HOUSTON -- Surely the St. Louis Rams had noticed the evidence on film, had witnessed how close the error-prone Houston Texans were to the brink of collapse. The Rams just needed to provide the slightest nudge.
In the span of seven minutes, the Rams snuffed any semblance of hope for a Houston comeback, turning two Texans turnovers into touchdowns while rolling to a 38-13 win on Sunday at Reliant Stadium.
The Texans (2-4) dropped their fourth consecutive game by doing the same thing that led to their three previous losses: They self-destructed.
"I'll just say this: For the past few weeks, the finger has been pointed in one direction a lot," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "But we sprung leaks all over the place today as a football team. We got our butt kicked as a football team."
The Rams, meanwhile, were eager opportunists. With the Texans entering play minus-eight in turnover margin, St. Louis (3-3) needed only to stick to the script penned by the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 22 and followed by the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.
The Texans amassed 95 first-half penalty yards to grease the skids to their 14-point halftime deficit. And after St. Louis briskly covered 80 yards on 10 plays to extend its lead to 24-6 with 7:42 left in the third quarter, the Texans crumbled under the weight of two catastrophic miscues.
Second-year return specialist Keshawn Martin, previously benched in favor of veteran Danieal Manning because of poor performance, lost the handle on his first kickoff return of the afternoon. The fumble, which was caused by the Rams' Rodney McLeod, was snatched by Daren Bates out of midair and he rambled 11 yards for a touchdown and a 31-6 Rams lead.
Then, with 36 seconds left in the third quarter, Rams rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree returned a T.J. Yates fourth-down pass 98 yards for a score.
Yates, who replaced injured starter Matt Schaub, continued an ignominious streak for Houston. Schaub had thrown a pick-six in four consecutive games.
"I was able to read the quarterback's eyes, and I stepped in front of the route they were running and I was able to take it to the house," Ogletree said. "It was more of an instinct play for me even though I did see it on film."
The Rams mustered just 216 yards of offense, but quarterback Sam Bradford threw three scoring passes to three different receivers. Brian Quick was on the receiving end of a 4-yard pass in the third quarter after the Rams' first two touchdown drives were aided by Houston penalties.
Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson was flagged for a 40-yard pass interference penalty on the Rams' second drive, which was capped by a Bradford-to-Corey Harkey 2-yard touchdown.
In the second quarter, Texans linebacker Brian Cushing received a personal foul penalty for a late hit on Bradford. Four plays later, Bradford found Lance Kendricks for another 2-yard touchdown and a 17-6 lead with 2:43 left in the half.
"I don't think we could ask for much more coming down here," said Bradford, who passed for 117 yards. "You knew it was going to be a tough place to play, but we played well in all three phases of the game and came out with a huge win today."
With 3:15 remaining in the game, Ben Tate scored on a 1-yard plunge for the Texans' first touchdown since the first half of their 23-20 overtime loss to the Seahawks on Sept. 29. Before Tate found the end zone, the Texans had been outscored 92-12 in the previous 10 quarters, including the overtime against Seattle.
"Obviously, we had a lot of mistakes," Texans safety Ed Reed said. "We can't have small penalties, the personal fouls, pass interference, turnovers. We played our absolute worst football these past two weeks. We have to change it."
NOTES: Schaub departed with a lower right leg injury after being sacked by Rams DE Chris Long with 3:49 left in the third quarter. Houston fans cheered while Schaub, the focal point of recent derision, writhed in pain on the turf and then delivered an ovation when Yates entered in relief. ... With his 23-yard run early in the second quarter, Texans running back Arian Foster eclipsed 5,000 career rushing yards in his 57th game, matching Emmitt Smith as the 13th fastest to do so. ... After rushing for a Rams season-high 78 yards last week, rookie Zac Stacy ran for 79 yards on 18 carries while making his second career start.