from the point. The puck slid to the right side of the crease where Keith was trying to tie up Backes, but Keith swept the puck on goal and past Crawford.

The Blackhawks and Blues are expected to battle at the top of the Central Division, and the rivalry was reflected in increasingly physical, sometimes chippy play on Thursday. Chicago enforcer Brandon Bollig and St. Louis' Roman Polak fought midway through the third.

Crawford made a tough close-in save on Alex Pietrangelo with just over seven minutes left to keep it tied.

Halak made an alert save on Brandon Saad 33 seconds into overtime with Jonathan Toews closing in for a rebound. Jackman's shot hit the post 3:17 into the extra period.

Notes: Pirri, who played in his ninth NHL game, led the AHL with 75 points in 76 games last season while with Rockford. ... Backes played his 500th game and Jackman played his 650th. ... The Blues have played the Blackhawks 288 times, more than any other team. ... St. Louis F Maxim Lapierre, who knocked San Jose D Dan Boyle out a game on Tuesday with a blow to the head, did not dress. Lapierre is scheduled for a hearing with the NHL on Friday. ... The Blackhawks had the NHL's third-best penalty killing last season en route to winning the Stanley Cup, but have allowed six power-play goals in 21 chances so far.

Thursday, 17 October 2013 23:10
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CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) - A Chicago consulting firm has made recommendations to the Southern Illinois Airport Authority.

The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale reports that two consultants made a presentation to the authority on Wednesday. It included a development plan and recommendations for the Southern Illinois Airport property.

The consultants suggested relocating, realigning and rebuilding parts of the airport. They also suggested improving access to U.S. 51 and Illinois 13 to provide better access.

Consultant Aaron Gruen said the overall improvement effort would cost about $8 million.

 
Thursday, 17 October 2013 16:04
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