TEMPE, Ariz. -- The formula for the St. Louis Rams' resurgence couldn't be simpler. Get the ball to Marshall Faulk and win.
|Marshall Faulk rushes for 178 yards and a touchdown.(AP)|
Faulk, his legs cramping because of a bout with the flu, rushed for 178 yards in 27 carries Sunday, including the clinching 13-yard touchdown with 1:53 to play, as the defending NFC champions won their third straight after an 0-5 start, 27-14 over the Arizona Cardinals.
"He was sucking it up out there," St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger said. "He was cramping up. I saw the look on his face and I didn't know if he was going to make it, but he showed something out there today."
St. Louis is 19-0 when Faulk reaches triple digits in rushing. He also caught five passes for 58 yards. Flu or no flu, he wasn't leaving the game.
"That's what I'm here to do," Faulk said. "I'm here to be in there at crunch time, getting those carries, running out the clock. That's my job. Sometimes you're not 100 percent. Sometimes you're not 90. But you've got to go out there and give it your all."
In the Rams' three-game winning streak, Faulk has gained 571 yards in 85 attempts and has 16 catches for 132 yards.
"Marshall just continues his trek to greatness, I guess," Rams coach Mike Martz said. "Marshall was sick. He's had the flu for three days. He was stoved up last night in the hotel. He wasn't quite 100 percent, but nobody would know that."
Bulger, 3-0 as the starter in the absence of injured Kurt Warner, completed 20 of 29 passes for 245 and two touchdowns, but was intercepted twice. The second interception led to an Arizona touchdown that cut the lead to 17-14 with 10:36 to play.
"You take that play out of there, and he was nothing short of outstanding," Martz said. "That's a young player's mistake. If that's his only bad mistake in three games, which it is, then you've got to be very happy where he is."
David Barrett picked off the pass and flipped the ball to teammate Justin Lucas, who ran 35 yards for the touchdown.
The Rams (3-5), coming off a bye, took the ensuing kickoff and drove 44 yards in 10 plays, using up 6:50 before Jeff Wilkins kicked a 42-yard field goal.
The Cardinals (4-4) went for it on fourth-and-4 from their 30 with just under three minutes to play, and Jake Plummer's pass to Frank Sanders was ruled trapped. Arizona challenged the call, but the ruling stood.
"I just didn't throw it as hard as I should have," Plummer said. "The ball should be right there and it was low. When it's low it's my fault. Fourth down or not, it's a play I should make."
Moments later, Faulk reversed his field on a sweep right and cut up the middle 13 yards for the game's final score.
"We did not handle Marshall Faulk," Arizona coach Dave McGinnis said. "Marshall Faulk was the difference in this football game."
Plummer completed 19 of 30 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted once and fumbled once. Arizona had a season-low 235 yards offense.
Bulger was 15-for-19 for 207 yards and two touchdowns in the first half as the Rams took a 17-7 lead. He threw 34 yards to Ricky Proehl for a touchdown on the game's first series, then 7 yards to Torry Holt for a score with 53 seconds left in the half.
On third-and-5, Bulger threw 48 yards to Troy Edwards to set up the second Rams touchdown.
Kim Herring's 35-yard interception return set up Wilkins' 24-yard field goal that made it 10-0.
Arizona drove to the St. Louis 19 early in the second quarter, but Plummer fumbled the snap and the Rams' Tommy Polley recovered.
A successful replay challenge after Freddie Jones appeared to fumble led to the Cardinals' second-quarter touchdown.
After a review, the referee ruled Jones was down before he fumbled. Arizona, with the help of a roughing-the-passer penalty against Leonard Little, drove for the score, Plummer throwing 8 yards to Sanders to cut the lead to 10-7.
- Arizona's offense has scored two or fewer touchdowns in seven of eight games.
- After the Cardinals lost WR MarTay Jenkins (broken shoulder blade) in the first quarter, rookie Jason McAddley got his first two NFL receptions.
- After missing four games with groin and neck injuries, Arizona's Duane Starks got his first interception of the season.
- Rams FB James Hodgins played for the first time since recovering from a broken foot.
- Edwards' four catches were his first for St. Louis.
- With six catches, Sanders moved up to third on the Cardinals' career receptions list.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2002, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved