GLENDALE, Az. -- A season that started with so much promise has completely disintegrated for the Arizona Cardinals. That's how Sunday's 31-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams began and ended, too.
The Cardinals flexed their muscles early behind rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley in his first NFL start, but when things began to unravel, it was too much to overcome as Arizona dropped its seventh consecutive game following a 4-0 start.
The Rams intercepted Lindley four times, with first-year cornerback Janoris Jenkins returning two of the picks for touchdowns.
St. Louis (4-6-1) hadn't forced a single turnover since its last win, a Week 5 victory over these same Cardinals (4-7).
Sam Bradford passed for two 205 yards (8 of 17) and two touchdowns and Steven Jackson rushed for 139 yards on 24 carries for the Rams.
Lindley was 28 of 48 for 284 yards and no touchdowns as the Cardinals matched their seven-game losing streak from the 2010-11 season.
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.
They surely were expecting more after Chris Dahl intercepted a Lindley pass and returned it 42 yards to the Arizona 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 may have had at that juncture quickly ended when 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 towards 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.
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 right from 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, capped by a 1-yard plunge from Wells, who had missed the previous seven games while on the recallable injured reserve list.
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 little screen flair to running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, Jenkins saw it coming as he broke toward the ball and he stole the pass away and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown.
In going the previous five games without forcing a single turnover, the Rams had joined the 2006 Redskins and 2011 Colts for the longest such streak in the NFL since 1950.
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, however, 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 downfield and Jay Feely kicked a 32-yard field goal to make it 17-14.
NOTES: Despite practicing fully for the entire week, Cardinals tight end Todd Heap missed his eighth straight game with a knee injury. ... After being held to just one reception for 11 yards in last week's loss to the Falcons, Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald caught just three passes for 35 yards, all in the first quarter. ... Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis finished with a game-high 14 tackles.