ST. LOUIS – Sam Bradford missed high, low, left, right.
After capping the St. Louis Rams’ opening drive with a touchdown pass to Lance Kendricks, Bradford endured an 0-for-12 slump that included Patrick Peterson’s interception in the end zone on a pass tossed up for grabs under heavy pressure.
No worries. The Rams’ rapidly-improving defense saw to that.
“Those guys played outstanding,” Bradford said after the Rams knocked off the previously unbeaten Arizona Cardinals 17-3 on Thursday night. “They’ve played great all year and they have kept us in a lot of games.”
Bradford busted out of his funk with a 52-yard touchdown pass to rookie Chris Givens for a two-TD cushion and Robert Quinn had three of the Rams’ nine sacks of Kevin Kolb to keep the Cardinals in check.
“Bottom line, they decided they wanted to throw the ball a lot and that made it kind of a track meet,” Rams defensive end Chris Long said. “We’ve been waiting a long time to feel like we’ve done our job on defense.”
The Rams have three first-round picks on the defensive line and the fourth, tackle Kendall Langford, was a key free-agent pickup.
“We believe in ourselves,” Quinn said. “We believe we can be one of the great defenses. When there was a play to be made, we made it.”
Arizona (4-1) scored at least 20 points in each of its first four games, but had no luck containing a pass rush that had totaled just six sacks on the year, and got stopped twice inside the 20 in the final minutes.
Kolb got his helmet knocked off twice on hits, once after getting popped in the jaw. He described the Cardinals’ first-half woes as “sickening.”
“I’m all right,” Kolb said. “I’m glad we’ve got the weekend to heal up, mentally and physically.”
The Rams, ranked 27th in offense, came out throwing, with Bradford completing passes of 14 yards to former WSU Cougar Brandon Gibson and 44 yards to Danny Amendola on the first two plays, setting up the score to Kendricks on third down. It was the first offensive touchdown in three games for St. Louis.
Arizona responded with a drive that lasted 9:24, ending with Jay Feely’s 35-yard field goal.
Greg Zuerlein kicked a 53-yard field goal in the second quarter for the Rams (3-2), who are 3-0 at home and ended Arizona’s seven-game winning streak in St. Louis.
“I didn’t like anything,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “The thing I respected is our guys didn’t quit, and even as bad as it went we had a chance at the end of the game.”
Bradford finished 7 for 21 for 141 yards, the second-lowest total of his career. He threw for 126 yards against Tampa Bay his rookie year in 2010.
The Rams totaled two victories last year but so far have executed a quick turnaround under new coach Jeff Fisher. They’re 3-0 at home for the first time since 2003, when they were unbeaten in the Edward Jones Dome and they’re above .500 for the first time since they were 4-3 on Nov. 4, 2006.
Arizona’s loss leaves Atlanta and Houston as the only remaining unbeaten teams. The loss was only the Cardinals’ third in 14 games since starting the 2011 season 1-6.
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