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Rams 31, Saints 21

This day, Rams championship-driven

Lowly St. Louis beats up Saints

By R.B. Fallstrom
Associated Press / October 31, 2011

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ST. LOUIS - Nothing in the St. Louis Rams’ first six games indicated they were capable of even keeping this one close.

Maybe the cross-town Cardinals’ pregame appearance with the World Series trophy inspired them to pull off a shocker of their own. A few choice words from their star player helped, too.

Steven Jackson awoke in the middle of the night on game day, deciding he’d tell teammates enough was enough and that no way the Rams were this awful. Then he led by example with two touchdowns in his first 100-yard game in three seasons, helping St. Louis earn its first win with a 31-21 upset of the New Orleans Saints yesterday.

“I think the Cardinals being here was great for the city,’’ Jackson said. “Whoever showed up today, regardless if the place was empty, today was the day.

“We came out with a mind-set we were going to fight.’’

Drew Brees barely kept alive his touchdown streak (35 games) on a meaningless score in the final seconds a week after throwing five scoring passes in a 62-7 rout of Indianapolis. Brees was intercepted twice, too, with Darian Stewart’s pick and 27-yard TD return putting the game away with 2:51 to go.

“As you look at the cardinal sins of football, we committed quite a few of those today,’’ Brees said. “Obviously, we gave them a lot of momentum.’’

The NFC South-leading Saints (5-3) were averaging a league-best 35 points, but never got on track against a defense ranked near the bottom of the league. The Rams (1-6) had a season-high six sacks, three by Chris Long, after entering the game with just 11.

“We always thought we had that in us,’’ coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “It was a wonderful weekend for St. Louis fans.’’

Saints pass catchers were bottled up by a secondary missing its top three players, and the rushing game totaled just 56 yards on 20 carries. Saints radio reported that guard Carl Nicks and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer had to be separated after squabbling near the end of the game.

The Rams trailed by double digits in each of their first six games, and before yesterday had the lead for only 6:28 all season.

The Saints were held scoreless in the first half for the first time since 2007, mustering just 94 yards total offense and going 1 for 6 on third down. Watching from the booth while recovering from a knee injury, coach Sean Payton detected a lack of effort.

“They certainly played with more energy than we did,’’ Payton said. “I just thought we looked flat.’’

The Rams wore throwback jerseys in a nod to their 1999 Super Bowl championship team, and the Cardinals’ appearance helped fire up a crowd growing accustomed to disappointment.

Manager Tony La Russa donned a Sam Bradford jersey and Game 7 winner Chris Carpenter went out for the coin toss wearing a Jackson jersey.

Rams players attended Game 3 of the World Series in Texas last week the night before their 34-7 loss to the Cowboys.

“I very, very much appreciate Tony and his players for coming over today,’’ Spagnuolo said. “I wanted them to know how much that means to us.’’

A.J. Feeley made his second straight start in place of Bradford (high left ankle sprain), and threw his first touchdown pass of the season in a mistake-free day.

Jackson had 159 yards on 25 carries, including a 32-yard jaunt on fourth and 2 to set up his second score that made it 24-0.

Jonathan Vilma got the Saints on the board after recovering Feeley’s fumble on a sack by Malcolm Jenkins, and Pierre Thomas scored with 10 minutes left to cut the gap to 24-14.

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