Rams get an old result
BY JIM THOMAS | Posted: Monday, September 13, 2010 12:25 am

It seemed different, it looked different. It even sounded different Sunday in the Edward Jones Dome. But by the end of the game, it was no different.

Despite four takeaways by the Rams' defense, a career day for new wide receiver Mark Clayton (with 10 catches), and some rookie magic by quarterback Sam Bradford at the end of the first half, the Rams lost again to the Arizona Cardinals.

Smothered most of the day by cornerback Ron Bartell, Arizona's all-world wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald caught the game-winning touchdown pass with 6 minutes, 13 seconds to play in the fourth quarter for a 17-13 Arizona victory.

That makes eight straight victories by the Cardinals over the Rams. Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt still hasn't lost to St. Louis he's 7-0. And Bill Bidwill's team has won its last six contests here.

"We didn't capitalize on a lot of opportunities," said running back Steven Jackson, who gained 81 yards on 22 carries in his first extended action since back surgery in April. "To go forward and to turn this thing around, I think we showed a lot of progress today. I don't want to discredit the young guys. But we have to get a killer instinct. We have to be able to put a team like that that's good we have to be able to put a team like that away."

The Rams had their chances, several of them, to do just that. Leading 13-10 midway through the third quarter, defensive end C.J. Ah You swept in for a sack of Arizona quarterback Derek Anderson, who was hit early and often by the Rams' pass rush. The ball popped out for a fumble, and defensive tackle Clifton Ryan was there to nimbly scoop up the football at the Arizona 23 with nothing but green turf between him and the end zone.

At 324 pounds, Ryan isn't built for speed. And he hadn't run the football in about 10 years, or since he was in high school. But he knew what to do with the ball; there was just one thing on his mind.

"Score a touchdown, that's what I was thinking," Ryan said. "I was four yards away."

But that's when hustling Cardinals receiver Steve Breaston swooped in from behind to poke the ball loose. A wild scramble in the end zone ensued with Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein ending up with the football for a touchback.

So instead of a 20-10 Rams lead and some real pressure on the Cardinals, Arizona took over at its 20.

"Everything happens for a reason," Ryan said.

So what's the reason here?

"When I figure it out, I'll be sure to let you know," Ryan said.

There is no rhyme or reason to the Rams' recent woes. Sunday's loss was the 43rd for the team in the last 49 games. And even a good, sometimes inspired, effort bore no fruit Sunday.

"We're getting there," Jackson said. "There are some things to be proud of in this game. But to be a true leader I can't be satisfied with a loss. I can't let the guys be satisfied with coming up short. We competed. It was good to have the crowd behind us. It's been a while since we had that kind of energy in the dome."

On the ensuing Arizona possession after Ryan's ill-fated fumble recovery return, Bartell nearly gave the crowd more reason to get excited when he stepped in front of an Anderson pass intended for Fitzgerald. Not only would it have been an interception near midfield, it probably would've been a "pick 6" returned for a touchdown.

But the ball went right through Bartell's hands and fell incomplete.

"I know Ron would've liked to have that pick back," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "Those are kind of the things ... those are plays you have to make."

There were more missed opportunities. On Arizona's opening possession of the game, safety Oshiohomogho Atogwe popped the ball loose from Cardinals running back Tim Hightower one of Atogwe's specialties. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher picked up the loose ball and raced 43 yards to the Arizona 32 before he was brought down by Breaston. (There's that guy again.)

The Rams couldn't even settle for a field goal on this one because Big Red safety Adrian Wilson beat an attempted block by rookie tight end Michael Hoomanawanui to block Josh Brown's 34-yard field goal attempt.

"We've got to convert field goals," Spagnuolo said. "The sad part of it is, we don't get the field goal blocked, it's a 17-16 game. Help me with my math."

Spagnuolo's math was good. Those missed three points would have come in handy late in the game. Namely, when the Rams had a first and 10 at the Arizona 21 at the 2-minute warning of the fourth quarter. Had Brown's 34-yarder not been blocked, it would have been 17-16 and the Rams would've needed only a Brown field goal to take the lead.

Brown, by the way, had missed only once in 42 tries from inside 40 yards since 2006.

Such was the day for the Rams. A lot of good things happened, but not enough to beat the two-time defending NFC West champions.

"We're hungry right now," offensive guard Jacob Bell said. "We want to win. We're playing hard. We're playing a lot better right now than we were even at the end of last year. Lots to look forward to."