AP Game Story: Rams hold off Big Red
By R.B. Fallstrom
Associated Press
09/12/2004

Competition for his job is bringing out the best in Marshall Faulk.

The St. Louis Rams' running back shared time with first-round pick Steven Jackson in Sunday's 17-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. But Faulk, who has missed 11 games due to injuries the last two seasons, carried the load with 128 yards on 22 carries. His steady play helped the Rams overcome three costly turnovers that kept the margin from being very comfortable.

Jackson also played well in his debut, shaking off a lost fumble on his first career carry after a 14-yard gain. Jackson, the first running back taken in the draft, finished with 50 yards on seven carries.

The Rams beat the Cardinals for the fifth straight time and sent Arizona to its 14th straight road loss, but did it the hard way. Each of the turnovers came deep in Arizona territory, and they also ran out of gas at the Arizona 10 and 4, settling for field goals by Jeff Wilkins.

Emmitt Smith, the NFL's career leading rusher, had a resurgent game with 87 yards on 16 carries, including an 11-yard touchdown run that put the Cardinals ahead 10-9 in the final minute of the third quarter. Smith was limited to only 256 yards last year due to injuries.

Cardinals first-round pick Larry Fitzgerald also had a nice beginning with four catches for 70 yards, including a 37-yard catch on a flea-flicker from Josh McCown on the first play from scrimmage.

Both were overshadowed by Faulk's 39th career 100-yard game, which featured four gains of 10 or more yards. After only 14 preseason carries for 38 yards to prepare for his 11th season, Faulk signaled he was ready when he jitterbugged for a 15-yard gain on his first carry. He has 11,341 yards rushing and passed O.J. Simpson for 13th place.

Faulk also scored on a 2-point conversion run to give the Rams a seven-point cushion after Marc Bulger hit Isaac Bruce for an 8-yard touchdown for the winning score with 14:27 to go. Bruce rolled the last few yards into the end zone.

The Rams outgained the Cardinals 229-134 in total offense in the first half, but had only a pair of field goals to show for it. In addition to Jackson's fumble, wide receiver Dane Looker fumbled after a catch and Bulger was intercepted by Quentin Harris at the Arizona 2.

Arizona's only other big play of the half was a 71-yard kickoff return by Josh Scobey that set up a 22-yard field goal by Neil Rackers.

Bulger, 19-4 as the Rams' starting quarterback, was 23-for-34 for 272 yards. His main target was Isaac Bruce, who caught nine catches for 112 yards and the clinching touchdown.

The Cardinals had no sacks against a rebuilt line led by tackle Orlando Pace, who had only four practices to prepare for the opener after agreeing to a one-year contract last Sunday.

McCown, beginning his first year as the Cardinals' starting quarterback, was 18-for-29 for 181 yards.