St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins (21) intercepts a pass intended for Arizona Cardinals running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (36) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Monday, November 26, 2012 5:03 am
Jenkins returns 2 picks for TDs, Rams win 31-17
By BOB BAUMAP Sports Writer
For five games, the Rams failed to force a single opponent turnover. Then on Sunday, they intercepted rookie Ryan Lindley four times in his first NFL start. Janoris Jenkins took two of them back for touchdowns in St. Louis' 31-17 victory over Arizona, the Cardinals' seventh loss in a row.
"I knew eventually they were going to come," Rams safety Quintin Mikell said, "and they came in a big way today."
No NFL rookie since 1960 and no Rams rookie ever accomplished what Jenkins did with his two TD returns.
"I'm glad I broke it," Jenkins said when told of his franchise first. "I feel good, but I have to keep playing and strive for something better than turnovers."
Jenkins' returns of 36 and 39 yards emphatically ended the Rams' streak of five straight games without an opponent turnover.
The talented defender had slipped to the second round for the Rams after he was booted from the Florida team following a pair of marijuana-related incidents and finished his career at North Alabama. Then there was his acknowledgment that he fathered four children with three women.
Just two weeks ago, he and fellow rookie Chris Givens were inactive for the game against San Francisco for violating team rules.
All that was mere history on this big day.
"What a great game by Janoris," Rams defensive end Chris Long said. "I'm really proud of him. I'm happy for him. When you get one turnover for a score, your chances of winning go up exponentially, so if you get two, I don't know what the statistic is, but when you do it two times with the same player, it's pretty awesome."
Sam Bradford had a pair of 37-yard touchdown passes - to Lance Kendricks and Givens - for the Rams (4-6-1), who snapped a five-game winless streak and beat Arizona (4-7) for the second time this season.
The Rams' Steven Jackson rushed for 139 yards in 24 carries.
"That's Steven," coach Jeff Fisher said. "We built this game plan around him today. He took it over."
St. Louis outscored Arizona 17-0 in the second half.
Lindley, a sixth-round draft pick out of San Diego State and the third quarterback to start for Arizona this season, completed 31 of 52 for 312 yards and no touchdowns. The interceptions, especially the two returned for scores, outweighed anything else he did.
"I think you just have to understand he's a young player and he's got to understand he can't make a couple of those throws, especially the last one that was returned for a touchdown," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "That was a bad throw because he had Larry (Fitzgerald) down the sidelines. He's just got to step up and put it up."
Beanie Wells, back after missing seven games with a turf toe injury, had TD runs of 1 and 12 yards for the Cardinals.
Arizona led 17-14 at the half on Jay Feely's 32-yard field goal as the second quarter ended.
The third quarter, though, belonged to the Rams.
With St. Louis pinned at its 8-yard line, Jackson ran 46 yards, doubling his previous longest gain of the season. Two plays later, Givens beat rookie Justin Bethel down the left sideline for a 37-yard scoring reception to give the Rams their first lead, 21-17, with 9:58 left in the quarter.
The Rams threatened to extend the lead when Lindley threw right into the hands of linebacker Craigh Dahl, who returned it 38 yards to the Arizona 12. But after a holding penalty, Greg Zuerlein's 35-yard field goal try was wide left.
The Cardinals weren't so fortunate on Lindley's next bad pass. The rookie underthrew Fitzgerald by 10 yards. Jenkins caught it and in a play almost identical to his earlier TD, raced down the right sideline for the score that made it 28-17.
Dahl's interception also came when Lindley missed Fitzgerald.
"Those two where I was going to Larry, the two picks, were just real mental mistakes," Lindley said. "It was things that, it's unexplainable right now, but I made a bad play. Larry is doing the right thing. I'm just off a little bit on something, rushing something, not trusting what I'm seeing out there."
Since the retirement of Kurt Warner after the 2009 season, the Cardinals have had losing streaks of seven games, six games and seven games in successive years.
"Seven weeks in a row we've been in the same situation with the long faces," Fitzgerald said. "I don't think there is anything else to be said at this point. We all know what has to be done. We have to find a way to get a win. I am pretty much lost for words now after seven weeks of saying the same thing."
NOTES: The last rookie to return two picks for a touchdown was Bobby Franklin of the Cleveland Browns in 1960. ... Daryl Washington got his ninth sack, one shy of the Cardinals' record for a linebacker. ... Bradford came out of the game for one play after getting hit by Quentin Groves ... Zuerlein's failure on a 35-yard field goal was his shortest miss of the season.