Penalties also have an impact

BY NORM SANDERS
News-Democrat
ST. LOUIS - They were facing a 2-9 Arizona team at the Edward Jones Dome, a Cardinals contingent that had gone 0-5 on the road this season.

Easy pickings for the St. Louis Rams, right?

Not even close.

The Rams lost 34-20 and were penalized 10 times for 126 yards, many of them either stopping Rams drives or aiding Cardinal possessions.

Arizona did its part to contribute to the penalty party, drawing 11 infractions for 107 yards.

A quick rundown of the Rams' transgressions:

-A false start penalty --on first down -- on Rams tackle Alex Barron early in second quarter.

A roughing the passer penalty on Rams defensive end Leonard Little and a defensive holding penalty on La'Roi Glover on the same drive early in the second quarter.

The defense held when it stopped the Cardinals on fourth-and-goal at the 1, although quarterback Matt Leinart falling down on the fourth-down handoff aided the process.

A pass interference call on cornerback Fakhir Brown while running with receiver Anquan Boldin. On the next play, Leinart threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald to take a 14-3 lead.

A face mask penalty on Rams left guard Mark Setterstrom.

Rams center Richie Incognito's unnecessary roughness penalty that set the Rams back 15 yards. However, they continued the drive and scored to cut the Cardinals' lead to 17-10.

-A defensive holding call on Glover and pass interference on safety Corey Chavous led to another Arizona touchdown.

-An offsides call on Little with 8:59 remaining wiped out an interception by Ron Bartell. Marcell Shipp later scored on a 9-yard TD run that put the game out of reach.

"You are going to have penalties where the guys are bumping into each other that may go your way or not go your way," Rams coach Scott Linehan said. "But we have penalties that are avoidable. There is no such thing as a good penalty, but there are some penalties that are absolutely unacceptable and that are hard to overcome."

Particularly distressing to Linehan were pass interference penalties that aided scoring drives.

"We have to clean up our technique," he said. "We can't blame the officials for calling the penalties. You have to look at what you are doing and we are going to have to clean it up."

Rams guard Adam Timmerman agreed.

"We're definitely making too many mistakes," Timmerman said. "We killed ourselves really on a lot of the drives. When the drives ended without points, it was either because we made a mistake, either a penalty probably most often, or a turnover or a sack.

"Those are mistakes you can't be making, especially pre-snap. That's just more of a mental thing and we've just got to put a stop to it."

Little felt the officials may have been a little too flag-happy.

"They were calling the game real tight and I begged the referees to just let us play the game," Little said. "Sometimes they let us play and there are not as many penalties, but today they were making some very tight calls."

Rams rookie cornerback Tye Hill said coach Scott Linehan is growing tired of the mistakes.

"You can't win with all these penalties," Hill said. "The penalties killed us today. It affected the whole game, it affected our field position and their field position.

"It put them in great spots to have the upper hand on us."

Incognito tried to describe his penalty.

"I was pass-blocking him," he said. "He turned to run, I ran with him and just dumped him and threw him on the ground. Unnecessary roughness."

Little wondered aloud about one of the NFL's point of emphasis this season, protecting the quarterback.

"The league has cracked down on that," he said. "The quarterbacks are called the 'big stars' in this league. They are trying to protect them so it doesn't ruin a team's season or whatever ratings they have.

"I can't just stop in my tracks and let him throw the ball. That is not my job. My job is to try to get the quarterback and try to get him down."