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Rams remain perfect -- but just barely
ST. LOUIS -- Even a poor performance by Marshall Faulk couldn't stop the St. Louis Rams, still the NFL's only unbeaten team.
Faulk, who didn't fumble all last season, coughed up the ball twice Sunday before leaving with a strained right knee that will sideline him for up to a month. An MRI showed a bone bruise, but no cartilage or ligament damage. Trainer Jim Anderson said Faulk would definitely be out this week against the New York Jets and re-evaluated after that.
The Rams beat the New York Giants 15-14, anyway. Backup Trung Canidate scored on a 1-yard run with 4:16 left and the Giants' potential game-winning drive ended when a pass to Joe Jurevicius popped out of his hands on a hit and into the arms of Grant Wistrom at the St. Louis 27-yard line.
Faulk had a total of 63 yards, a season low.
"I took a couple of shots and just didn't take care of the ball well," he said.
Besides Faulk's woes, the Rams didn't get a touchdown pass and Kurt Warner was sacked six times, four by Michael Strahan.
"Too much Strahan," said Warner, who was knocked out of the game for a play. "Way too much Strahan."
Still, the Giants (3-2) fell short.
"It's tough to accept this," said Strahan, who has 8 1/2 sacks in the last three games. "I definitely felt we deserved better than we got."
The Rams (5-0) were held to three field goals by Jeff Wilkins before the fourth quarter, when Sam Garnes was called for interference on Canidate in the end zone to give St. Louis a first down at the 1.
"Any call like that is a good call," Canidate said. "He kind of tugged on me a little bit."
Referee Gerry Austin said Garnes "had him by the shirt, took a step away from him."
Giants coach Jim Fassel didn't agree with the call and complained vociferously. He didn't want to talk about it after the game, however.
"That's enough," Fassel snapped the second time the subject came up. "One more question about the officials and I'm done."
Canidate, who entered the game with only nine carries as the backup to Faulk, the NFL's MVP last year, scored his touchdown on the play after the interference call. The 2-point conversion attempt failed.
The Giants were driving for a possible game-winning field goal before Wistrom's fumble recovery with 1:04 to go sealed the victory. Adam Archuleta hit Jurevicius just as the ball arrived at the St. Louis 27, popping the ball into the air for Wistrom.
"We always stress if you hustle to the football good things will happen, and that's all that play was," Wistrom said. "I happened to be at the right place at the right time."
The Giants also were hurt by an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Ron Dayne for shoving the ball in the face of Brian Young in the fourth quarter, a call that pushed them out of field-goal position.
"Someone jumped over the pile and hit me late, so I hit him with the ball," Dayne said. "They were doing it all game."
The Rams won their previous two games by a combined score of 77-10 and were coming off a 35-0 shutout of Detroit on Monday. Warner was 28-of-46 for 316 yards and an interception.
Dayne, who missed the second half of the Giants' victory over the Redskins last week, scored on a 4-yard run on New York's first drive and had 88 yards on 20 carries. Kerry Collins and Ike Hilliard hooked up on a 25-yard touchdown pass with 13:33 remaining to put the Giants ahead 14-9.
Faulk has problems
Faulk has three fumbles in his last two games. The last one gave the Giants the ball at the St. Louis 34 with 33 seconds to go in the third quarter, setting up Hilliard's touchdown.
He was injured on a hit by Shaun Williams, and spent much of the rest of the game sitting on a medical table with a towel over his head.
"It hurts to see Marshall hurt," Rams coach Mike Martz said. "We'll pray it will be just a three-week or four-week ordeal. We'll just have to see.
Said Faulk, "I just banged my knee, I still should have held on to the ball. I took a couple shots and just didn't take care of the ball well. When it rains, it pours sometimes."
Strahan beat up on Rams right tackle Ryan Tucker, who broke his right hand and separated his left shoulder last week. Tucker was finally replaced by Rod Jones, making his first appearance of the season, in the fourth quarter.
"Obviously, I was causing some problems," Tucker said. "It didn't go so well."
NOTES: Faulk's yardage total was his worst in the regular season since he totaled 43 yards against the Saints Nov. 26, 2000, against the Saints. Faulk passed O.J. Simpson for 16th place on the career rushing-receiving list. He has 13,420 yards. ... The Giants won the coin toss for the first time all season. ... Warner has 21 300-yard passing games, breaking the team record he shared with Jim Everett.