Monday, November 7, 2011

Rams lose on 99-yard punt return in OT


GLENDALE, ARIZ. -- So much for what happened last week against New 
Orleans. So much for any November momentum.

It all vanished into the desert evening at University of Phoenix Stadium 
with Arizona's Patrick Peterson twisting and turning 99 yards through 
the Rams punt coverage team for his third punt return touchdown of the 
season to defeat the Rams 19-13 in overtime.

The Rams couldn't hold a 13-6 led late in the fourth quarter and thus 
drop to 1-7 on the season. Coach Steve Spagnuolo is now 9-31 in his 
third season as Rams head coach, and the clock is ticking.

A sack by defensive end Chris Long that led to a loss of 16 yards forced 
Arizona to punt with just under a minute to play. Then, Austin Pettis -- 
who had trouble even signaling for a fair catch when he started 
returning punts earlier this season, gave the Rams decent field position 
at their 36 with a 19-yard return. Pettis then caught a 23-yard pass to 
advance the ball into Arizona territory at the 41.

After a short pass to Pettis, a pass interference call against Arizona, 
and an 8-yard run by Steven Jackson, Josh Brown lined up for a 42-yard 
field goal with 4 seconds to play. But 6-foot-8 Arizona defensive end 
Calais Campbell steamed through to block the kick and force overtime at 

The Rams had taken a 13-6 lead on a pair of third-quarter safeties. The 
safeties came on back-to-back defensive plays following Donnie Jones 
punts. On the first, defensive end James Hall split a double team by 
left tackle Levi Brown and left guard Daryn Colledge to sack John 
Skelton, who started in place of the injured Kevin Kolb at quarterback.

That safety gave St. Louis an 11-6 lead with 7:24 to play. The Rams 
could do nothing after the Arizona free kick, with Jones punting out of 
bounds at the Arizona 9. On the Cardinals' first play from scrimmage 
following the Jones punt, C.J. Ah You ran down Skelton and was in the 
process of bringing him down to the ground when Skelton frantically 
tried to throw the ball away.

The play was ruled intentional grounding, and since it took place in the 
end zone, it was another safety. Two safeties, less than 4 minutes 
apart. It was the first time since Minnesota in 2008 that a team had two 
safeties in one game.

But the 13-6 lead disappeared in one fell swoop when Skelton found Larry 
Fitzgerald in the back of the end zone for a 13-yard TD to tie the game 
13-13 with 4:51 to play. Fitzgerald lined up in the slot on the play and 
no Rams cornerback picked him up. He ended up having only a linebacker 
and a safety to beat for the score.

The first half was all about field goals, with Brown kicking three to 
give the Rams a 9-3 halftime lead. Wearing a brace for his high ankle 
sprain that went halfway up his left calf, Bradford moved around well 
enough, surviving three first-half sacks and even scrambling once for a 
couple of yards. Midway through the opening quarter, he nimbly 
sidestepped the Arizona pass rush, stepped up in the pocket and zipped a 
22-yard completion over the middle to Brandon Gibson.

The Rams dominated time of possession (20:02 to 9:58) and piled up the 
yards (189 to 58), but in an all-too-familiar story couldn't get over 
the hump when they got in scoring territory. They settled for the first 
Brown field goal, from 48 yards, after rookie outside linebacker Sam 
Acho got a sack in his third consecutive game by dropping Bradford for a 
three-yard loss on third-and-4 from the Arizona 27.

Midway through the second, the Rams faced a third-and-1 from the Big Red 
17, when Arizona safety Adrian Wilson shot through a gap on a run blitz 
and dropped Jackson for a two-yard loss. The result was a 37-yard Brown 
field goal and a 6-3 lead.

Brown made it 9-3 with a 41-yarder as time expired in the first half. On 
third-and-2 from the Arizona 20, pressure up the middle from Arizona 
cornerback Richard Marshall resulted in another sack.

Arizona couldn't get much going. A 22-yard punt return by Patrick 
Peterson became a 37-yard play when Brit Miller was flagged 15 yards for 
a late hit on Peterson. The Cardinals gained two first downs but had to 
settled for a 27-yard Jay Feely field goal on what was their first 
possession of the game.

The Cardinals crossed midfield only once the rest of the half, and 
reached only the St. Louis 48 at that. But Arizona put together its best 
drive to open the second half marching 58 yards before Feely's 38-yard 
field goal narrowed the Rams' lead to 9-6 with 10:30 left in the third 

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