QBs' late fumble swap favors Rams
Monday, September 25, 2006
St. Louis survived a twisted ending, defeating the Arizona Cardinals16-14.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Marc Bulger and Kurt Warner took turns trying to fumble the game away Sunday. Warner succeeded.
The Arizona quarterback, who threw three interceptions, fumbled a snap at the Rams 18 with 1:46 to play and Will Witherspoon recovered to allow St. Louis to hold on and beat the Cardinals 16-14.
Arizona's Antonio Smith recovered Bulger's fumble at the St. Louis 30 with 1:58 to play and Edgerrin James carried three times to the 18. Bulger said he was thinking of how he was going to face his teammates when Warner dropped Alex Stepanovich's snap and Witherspoon jumped on the ball for St. Louis (2-1).
"I feel like I hit the lottery," Bulger said.
The Cardinals were stunned.
"I couldn't believe it," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "I was tapping myself in the head like 'Wake up! That's not reality.' That's definitely something you see on a video game -- but it happened."
The game ended strangely with Arizona taking a fair catch on a punt as time ran out. Under an obscure rule, that would have given the Cardinals a free kick, and Neil Rackers was ready to take a shot at a 77-yard field goal.
But Arizona was offsides on the punt. After considerable confusion, the Rams decided to take the penalty and Bulger took a knee to end it.
It was a fitting conclusion for a game that featured six turnovers, four of them by Warner.
"Any one of those four plays, if I don't make them, we probably win this football game," Warner said.
"It was a good snap," he said of his last play. "I just fumbled it."
One of his interceptions came with Arizona at the Rams 13, another at the St. Louis 1.
Afterward, Cardinals coach Dennis Green was furious.
"I don't think I've been so angry since I've been here, and I've had some (bad) days since I've been here, believe me," he said. "But none of them compares to this."
Bulger was 21-of-31 for 309 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions, and Warner was 19-of-28 for 256 yards and one score.
Torry Holt caught eight passes for 120 yards, including a 9-yarder for St. Louis' lone touchdown.
Coach Scott Linehan said the team used a few plays from the old "Greatest Show on Turf" offense that Mike Martz used to run.
"I think coach did a good job of going back to some things we hooked up on in the past," Holt said. "He (Bulger) can close his eyes and know that I'm there."
Anquan Boldin had 10 receptions for 129 yards for Arizona.
Warner left the field to more than a few catcalls from fans calling for rookie Matt Leinart to play.
"Kurt's the leader and he's going to continue to do that," Boldin said. "He's our guy."
Down 16-7, the Cardinals (1-2) went 87 yards in 16 plays, using up 8:24 of the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 16-14 on James' 6-yard touchdown run with 4:13 to play. The drive included a 7-yard pass from Warner to Fitzgerald on fourth-and-5 from the Rams 38.
James had his best game since coming to Arizona, gaining 94 yards in 24 carries. But he isn't accustomed to these kinds of disappointments.
"It's crazy. It's ridiculous," he said. "We've got to do something different. If we want different results, we've got to do something different. There's something we're not doing right. I don't know. I'm just doing my job. We've got to do something different. I don't know what it is."
He made it clear he wants the ball more.
"I was brought here to run the ball and help, and a lot of times I'm out there and I'm really not part of it," James said.
Warner got a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit from Witherspoon in the first half but said it didn't affect his performance.
Warner was picked off on consecutive passes to help the Rams take a 13-7 halftime lead.
Arizona scored first after forcing a three-and-out deep in St. Louis territory. Matt Turk's 31-yard punt gave the Cardinals the ball at the Rams 45. James had runs of 10 and 9 yards and Warner capped the drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald to make it 7-0 with 7:04 left in the first quarter.
After a Jeff Wilkins field goal, Warner was intercepted at the St. Louis 6 and Bulger and Holt went to work on Arizona cornerback Matt Ware. Holt had catches of 42, 14 and 9 yards, the last one for a touchdown, in a five-play, 94-yard drive that put St. Louis ahead 10-7 with 3:20 left in the first half.
After the kickoff, Warner was picked off again, and Jeff Wilkins kicked a 47-yarder as the half ended to make it 13-7.
His 21-yard field goal put St. Louis ahead 16-7 with 8:08 left in the third.
Notes: Boldin had his 16th 100-yard reception game. ... St. Louis was without defensive end Anthony Hargrove, who failed to show up for two practices last week. His agent cited family problems. ... After being named NFC offensive player of the week in the season opener, Warner has fumbled the ball away twice and thrown four interceptions in two games.