Panthers Claw Wounded Rams

Panthers quarterback Steve Beuerlein sets to pass during the first quarter against the Rams. AP

Marshall Faulk was a no-go, and that slowed the St. Louis Rams.

Coach Mike Martz, who played without his two biggest stars, wasn't using Faulk's pre-game knee injury as an excuse after the Super Bowl champions were upset by the Carolina Panthers 27-24 Sunday night.

"We did miss him, but that's not why we lost," Martz said. "They did a good job against our offensive line, and we just made too many mistakes."

Faulk, after having his right knee drained before the game, joined injured quarterback Kurt Warner on the sidelines. He was scheduled to have loose cartilage removed early Monday, an operation that team doctors said would sideline him for 2-3 weeks.

Missing last year's MVP and the one of the midseason favorites for the award this season was too much for the Rams to overcome.

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Game Summary

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  • Steve Beuerlein threw two touchdown passes, and Joe Nedney hit a 46-yard game-winning field goal with 40 seconds to go.

    "Nobody gave us a chance to keep it close with these guys," Beuerlein said. "I have a lot of friends on that team, and I told them we needed this thing a heck of a lot more than you did."

    The Panthers (4-5) handed the Rams (7-2) their second loss in three games and ended their 15-game winning streak in the Trans World Dome.

    "They made all the plays," Rams cornerback Dexter McCleon said. "We were coming hard at them and they were able to get the quick passes off."

    Tim Biakabutuka set up the game-winner wita 10-yard gain on fourth-and-2 from the St. Louis 42. Nedney was perfect on four field-goal attempts, also hitting from 35, 45 and 24 yards, and has missed only once in 17 attempts this season.

    "What a wonderful weapon," coach George Seifert said.

    Beuerlein said he lobbied Seifert to go for it on the fourth-down play.

    "I could tell he was burning up inside," Beuerlein said. "He didn't want to punt it."

    Martz, the architect of the NFL's No. 1-ranked offense, went conservative before the Panthers' winning drive. On fourth-and-6 from the Panthers 35 with 6:31 to go, he elected to punt, and rookie John Baker shanked an 8-yarder.

    "I thought our defense would hold them," Martz said. "I thought if we could pin them inside the 20, we could get into a situation to kick a field goal.

    "We just couldn't stop them."

    Faulk, who leads the NFL with 1,326 yards from scrimmage, has been playing with a sore knee most of the season. An MRI on Monday revealed floating cartilage, torn scar tissue and an enlarged bruise, but he decided to postpone surgery until the offseason before the knee locked up on him during pre-game warmups.

    Warner broke the little finger of his throwing hand in the first half of a 54-34 loss at Kansas City on Oct. 23 and will miss at least two more games.

    But his backup, Trent Green, was 29-of-42 for 431 yards and two touchdowns. Faulk's backup, Justin Watson, scored on a 3-yard run for St. Louis.

    But Watson finished with just 12 yards on 12 carries, and the Rams ran for only 31 yards overall as their NFL-record string of 14 consecutive 30-point plus games came to an end.

    The Rams' 12-game winning streak against NFC West opponents also is history, and their division lead is down to one game over the New Orleans Saints. The rematch against the Panthers is Dec. 3 in Charlotte, N.C.

    The Rams took a 24-16 lead in the third quarter when McCleon intercepted Beuerlein's pass on the Panthers' first play after Green's 4-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce. Watson scored five plays later on a 3-yard run.

    Carolina tied it on a 13-yard pass from Beuerlein to Donald Hayes, and Beuerlein ran it in for a 2-point conversion with 10:43 to go. The score came only two plays after Doug Evans recovered his second fumble of the game, this time after Bruce coughed up the ball at the St. Louis 26.

    "It's all in the athletic ability, it's all I can say," Beuerlein said of his converson run. "I think it was divine intervention."

    Notes

  • Opponents have scored first in eight of the Rams' nine games. The exception was San Diego, a 57-31 loser in Week 5.
  • Pete Stoyanovich, the Rams' replacement kicker for the injured Jeff Wilkins (quadriceps), missed badly from 50 and 37 yards in the second quarter. Wilkins, who has missed three games, is expected back next week.
  • The Panthers allowed only four touchdown passes their first eight games.


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