Rams Take Advantage Of Saints


Kurt Warner shook off a bad first half like a 10-year veteran.

After an awful start, the NFL's leading passer was 10-for-12 for 153 yards in the second half to lead the St. Louis Rams to 43-12 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

"I kind of told myself at halftime I didn't want to go through a whole game playing that way," said Warner, who was 5-for-15 for 60 yards in the first half. "It's not the way I play football, so I took what the defense gave me and tried to go out and play the way I know how."

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Game Summary

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  • Warner's passer rating in the first half was 68.8, and in the second half it was 146.5. Teammates said his positive attitude never changed.

    "He was very poised," center Mike Gruttadauria said. "His demeanor was the same."

    Marshall Faulk scored on runs of 1 and 6 yards and Torry Holt added two touchdown catches for the Rams (9-2), who could clinch their first division title since 1985 with a Carolina loss against Atlanta on Sunday night.

    "The sooner, the better," defensive tackle D'Marco Farr said. "We've waited a long time for this."

    The Rams' average winning margin was 35-10 at home this season entering the game. They bettered that as they won their seventh straight game at the Trans World Dome going back to last season.

    Saints coach Mike Ditka had a tantrum after New Orleans (2-9) fell flat following a strong start. The Rams have outscored the opposition 52-0 in the second half, and Ditka was asked whether he was the "right man for the job."

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  • Saints' Coach Mike Ditka
  • Saints' Coach Mike Ditka
  • "Did I do anything out there wrong?" Ditka said. "Did I drop the ball? Did I miss the field goal? Did I miss the tackles? I'm not sure, did I throw the interception?"

    Warner's second pass of the game was a 25-yard touchdown to Holt, but later he had five straight incompletions, and the Rams led only 15-12. The Rams' biggest weapon in the half was kickoff returner Tony Horne, who had a 64-yarder to open the game, followed by 42- and 41-yarders on his next two despite squib kicks.

    Two of those returns, plus an interference call on Ashley Ambrose that gave the Rams 35 yards, were responsible for both of St. Louis' early scores. Holt's touchdown catches were his first since the second week of the season, and Faulk added a 1-yard run.

    The Saints outgained the Rams 202-78 in the half and held the NFL's top-rated offense to 11:07 in time of possession and only six first downs, but could muster only four field goals by Doug Brien. Brien missed his shortest kick of the day, a 24-yarder that hit the left upright and blew a chance to tie the game 15-15 with 7:19 to go in the third quarter.

    "Looking back on it, it was real crucial," Brien said. "At the time, it was just a bad kick."

    Warner was 5-for-5 for 75 yards on the Rams' first drive of the second half, capped by Faulk's 6-yard run that made it 22-12. Robert Holcombe's 3-yard run with 12:15 to go wrapped up a 67-yard drive, Warner's 24-yarder to Holt came on a 76-yard march, and James Hodgins tacked on a 1-yarder with 1:14 to go.

    Warner finished 15-for-27 for 213 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

    Faulk had only 21 yards on seven carries in the first half, but finished with 102 on 18 attempts. He has a career-best five 100-yard games this season.

    "I think the best thing that happened is we were standing in the huddle when they were flashing the stats right after halftime," Faulk said. "That rung a bell, and we went out there and executed."

    Holt has four touchdown passes, but hadn't made it to the end zone since the second game of the season.

    "I think it was a breakout game," said Holt, who caught five passes for 87 yards. "A couple of my teammates have been saying I needed one."

    The Saints were wihout Ricky Williams, who missed the game with turf toe. Billy Joe Hobert was 23-for-41 for 254 yards, but threw two interceptions in the second half. Andre Hastings caught nine passes for 113 yards.

    Willie Whitehead of the Saints used the throat-slash gesture after sacking Warner in the first half. The Saint weren't penalized, but Whitehead is subject to a fine for the action, banned this week by the NFL.

    "I do something that looks a little like a throat slash," Whitehead said. "It wasn't that. I was doing something else, I was giving to God. Nobody said anything about it on the field."

    Notes

  • The Rams have won six division games for the first time. The NFL went to the division format in 1967.
  • Farr had two sacks in the first quarter, then strained a hip flexor muscle and didn't return. Coach Dick Vermeil said there's a chance Farr could make his 76th consecutive start next week at Carolina.
  • Rams free safety Devin Bush left with injured ribs in the third quarter.
  • Rams defensive tackle Austin Robbins left with an injured leg in the first quarter, and cornerback Ashley Ambrose sprained his left ankle in the second half.
  • Vermeil evened his career record at 72-72. He's 8-2 against the Saints, including 5-0 as head coach at Philadelphia from 1976-82.

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