Rams 7

(6-8, 2-6 away)

Cardinals 31

(5-9, 4-3 home)

4:05 PM ET, December 19, 2004


1 2 3 4 T
STL 0 7 0 07
ARI 10 7 7 731

Rams fail to make up ground in NFC West

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- The NFC West is so bad that a team with a losing record could win it -- even the Arizona Cardinals.

The St. Louis Rams had a chance to take control of the league's worst division on Sunday, but they fell flat in a 31-7 loss to the Cardinals.

Josh McCown threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more and the Cardinals snapped a four-game losing streak.

Allen's Analysis
Eric Allen Rams-Cards: Do you write this off to Bulger's absence or does this team simply need a shakeup? This team has reached the end of its rope and needs a shakeup. They had a great run, reaching two Super Bowls and playing at a high level for a number of years, but those days are over. They have to change their offensive philosophy and some of their personnel on defense. I'm not sure if coach Mike Martz will be a holdover to lead this team in its incarnation, but whoever is in charge next season has to start over and get this team back on track.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders. He's a regular contributor to Insider.

McCown, starting his second game since being benched for three, went 22-of-34 for 287 yards with no interceptions. He had TD passes of 8 and 4 yards to Larry Fitzgerald, and scoring runs of 1 and 9 yards.

A victory would have moved the Rams into a tie with Seattle atop the division, since St. Louis holds the tiebreaker with two wins over the Seahawks. Instead, the Rams fell to 6-8, just one game ahead of the Cardinals (5-9), who improbably are still alive.

"We didn't see this coming," Rams wide receiver Torry Holt said. "If there was any game on the schedule that we felt confident about coming in and winning, it would be Arizona."

If Arizona wins its last two, and both Seattle and St. Louis go 0-2, the Cardinals would take the division title at 7-9.

"I'm surprised that a 5-9 team is in it, but I'm not surprised that it's this team," McCown said. "We have it in us. We have the talent, we have the capability to do this, it's just a consistency thing."

With quarterback Marc Bulger out with a shoulder injury, 39-year-old Chris Chandler lasted just one quarter for the Rams before he was replaced by Jamie Martin, who saw his first regular-season action in two years. He was signed by the Rams earlier this month when Bulger was injured.

St. Louis coach Mike Martz put much of the blame on Chandler, saying the veteran quarterback threw the ball on a run play on the first series and made other elementary mistakes.

"It's tragic for this football team, for that position to hold this whole football team hostage," Martz said, "but that's where we are."

Martz praised Martin's play, considering the circumstances, but said, "I just don't know what to call when you've got a guy in there that's never been in there."

The Rams' touchdown came on Leonard Little's 61-yard fumble return with 7 seconds left in the first half.

"When you score 31 points, hold a team to seven points and basically no points against the offense -- and not in position to kick even field goals -- then you feel like you've done a very good job," Arizona coach Dennis Green said.

St. Louis' only serious offensive threat ended when Holt was hit by Ifeanyi Ohalete and fumbled as he was about to cross the goal line. Ohalete recovered in the end zone for a touchback.

The Rams had minus-20 yards of offense in the first quarter. Chandler, intercepted six times last week, was 1-for-6 for 1 yard with an interception. He was sacked twice.

Arizona went 73 yards in 10 plays on its second possession. McCown's 30-yard pass to Bryant Johnson and Emmitt Smith's 19-yard run set up McCown's 1-yard sneak for the score.

Then, Chandler overthrew Isaac Bruce and David Macklin intercepted at the St. Louis 44. Neil Rackers' 48-yard field goal made it 10-0. McCown's 8-yarder to Fitzgerald made it 17-0.

With seconds left before halftime, Arizona moved from its 20 to the St. Louis 29, but Leonard Davis missed a block and McCown was hit by Anthony Hargrove. Little picked up the ball and ran it back, cutting Arizona's lead to 17-7.

The Cardinals went ahead 24-7 on McCown's 4-yard pass to Fitzgerald halfway through the third quarter. A roughing-the-passer penalty on McCown's third-down 18-yard completion to Obafemi Ayanbadejo set up McCown's 9-yard touchdown sweep and it was 31-7 with 10:54 left.

McCown has had two strong showings since his benching. He said that he learned from watching after being in the action for awhile. Also, while he was benched, a close family member died -- an experience that has made him more relaxed on the field.

"Just realizing how short life is and wanting to come out and play like it's your last game every time, and just cutting it loose," McCown said, declining to identify the relative.

Game notes

Rams LB Tommy Polley was thrown out of the game for punching Arizona NT Russell Davis on the sideline with 13:32 remaining. ... St. Louis allowed over 30 points for the sixth time this season. ... The Rams lost to an NFC West team for the first time this season. ... Emmitt Smith left with a sudden migraine headache in the second quarter, but came back in the second half.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Scoring Summary

Drive info: 1 plays, 61 yds, 0:00
Drive info: 1 plays, 61 yds, 0:00
ariFG1:51Neil Rackers 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 8 plays, 14 yds, 3:18
Drive info: 6 plays, 45 yds, 2:18
Drive info: 6 plays, 45 yds, 2:18
ariTD5:32Josh McCown, 1 yd run
Drive info: 10 plays, 60 yds, 4:04
Drive info: 10 plays, 60 yds, 4:04
Drive info: 10 plays, 54 yds, 4:06
Drive info: 10 plays, 54 yds, 4:06
ariTD11:05Josh McCown, 9 yd run
Drive info: 10 plays, 80 yds, 4:38
Drive info: 10 plays, 80 yds, 4:38