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Carney connects on five field goals

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Even without Deuce McAllister, the New Orleans
Saints' running game is in good hands.

Perturbed after being described as a journeyman, fill-in Aaron
Stecker responded with his first career 100-yard day in the Saints'
28-25 overtime victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

Stecker's performance added balance for the Saints, who also got
big games from Aaron Brooks, kicker John Carney and defensive end
Charles Grant, who had three of his team's five sacks.

Stecker, who entered the game with 443 yards in four-plus
seasons, was supposed to split time with Ki-Jana Carter, and the
Saints figured to struggle on the ground with McAllister sidelined
by a high ankle sprain. Stecker ended up with 106 yards on 18
carries, including a 42-yard touchdown run.

"Hey, I'm a running back," Stecker said. "It's not like they
pulled me out of the front office and said 'Deuce is out, do you
know how to play some running back?'

"I believe in myself and my teammates had no doubt in me."

Brooks calmly directed the winning drive, Carney kicked five
field goals and Grant led a strong defensive effort that combined
to end the Rams' 15-game regular-season home winning streak. The
Saints have never been intimidated by the Rams' home, winning in
St. Louis in 2000 and '01, when both teams were in the NFC West.

"I don't know if they don't like to play us," Saints coach Jim
Haslett said. "I know we don't like to play them because of all
the talent they have, but I don't know if they like to play us,
either."

New Orleans (2-1) somehow forced overtime after the Rams (1-2)
took the lead on Marc Bulger's 19-yard scramble with 28 seconds to
go. Then they stuffed the Rams' once high-powered offense in
overtime and drove to Carney's clinching 31-yarder with 7:59 left
in overtime.

The Rams won the toss in overtime, and they converted a somewhat
ill-advised fourth-and-1 play from their 41 to keep the drive
alive. Then they promptly lost momentum, punted and never got the
ball back.

The Rams (1-2), who won the NFC West last year, have yet to
force a turnover. Last year, they lost two of the first three on
the road before recovering to go 12-4.

"We were 1-2 last year and no one thought we could come back
and take the lead in this game," Bulger said. "So, we've been
there before. No one is this locker room is going to give up."

Brooks was 24-for-41 for 316 yards and a touchdown. More
important, he was 3-for-4 for 42 yards on the winning drive, and
his 12-yard bootleg run to the St. Louis 13 set up Carney's field
goal.

He also was cool and calm on the tying drive, accomplished with
only 24 seconds to go. The Rams tried to avoid return man Michael
Lewis and Jeff Wilkins' line-drive squib kick gave New Orleans
possession at its 42, a big break.

Four plays later, Carney connected from 38 yards to tie the
score with :02 to go.

Isaac Bruce caught eight passes for 134 yards, his third
straight 100-yard day, for the Rams. Bulger was 32-for-49 for 358
yards.

But the Rams never got the running game going, with 78 yards on
only 15 carries against a team that allowed an NFL-high 174.5 yards
per game the first two games. Marshall Faulk had more yards in the
air (five catches for 46) yards than on the ground (44 yards on 12
carries).

Starting in the second quarter, the Saints scored on five
straight possessions. Joe Horn's juggling 9-yard grab gave them a
22-17 lead with 8:23 left. Aeneas Williams deflected the pass, but
Horn, who caught seven passes for 91 yards, didn't give up on the
ball and caught it in the back of the end zone.

The Rams appeared to stop the Saints much earlier on an 11-play,
81-yard drive, but Anthony Hargrove was whistled for running into
punter Mitch Berger. Berger spun down after getting nudged on his
follow-through.

Game notes
The last time Bruce had three straight 100-yard receiving
games was in 1995, when he had six in a row. He's now 14th on the
career yards receiving list, passing Stanley Morgan. ... Rams G
Chris Dishman left with a right knee sprain in the second quarter.
... The Rams have completed one pass to a TE this year after
Brandon Manumaleuna made a 3-yard catch in the third quarter. ...
Saints WR Talman Gardner (high ankle sprain) was carted off the
field in the fourth quarter. ... Wilkins' 53-yard field goal gave
him 1,000 career points. ... Carney has a pair of six-field goal
games, both in 1993, and he tied his career high for attempts.

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