Rams finish wild start with a win
By R.B. Fallstrom
AP Sports Writer
A career day for Steven Jackson and another big finish from the defense helped the St. Louis Rams win again without their coach and most of their star players.
Jackson had 179 yards on 25 carries and scored the winning touchdown, Mike Furrey's 37-yard interception return led to the go-ahead score and the Rams stuffed the Jaguars' attack most of the second half in a 24-21 victory over Jacksonville on Sunday.
Fred Taylor, who was questionable with a bruised right ankle, had 165 yards on 23 carries for the Jaguars (4-3). That included a 71-yard scoring run in the first quarter.
But the Jaguars were hurt by two missed field goals. Josh Scobee was wide right on a pair of long attempts, including a 44-yarder that could have tied it with 9:25 left. He also flubbed a 48-yarder in the first half after entering the game 11-for-13.
The Rams (4-4) have won two of three since losing coach Mike Martz for the season due to a heart illness and with interim coach Joe Vitt in charge. They expect to get back QB Marc Bulger (shoulder) and wide receivers Torry Holt (knee) and Isaac Bruce (turf toe) after their bye week next week. Defensive end Leonard Little, the team's best pass rusher, also should return after missing two games following the shooting death of a younger brother.
They beat the Jaguars, whose victims include the Seahawks, Bengals and Steelers, despite backup quarterback Jamie Martin's three interceptions. Two of them were by Rashean Mathis.
Jackson carried the load for the decimated offense, easily topping his previous career best of 148 yards against the Eagles last year. Four plays after Furrey took a bobbled reception by Ernest Wilford out of the air, Jackson scored on a 19-yard screen pass from Martin for a 24-21 lead with 12:45 to go.
Furrey's 67-yard interception return clinched last week's 28-17 victory over the Saints.
The Rams' defense made it hold up as the Jaguars ran out of downs at the St. Louis 45 with 1:21 remaining.
The Jaguars took their first lead on Leftwich's 15-yard pass to Matt Jones late in the third quarter, a score set up by Alvin Pearman's 45-yard third-down run.
The Rams, not known for special teams play in recent seasons, scored on a blocked punt for the first time since 1987 at the end of the Jaguars' first series. Drew Wahlroos came in so clean he nearly took the ball out of punter Chris Hanson's hands, and Brandon Chillar broke one tackle on a 29-yard return.
Jacksonville answered two plays later on Taylor's 71-yarder before Kevin Curtis' 83-yard catch from Martin put the Rams ahead 14-7 with 10:54 still to go in the first quarter.
The Jaguars capitalized on Mathis' interception of a poorly thrown Martin pass to tie it on Leftwich's 20-yard pass to Wilford. The ball was tipped near the goal line by linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa before Wilford hauled it in with one hand near the back of the end zone.
Rookie offensive tackle Alex Barron, the Rams' first-round pick, had penalties on three consecutive plays near the end of the half to help shortcircuit a drive that ended with a 41-yard field goal by Jeff Wilkins on the final play for a 17-14 lead.