Depleted St. Louis rallies to top Saints

Monday, October 24, 2005
Rams wide receiver Kevin Curtis dived across the end zone marker to score in the second half Sunday, as the New Orleans Saints' Mike McKenzie attempted to defend. (The Associated Press)

With Bulger, Bruce, Holt and Little out, the Rams posted a 28-17 victory against New Orleans.

ST. LOUIS -- With so many key pieces missing, the St. Louis Rams went into survival mode. That was enough to beat the spiraling New Orleans Saints.

Steven Jackson scored on a pair of short runs for the Rams, and Kevin Curtis got the go-ahead touchdown on a 5-yard reverse with 5 minutes, 58 seconds to go in a come-from-behind 28-17 victory Sunday.

Behind 36-year-old backup quarterback Jamie Martin -- who was making only his fourth career start -- St. Louis stopped a three-game losing streak and kept hope alive that they'll still be a factor in the playoff race if they ever get healthy. Mike Martz is in the hospital with an infection, and the Rams' starting quarterback and two starting wide receivers were in street clothes because of injuries.

"Just somehow to be able to get a win, that's huge with all those guys out," Martin said. "We need to just keep it going and hopefully get another one next week, and when they get back we'll be rolling."

A pair of failed trick plays came back to haunt the Saints, who squandered a 14-point first-quarter lead and have lost three in a row. A quarterback sneak on a fake field goal on fourth-and-1 was stuffed for no gain near the end of the third quarter and Donte' Stallworth's fumble on a fourth-quarter reverse led to the go-ahead score. The Rams also blocked a field goal attempt in the second quarter.

Martin, subbing for the injured Marc Bulger, was ineffective most of the day. But he hit Curtis for a 42-yard gain to the 6 to set up the winning score, and then led the blocking on Curtis' clinching TD run after the wide receiver took a handoff from Jackson.

"I did just enough," Martin said. "I'm not a lineman, I just tried to shield him and let Kevin do what he wanted to do."

Martin, who threw two crucial interceptions in a loss at Indianapolis on Monday after Bulger was hurt, was 18-for-29 for 198 yards with no interceptions against the Saints. He won for the first time in four career starts.

Mike Furrey's 67-yard interception return with 1:55 to go wrapped it up for the Rams (3-4), who are 1-1 in the last two games, both without Martz. The coach was sidelined by a bacterial infection of a heart valve, and assistant head coach Joe Vitt has been running the show.

Bulger is out with a sprained shoulder, and Torry Holt (knee) and Isaac Bruce (turf toe) also did not dress, robbing the Rams of considerable firepower.

Aaron Brooks threw touchdown passes on the Saints' first two drives. After that, the team without a home fizzled and its three-game winning streak in St. Louis came to an end.

Furrey's touchdown return came a play after a defensive holding call on third down gave the Saints a fresh set of downs at their own 42.

The Saints wanted to challenge the interception return but couldn't because they were out of timeouts. Although the play ended with 1:55 left, it began with 2:10 to go and the NFL only takes over after the two-minute warning. Tight end Ernie Conwell claimed he had been down before losing the ball.

"I would bet -- well, I'm not a betting man -- but I feel 99.9 percent confident that I had possession of the ball and that I was down by contact," Conwell said. "I went over to the official and told him I had possession, that you guys have got to review that."

Referee Mike Carey said the crew saw a "bobbling pass reception with no control. While the ball was still loose, it was taken away by the Rams for a touchdown."

Brooks was 18-for-39 for 230 yards and threw touchdown passes of 11 yards to Stallworth and 17 yards to Az-Zahir Hakim for a quick 14-0 lead with five minutes left in the first quarter.

Jackson had a 43-yard gain on the Rams' first play, but that was their only first down until midway through the second quarter. Jackson's 6-yard touchdown run came one play after a 42-yard pass interference call on Steve Gleason.

Noteworthy

Rams defensive tackle Damione Lewis was ejected midway through the first quarter after punching Saints center LeCharles Bentley in the groin area. Bentley wants Lewis to be suspended, saying "Maybe that's how he was raised. He's a Miami guy so what do you expect?"

Rams defensive end Leonard Little missed the game following the shooting death of his brother.

Hakim, a former Rams player, caught six passes for 100 yards, his first 100-yard game of the season.

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