TSX: Rams Pick Up Interceptions

Craig Dahl (Getty/Matt Sullivan)

There was 3:25 remaining in the second quarter of a 6-6 tie Sunday, with Arizona facing a third-and-10 play from the Rams' 31-yard line. Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson threw a pass intended for wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

The ball never got there, as safety Craig Dahl made the interception at the 10-yard line and returned it to the 33. Twelve plays later, the Rams took a 9-6 halftime lead on Josh Brown's 20-yard field goal.

It was the first interception by the Rams since they had three against Carolina on Oct. 31, and it was their first road interception since they got two in Oakland in the second game of the season.

Numerous games could have turned in the Rams' favor had they not dropped easy interceptions. Like the one Dahl had. On several occasions, players have collided going for the ball with the result an incomplete pass.

Dahl admitted thinking of all that as the ball came toward him.

"Once I knew the ball was up in the air, I had an opportunity to make a play on it and I just kept thinking, 'Don't drop it, don't drop it, don't drop it,'" he said.

It also was the first interception of Dahl's career.

"It feels like a relief now," he said. "They say they come in bunches, so hopefully I can get some more."

Like several other players Sunday, Dahl was injured but came back into the game. In addition to the interception, he contributed six tackles (five solo), one of which was for a loss and a sack.

Said linebacker James Laurinaitis, "When you're able to get turnovers, no matter how you do it, it's crucial -- especially when it leads to points. The one that Dahl got was a point swing. That's huge."

In the third quarter, cornerback Bradley Fletcher snared his team-leading third interception of the season on a pass also intended for Fitzgerald. This one was thrown by Max Hall. Fletcher made an excellent grab, cutting in front of Fitzgerald near the sideline.

Said Fletcher, "I saw the quarterback rolling out, and I was able to make a play on the ball. We had a good pass rush up front all day, and that also helped out."

Concluded Dahl, "We knew there were going to be some balls up there for us to catch. I think we did a great job for the most part either knocking them down when we weren't able to catch them and coming up with a catch when we could."

-- There were a couple of common words used by the Rams after their workmanlike 19-6 victory at Arizona on Sunday. Resilient was a popular one. So was resolve.

That is becoming the personality of a team that enters the final four games of the season tied for first place in the NFC West with a 6-6 record, having won two straight games on the road.

Said defensive end Chris Long, "To win a division, you have to be able to win road games. We're going to have our share of road games coming up. I think we've been resilient, and that is a good thing, in that we have lost some tough ones on the road and come back and we haven't let it become a mental distraction."

Added safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, "We showed some resolve and some grit when you think about them having beaten us the, what, last three years. To come here on the road, where we have struggled until last week, and play a game good enough to win, we're just showing our growth more than anything, getting better each week."

Coach Steve Spagnuolo mentioned resolve, but also maturity. The coach said when he entered the locker room at halftime with the Rams leading 9-6, he heard a player mention that the team hadn't played well but was still winning by three points.

Said Spagnuolo, "We kind of rallied behind that, knowing that in the second half we had to play better, and I think we did that. There's probably some maturity in that."

The Cardinals had totaled 177 yards on 29 plays in the first half, 109 of which came on their first two drives that ended in field goals and a 6-0 lead. In the final two quarters, the Cardinals gained just 47 yards on 23 plays, and 40 yards came on a fourth-quarter possession that advanced the Cardinals to the Rams' 29-yard line.

However, intentional grounding and a false start cost 15 yards, and Arizona punted after a third-and-25 pass was incomplete.

In the third quarter, the Cardinals ran nine plays for minus-7 yards, and none of the plays netted positive yardage. After Arizona quarterback Derek Anderson completed a 23-yard pass to Steve Breaston to the Rams' 42-yard line midway through the second quarter, the Cardinals' next 14 plays netted minus-1 yard, and there were only two plays for positive yardage.

Anderson completed four of his first eight passes for 56 yards, and five of his first 11 for 82 yards. He then had just two completions in nine attempts for 11 yards before leaving the game in the third quarter.

"We were all on the same page," Atogwe said. "Once we settled in, we were all just playing off one another and just playing with each other."

Concluded defensive tackle Fred Robbins, "We just eliminated the big plays, made them one-dimensional, forced them to pass the ball, stopped the run in the second half, and the offense got us some points to give us some freedom to get after the quarterback a little bit. You've got to eliminate the big plays, cut down on penalties and get off the field on third downs."

The defense did that, as Arizona converted just one of its 11 third-down plays, and that didn't happen until the fourth quarter.

Finally, the Rams ran out the final 5:17 of the game, something they hadn't been able to do in recent games.

"That was nice," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "We've definitely had some games where I thought I was going to have a heart attack in the fourth quarter. But to be in control (was great). And our defense did a great job. After the first quarter, they just completed dominated that football game."

Said guard Jacob Bell, "The best part of that game for me was at the end of the day, we got the ball with 5 1/2 minutes left and (Arizona) didn't get it back. To me, that's a good fourth quarter."


-- K Josh Brown had a difficult game in Denver on Nov. 28, missing an extra point and a 45-yard field goal that contributed to the game being close late in the Rams' 36-33 victory.

Then, he struggled in practice from the right hashmark, and on tape saw Arizona's Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie blocking kicks.

Brown then made all four of his field-goal attempts against Arizona, including kicks from 43 and 52 yards ... all from the right hashmark.

Said Brown, "We had a very difficult week from that right hash, and lo and behold, every field goal we get is on the right hash. I picked out some spots behind the uprights to really focus on and tried to get Cromartie off my mind.

"We were really successful today, and the operation worked perfectly. We held those guys off just long enough. We had a close call in there. So this was a big win for us."

The four field goals tied his career high, and he admitted he was hoping to get another when the Rams moved to the Arizona 4-yard line as they ran out the clock. But coach Steve Spagnuolo elected to run two plays and let time expire in the 19-6 victory.

"I was kind of begging for that fifth one, quite honestly," he said. "The coaches didn't want to do that."

-- The victory over Arizona ended an eight-game winning streak for the Cardinals over the Rams. Earlier this season, a win over Seattle broke a 10-game losing streak to the Seahawks.

Said Brown, "We're coming together as a unit. The chemistry is really growing. The camaraderie, the team effort, the whole 'us' mantra that coach has been preaching the last couple of years is really starting to take shape. Guys are really getting close to each other. It's all paying off. That's really important. To be able to beat Seattle, and then to come in here and be able to kind of slay this beast, these are good steps for us to take."

-- RB Steven Jackson had his first 100-yard game since having 110 against Tampa Bay on Oct. 24. He finished with 102 yards on 28 attempts, but he almost lost the milestone on the last two plays of the game. With the Rams at the Arizona 4-yard line with 1:17 to play, Jackson had 112 yards on 26 carries (4.3-yard average). But on those two meaningless plays, he was dropped for 10 yards in losses to drop his average to 3.6. It also left him 15 yards short of reaching 1,000 for the season.

In the last two games, Jackson has 57 rushes for 174 yards (3.1 average). His 27-yard touchdown run gave the Rams a 16-6 lead in the third quarter.

"A hundred yards is tough to get in this league," Jackson said. "It doesn't matter who you get it against. I'm just happy that we're staying committed to the run these last two weeks.

"The offensive coordinator (Pat Shurmur) allowed for us to continue to pound the ball, to continue to make them stay honest. (Right tackle) Jason Smith had a great kick-out block on the touchdown run. And we really got after them. Each and every carry was physical, and it was a statement."

-- The musical chairs at outside linebacker could now extend to the strong side after Na'il Diggs was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle suffered against Arizona.

On the weak side, four players have started games, led by Larry Grant with eight. David Vobora started there Sunday, but it's likely he will move to the strong side with Grant back starting on the weak side.



-- QB Sam Bradford has thrown just two interceptions in his last seven games and 246 pass attempts. In the last seven games, all the other NFL quarterbacks have thrown 219 interceptions.

-- RB Steven Jackson is 15 yards short of his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard season, and he ranks second in the NFL in both rushing attempts and combined attempts from scrimmage. Jackson has 260 carries, which is second behind Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew, who has 261. In combined rushing attempts and receptions, Jackson has 290, which is tied with Jones-Drew behind Houston's Arian Foster, who has 296.

-- WR Danny Amendola had just one reception Sunday, although it was on third down and resulted in a first down. In no other game this season had Amendola had fewer than three catches. His 24 third-down receptions are third in the NFL behind Atlanta's Roddy White (27) and Miami's Davone Bess (26). Amendola averaged 27.3 yards on three punt returns Sunday, moving him up to a tie for sixth in the NFL with Bess. Both have 11.7-yard averages.

-- WR Danario Alexander played his second consecutive game Sunday and contributed two receptions for 20 yards. Earlier this season, he played two games, then injured his knee in a Friday practice. He will be trying to play three consecutive games for the first time in his rookie season.

-- WR Brandon Gibson led the team with six receptions for 54 yards against Arizona, and he is second on the team for the season with 40 catches for 425 yards (10.6-yard average). His 28 receptions in the last five games are the most of any receiver on the team.

-- K Josh Brown hit a 52-yard field goal against Arizona on Sunday, his second this season from 50 or more yards and the 27th of his career. Since entering the NFL in 2003, those 27 long-distance field goals are the most of any kicker in the NFL during that time period. Detroit's Jason Hanson is second with 24, and Hanson's percentage of 70.6 is the league's best. Brown is second at 67.5.

-- P Donnie Jones is one of only four punters in the NFL with a net yardage average of 40 or more. Jones is at 40.8, behind league leader Mat McBriar of Dallas (41.9) and just ahead of Oakland's Shane Lechler and Minnesota's Chris Kluwe, who both are at 40.6.

-- DT Fred Robbins had two sacks Sunday against Arizona, the fifth two-sack game of his career. He has at least one sack in the last two games to give him 5.0 this season and 33.5 for his career.

-- LB Na'il Diggs suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against Arizona and will miss the remainder of the season. Diggs will have surgery this week, and his recovery time will be about five months.

-- QB Sam Bradford had a sore ankle Monday, and he will be day-to-day in practice this week.

-- CB Ron Bartell aggravated a left shoulder injury that is connected to having a stinger in the neck/shoulder area. Bartell will be day-to-day in practice this week.

-- S Craig Dahl, who had the first interception of his career Sunday against Arizona, had a swollen knee Monday and will be day-to-day in practice this week.

-- RB Kenneth Darby came out of Sunday's game against Arizona with sore ribs and will be day-to-day in practice this week.

-- LB Chris Chamberlain will be fitted with a cast to protect an injured right hand/wrist, although coach Steve Spagnuolo said there is no broken bone.

-- RT Jason Smith, who left Sunday's game for three plays with an ankle injury, suffered a sprain, but it is not expected to be serious.

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