GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Cardinals' game against the St. Louis Rams represented a microcosm of Arizona's season.
Something that started with so much promise completely disintegrated.
The Cardinals flexed their muscles early Sunday behind rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley, making his first NFL start, but when things began to unravel, it was too much to overcome. Arizona lost 31-17, the Cardinals' seventh consecutive defeat following a 4-0 start.
The Rams intercepted Lindley four times, with first-year cornerback Janoris Jenkins returning two of the picks for touchdowns, becoming the first Rams player ever to accomplish the feat.
St. Louis (4-6-1) hadn't forced a single turnover since its last win, a Week 5 victory over the Cardinals.
"It seems like for weeks or forever we've been talking about turnovers," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "We kept saying that they oftentimes come in bunches, and they did today."
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford completed eight of 17 passes for 205 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and Steven Jackson gained 139 yards on 24 carries.
Lindley went 31-for-52 for 284 yards and no touchdowns as the Cardinals matched their seven-game losing streak from the 2010 season.
The sixth-round pick from San Diego State said he tried his best not to let his emotions overtake him after each of his interceptions and overthrown passes.
"I think as a quarterback you've got to stay on an even keel, so I thought for most part I tried not to get too down on the bad plays we made," he said. "I tried not to get too high, too, on the good stuff we did. You've got to roll with the punches in this league and keep fighting."
Things have gotten so bad in Arizona, though, that Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is now on shaky ground.
"That's part of the business," Whisenhunt said. "You know what, we are working hard. Nobody feels worse about this than we do. We want to win, and our guys are working hard. I am disappointed for our fans because they have been so supportive, but all I can tell you is that we are going to get it straight."
St. Louis used two big plays to take its first lead of the game 10 minutes into the third quarter. After being pinned back on their own 3-yard line by Dave Zastudil's 36-yard punt, the Rams got a 46-yard run from Jackson. Two plays later, Bradford threw a 37-yard timing pass down the left sideline to Chris Givens.
Givens hauled in the ball just ahead of rookie safety Justin Bethel as he fell into the end zone for the touchdown. Following the extra point, the Rams led 21-17.
"We saw (Bethel) came out and they put him on me, and I went to Sam and told him, 'Come on, let's take a shot at this guy, he's not ready,'" said Givens, who finished with five receptions for a career-high 115 yards. "He pressed me, and it was a go route. Sam threw a great ball, and I made the catch."
On the next Arizona possession, Chris Dahl intercepted a Lindley pass and returned it 42 yards to the Cardinals' 12-yard line. A holding penalty and a stout Cardinals defense forced the Rams to try a field goal, however, and Greg Zuerlein's 35-yard attempt went wide left.
Any momentum the reeling Cardinals thought they had at that juncture quickly ended on first-and-10 from their own 22-yard line. Lindley dropped back to pass and sensed pressure coming from his left. He hurried a throw off his back foot toward Larry Fitzgerald, but it was badly underthrown, and Jenkins was in perfect position to make the interception. He easily ran it back 39 yards for his second touchdown of the day, increasing the Rams' lead to 28-17.
"Great big relief," Jenkins said of the win. "Every week and every day in practice, Coach is stressing that we haven't had a turnover. I felt like the defense came out and we played together. I want to thank the front five first for giving that pressure and helping us create turnovers tonight."
Zuerlein added a 19-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to put things out of reach as St. Louis ended its five-game winless streak.
Lindley looked composed in the pocket at the start, helping the Cardinals march 91 yards on 15 plays for a touchdown on their opening possession. He completed seven of eight passes for 80 yards during the drive. Chris Wells, who missed the previous seven games while on the recallable injured reserve list, scored on a 1-yard plunge.
It was Arizona's longest touchdown drive of the season.
The Rams couldn't generate much of anything on their first two possessions, but the defense responded with a pick-six. Lindley's first throw on his second possession was a screen to running back LaRod Stephens-Howling. Jenkins saw it coming, broke toward the ball and stole the pass away. He ran 36 yards for a touchdown.
Wells capped a 65-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown scamper for his second score of the game midway through the second quarter. The Rams rallied to tie it again when Bradford, after sitting out a play following a tough hit from Quentin Groves, found Lance Kendricks for a 37-yard touchdown strike.
The Cardinals regained the lead heading into halftime when Lindley drove them 63 yards and Jay Feely kicked a 32-yard field goal, putting Arizona ahead 17-14.
NOTES: Despite practicing fully for the entire week, Cardinals tight end Todd Heap missed his eighth consecutive game with a knee injury. ... After being held to just one reception for 11 yards in last week's loss to the Falcons, Fitzgerald caught just three passes for 35 yards, all in the first quarter. ... Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis finished with a game-high 14 tackles. ... Wells gained 48 yards on 17 carries.