ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Big plays are what the St. Louis Rams are all
Most of the time, those game-turning plays come on offense. On
Monday night, the Rams got them from the defense, too, in a 28-21
victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"That's something we wanted to establish as a defense,"
Archuleta said. "We hadn't been getting turnovers through the
preseason and the first few games.
St. Louis came into the game with only two takeaways.
One week after a sensational late comeback in a victory over
Seattle, the Rams (4-2) moved into sole possession of first place
in the NFC West, a half-game in front of the Seahawks.
"It's very big," Archuleta added of moving in front of
Seattle. "We had a couple tough losses early in the year where we
were kind of struggling to get that momentum."
Holt beat double coverage to haul in a 36-yard pass from Marc
Bulger with 10:46 remaining for the winning touchdown. The All-Pro
receiver had a 52-yard TD on the first series and finished with six
catches for 124 yards.
"We put it together tonight for some big plays," Holt said.
"I wish we could wind it back to '99 and make it look easy. But
now it's a challenge to us as football players and as a team to get
those big plays."
Marshall Faulk had his 100th career rushing touchdown, a
1-yarder in the second quarter that tied it 14-14.
Archuleta made his steal midway in the third quarter, one play
after Ian Gold's 31-yard interception return put the Bucs at the
St. Louis 15. Michael Pittman ran left to the 7, where he was
stripped by the Rams safety, who sped untouched down the left
Bucs coach Jon Gruden challenged the play to no avail.
"I think everybody in America could see he was down," Gruden
said of Pittman.
"It's very frustrating," Pittman said. "I had one of the
biggest turnovers and I feel bad about it. I feel like I let my
"Turnovers killed us."
A fumble then helped the Bucs. Greg Spires' second sack of the
game shook Bulger, who lost the ball at his 20. Anthony McFarland
recovered and it led to Will Heller's 1-yard TD catch, tying it
21-21 heading into the fourth quarter.
Brian Griese was sharp and Michael Clayton was sensational on
Tampa Bay's first two touchdown drives. Griese completed his first
nine passes, including throws of 19 and 9 yards to the rookie on
the first scoring drive, which concluded with Mike Alstott's 1-yard
power run. The march was set up by Torrie Cox's 59-yard kickoff
Early in the second quarter, Clayton beat DeJuan Groce deep for
44 yards, setting up a third-down 5-yard toss to Pittman for a 14-7
St. Louis' sloppiness was costly when an illegal block penalty
negated Shaun McDonald's 82-yard punt return late in the first
period. But then the Bucs made a more critical mistake.
On third down from their 7, John Wade's snap never made it to
Griese, even though the quarterback was set up behind center, not
in the shotgun. Leonard Little dived on the ball for St. Louis at
It took the Rams four running plays to get into the end zone,
with Faulk stretching the ball over the goal line for No. 100, the
sixth player to reach that mark.
St. Louis opened the scoring on Bulger's 52-yarder to Holt just
2:20 into the game.
By halftime, Griese was 14-of-19 for 153 yards passing, but the
score was 14-14. Tampa's Martin Gramatica missed field goals of 35
and 48 yards, both wide left, the second miss caused partly by a
Jeff Wilkins, who sprained his left ankle earlier, was way short
on a 56-yard attempt on the final play of the half for the Rams. He
also missed wide right from 44 yards with 1:09 remaining in the
Griese finished 27-of-40 for 286 yards and Clayton had eight
receptions for 142 yards.
"Against a team like this, you can't turn the ball over like
that," Griese said. "It felt like we did some good things
offensively. Turnovers hurt us."
Cox also had a 44-yard kickoff return and finished with 152
yards on four runbacks. ... Tampa's Tim Brown caught a 5-yard pass
in the second quarter, extending his streak of games with a catch
to 178. That broke a tie for third-longest string he was in with
Steve Largent. ... Archuleta's fumble return was the third longest
in team history. ... It also was coach Mike Martz's first win in
four tries against Tampa Bay -- all Monday night games. ... Bucs DT
Damian Gregory tore a left knee tendon and likely is out for the
season. TE Dave Moore suffered a concussion and fullback Greg
Comella had an unspecified chest injury. WR Charles Lee sprained
his right knee, but returned.
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The Saints will still likely try to sign Drew Brees to an extension in order to minimize their salary-cap hit.
Michael Wilbon thinks the Patriots should be viewed as the favorites to win the Super Bowl next season.
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Andy Dalton still hasn't thrown a football since breaking his thumb back in mid-December, but is looking forward to offseason work.