Faulk returns full force

Monday, November 12, 2001

ST. LOUIS -- Watching Marshall Faulk run at will, St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz knew that resting the NFL's reigning MVP for three weeks was the right thing to do.

Faulk ran for 183 yards and two touchdowns in just one half, leading the Rams past the Carolina Panthers 48-14 Sunday.

"Marshall was as good as he's ever been," Martz said. "And when he's like that, you've just got to keep handing him the ball. He's like that most of the time."

Martz said team doctors told him Faulk's right knee improved markedly during the two games he missed plus the Rams' bye week. He was sidelined by a bone bruise.

"They don't remember his knee looking this good," Martz said. "He worked all week and there was no swelling. To hold him out was hard to do, but it sure looked like it paid off."

After Faulk was done for the day, Trung Canidate had 145 yards on 16 carries, including a 23-yard touchdown run. The Rams finished with 337 yards rushing, third-best in franchise history, and an 8.2 yards-per-carry average.

Faulk breezed past the Panthers' defense on a career-best 71-yard sweep for a touchdown on the game's third play and also had a 57-yard run in the first quarter. He averaged an impressive 12.2 yards on his 15 carries.

Martz was jumping up and down and had both arms up, signaling a TD, as Faulk ran past him at the Panthers 40 on the 71-yard run.

The Rams (7-1) ran out to a 31-0 second-quarter lead. The start was reminiscent of their last game, when they led the Saints 24-6 at the break but lost 34-31 under an avalanche of eight turnovers.

This time there was no collapse, as the Rams scored the most points in the NFL this year and handed the Panthers (1-8) their franchise-worst eighth straight loss. Carolina swept St. Louis last year, and Panthers coach George Seifert entered the game 17-4 for his career against the Rams.

"We were down 21 points before we knew it," Carolina defensive end Micheal Rucker said.

The Rams stumbled into halftime, giving up a 99-yard kickoff return by Steve Smith with 18 seconds left. Canidate fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but John Kasay missed a 53-yard field-goal attempt.

Aeneas Williams' 16-yard interception return for a touchdown less than a minute into the second half recharged the Rams.

St. Louis rolled despite another so-so game from Kurt Warner, who threw three interceptions and has been picked off seven times in his last two outings. Warner said he's been bothered by a sprained thumb since the season opener against the Eagles.

"I thought by now it would be healed and with the bye week I thought for sure I'd come back and it would be good," Warner said. "I think it's just the constant over and over, banging it and tweaking it."

Warner, 14-for-20 for 144 yards and a touchdown, became the fastest player in NFL history to pass for 10,000 yards. It took Warner 36 games, two fewer than Dan Marino.

The Rams' defense picked up the slack for Warner, holding the Panthers without a first down until 5:24 to go in the third quarter. Quarterback Matt Lytle, who got his first start in place of injured Chris Weinke, was 15-for-26 for 126 yards and two interceptions. Lytle threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Kris Mangum in the third quarter.

"Now that I look back on it, that's embarrassing," Lytle said.

In the first quarter alone, Faulk accumulated 143 yards on only six carries and added two catches for 7 yards. Robert Holcombe scored on a 1-yard run set up by Faulk's 57-yarder, and Isaac Bruce found himself alone in the left corner of the end zone for a 26-yard TD catch that made it 21-0 with 53 seconds left in the first quarter.

Faulk made it 28-0 on a 6-yard run with 12:19 to go in the half, and Jeff Wilkins' 25-yard field goal put the Rams ahead 31-0 with 33 seconds left.

Williams scored his 11th career touchdown on his interception return, and Canidate's 23-yard sideline sprint made it 45-7 with 6:52 to go in the third.

Notes: Faulk's 96 touchdowns are tied for 13th on the NFL career list with Eric Dickerson. ... Bruce's 53 TD catches tie Elroy Hirsch for first on the team career list. ... Panthers DE Sean Gilbert left with a sprained knee in the second quarter and will be sidelined 4-to-6 weeks. ... Rams DE Leonard Little left with a pinched nerve in the third quarter. ... Warner is the fifth quarterback in franchise history with 10,000 passing yards, joining Jim Everett, Roman Gabriel, Norm Van Brocklin and Bob Waterfield. ... The Rams' points were their most since a 57-31 victory over the Chargers in October 2000.

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