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Rams hand Cardinals first loss, 17-3

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- In their first nationally televised home game since December 2007, the St. Louis Rams showed they might just be ready for prime time.

Using a ferocious pass rush and just enough offense, the Rams toppled the previously unbeaten Arizona Cardinals 17-3 Thursday night at the noisy Edward Jones Dome.

It was the second NFC West home win in five days for St. Louis (3-2), which was coming off a 19-13 triumph Sunday over Seattle. It's the first time since November 2006, a span of 2,161 days, that the Rams have owned a winning record.

"James told me it's the first time he's been over .500," linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar said of teammate James Laurinaitis. "To win two division games in less than a week at home is huge, especially at home. It's just a bunch of guys believing in each other."

St. Louis sacked Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb nine times, with Robert Quinn notching three and also drawing multiple holding penalties. Six other Rams bagged sacks on Kolb, who completed 28 of 50 throws for 289 yards.

Arizona (4-1) couldn't run the ball (17 attempts, 45 yards), enabling the Rams to tee off. The Cardinals' shaky offensive line has permitted 23 sacks in five games, including eight Sunday in an overtime win over Miami.

"We've got to get back to protection like we did the first two games," Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We got beat on the edge a couple of times and we became one-dimensional. I respect how our guys fought, but it was not a very good effort by us tonight."

Dunbar said St. Louis' ability to stop the run keyed the pass rush. The Rams entered the game ranked 26th against the run but were able to generate penetration against the league's 30th-ranked rushing attack.

"We did good things against the run and our front four was pushing it," he said. "I thought we were good in the back end as well."

Offensively, St. Louis struggled as much as the Cardinals. Quarterback Sam Bradford threw 12 straight incompletions at one point and was just 7 of 21 for 141 yards but did connect on a game-breaking, 51-yard scoring strike to Chris Givens with 11:49 left in the game.

The Rams sealed the verdict with a goal-line stand, stopping Arizona on a fourth-and-goal play from the 6 when Larry Fitzgerald caught a slant pass and was dropped at the 3 by rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

St. Louis took a 7-0 lead 2:21 into the game when Bradford, flushed to his left, calmly hit Lance Kendricks with a seven-yard touchdown pass in the front left corner of the end zone.

The score was set up when Danny Amendola beat Patrick Peterson deep down the left side for a 44-yard catch despite pass interference, setting the Rams up at the 11-yard line. It was the only reception for Amendola, who left the game midway through the second quarter with a right shoulder injury.

The Cardinals responded with a 17-play, 63-yard drive that ate up 9 minutes and 15 seconds. But they had to settle for Jay Feely's 35-yard field goal with 3:24 left in the first quarter.

Greg Zuerlein drilled a 53-yard field goal with 10:45 remaining in the first half, his 13th straight field goal without a miss, to give St. Louis a 10-3 advantage it carried to intermission. The Rams now have more wins than they managed all last year, when they were 2-14.

"This feels good," said running back Steven Jackson, who pounded out 76 yards on 18 carries. "We're building something good here. We want to be a tough home team, and now we have to learn how to win on the road."

NOTES: Veteran wide receiver Steve Smith was among the Rams' inactive players for a second straight game, as was starting left tackle Rodger Saffold, who missed his third straight contest with multiple injuries. Among the Cardinals' inactives were tight end Todd Heap and backup quarterback John Skelton ... reported Thursday that Jackson will be allowed to void the final year of his contract, making him an unrestricted free agent following this season. Jackson is the franchise's all-time rushing leader but will turn 30 years old by next year ... Arizona's overtime win last week over Miami made it the ninth franchise in NFL history with 500 wins.

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