Associated Press


ST. LOUIS - St. Louis Rams safety Adam Archuleta was named Wednesday as the NFC's Defensive Player of the Month.

It was the second time Archuleta has received the award. His first came in 2003.

Rams coach Mike Martz was walking away from the team Wednesday after practice at Rams Park when he turned and told the players about Archuleta's accomplishment.

"I just told the team the (NFC) just announced Adam Archuleta is the defensive player of the month," Martz said. "That's quite an honor. It's exciting for Adam."

Archuleta, in his fifth year out of Arizona State, has played a huge role on both St. Louis wins this season.

Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, St. Louis was down 10-0 in the second quarter and the Titans were driving deep in Rams territory when Archuleta intercepted a Steve McNair pass and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown. It was his first career interception return for a touchdown, and he also had seven tackles.

Naturally, the scoring play was a thrill for him.

"I was thinking just don't get caught," Archuleta said. "There was a big rush of adrenaline there. I looked back to see if there were any flags. Then it was time to celebrate."

On Sept. 18 at Arizona, Archuleta sacked Kurt Warner for a 5-yard loss on the final drive of the game. The Cardinals were at the Rams' 5-yard line when Archuleta darted in untouched and got the sack. Arizona was unable to run another play and St. Louis escaped with a 17-12 win. Archuleta also recorded 10 tackles.

"There's a lot of football left to be played," Archuleta said. "I want to bring my contribution to the team. It's what we do in November and December that's what is going to make this season. I've just got to keep going."

He's also happy to be playing without pain, too, after spending last season hampered with a back injury.

"I just wasn't right," Archuleta said of the 2004 season. "It was a daily, painful struggle."

Martz said he knew Archuleta was not 100 percent last year, but now he's healthy and making big plays.

"This was Adam in college. This was Adam in '01. Really, until he got injured a year ago, this is who he is," Martz said. "Coming back from that injury and removing the doubt about his back and being comfortable with the new defense ... he's fought through both of those situations and he's doing very well."

Archuleta is the fourth Ram to win the award in three years. He first won it in November 2003 when he had two sacks and ran a fumble recovery back 45 yards for a touchdown, the first of his career.

Later that month, Archuleta had two sacks against Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper along with 10 tackles, had eight tackles against Chicago and nine tackles against Arizona.

Defensive end Bryce Fisher won the award last December, and Grant Wistrom won the honor in December 2003.