Every member of the St. Louis Rams defense knew what plagued their unit the most in recent weeks.
Turnovers. More specifically, the lack thereof.
The defense changed that in a big way Sunday, forcing four Ryan Lindley interceptions en route to a 31-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
It was the Rams’ first win since Oct. 4 and completed the season sweep of the Cardinals – that win in week five was over the Cardinals as well. It also moved the Rams to 3-0-1 against NFC West opponents, ensuring the Rams a winning record within the division.
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins did his part in the Rams win, intercepting the rookie Lindley twice and returning both – the first, a 36-yarder in the second quarter and the second a 39-yard dagger that made it 28-17 late in the third quarter – for touchdowns. The Rams also got interceptions from safety Craig Dahl and middle linebacker James Laurinaitis.
With the defense in control, the offense showed it could flex some muscle, too. After spotting the Cardinals a 14-7 lead on the strength of two Beanie Wells rushing touchdowns, the Rams drove 71 yards on six plays, ending with quarterback Sam Bradford finding tight end Lance Kendricks for a 37-yard strike.
On the first drive of the second half, running back Steven Jackson made his presence felt. On the first play of the drive, Jackson started right but cut back across the field to his left, finding plenty of daylight and rumbling 46 yards. Two plays later, Bradford hooked up with deep threat Chris Givens for a 37-yard bomb that gave the Rams a 21-17 lead they would never relinquish.
The big plays covered up an underwhelming day for Bradford, who was just 8-for-17 for 205 yards with the two touchdowns. The Rams nearly equaled that total on the ground, led by Jackson’s 139 yards. The 139 yards was easily Jackson’s highest single-game total on the year.
The game marked a bit of a redemption song for Givens and Jenkins. Both players were held out of the Rams’ Nov. 11 contest against the San Francisco 49ers for disciplinary reasons, and neither had a particularly strong showing in last week’s loss to the New York Jets. But Jenkins’ two interceptions changed the game, and Givens finished with five catches for 115 yards and a score. It was Givens’ first career 100-yard receiving game.
The Rams as a whole will now look for some redemption with the 49ers coming to town. Even without Givens and Jenkins, the Rams were in position to win the game two weeks ago in San Francisco. But multiple missed opportunities left the two teams locked 24-24 after 75 minutes, a rare tie in the NFL.
Opportunities missed had been a theme in the Rams’ five-game streak without forcing a turnover. With that burden off their back, the Rams will look to right another wrong this coming weekend.