The Cardinals continued to be in the holiday spirit on Sunday at home vs the Rams – in that they were more than happy to give the ball away in critical stretches of the game.
Janoris Jenkins returned two Ryan Lindley interceptions for touchdowns to carry the Rams over the Cards, 31-17, at University of Phoenix Stadium.
In addition to the big plays, Jenkins, a rookie out of North Alabama, helped pitch a second-half shutout while limiting star wideout Larry Fitzgerald to three catches for 31 yards.
Sam Bradford completed just 8-of-17 passes with an interception, but totaled 205 yards and two scores through the air for St. Louis (4-6-1), which had not won since downing the Cardinals on Oct. 4.
Steven Jackson amassed a season-high 139 yards on 24 carries in the win.
Lindley, starting in place of the ineffective John Skelton, threw for 312 yards with four interceptions on 31-of-52 attempts in his first NFL start. The rookie from San Diego State’s turnovers resulted in a subpar 44.7 quarterback rating.
“It seems like for weeks we have been talking about turnovers. We kept saying often times they come in bunches and they did today,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said.
Beanie Wells returned from a seven-game absence and ran for two scores in the loss, Arizona’s (4-7) seventh straight following a 4-0 start.
The Cardinals led, 17-14, at the break and crossed midfield on the opening possession of the second half. But the drive stalled, and Jackson ripped off a 46-yard run — his longest since the season opener last season — on the St. Louis’ first play of the half.
Two plays later, Bradford fired downfield for Chris Givens, who outran Justin Bethel along the left sideline and made a diving catch as he slid across the goal line for a go-ahead, 37-yard touchdown.
The Rams failed to capitalize on Lindley’s second interception when Greg Zuerlein missed a 35-yard field goal, but Jenkins made sure the rookie’s next mistake resulted in points for the visitors.
Lindley, off his back foot, underthrew Fitzgerald, and Jenkins made the adjustment on the interception, bringing it back 39 yards untouched for a 28-17 lead with 2:28 remaining in the third quarter.
Zuerlein tacked on a 19-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter, and the Rams turned it over twice in the red zone in the final three minutes. Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis came away with an interception off a deflection at the 18-yard line, and an 8-yard reception by Rob Housler on 4th-and-10 from the 11 essentially ended any chance of a comeback.
“There is a lot of things we have to work on based on the outcome of this game,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We had some opportunities in the second half on throws and we missed them. You can’t do that.”
Arizona’s opening drive lasted 15 plays, covered 91 yards and took nearly nine minutes off the clock. A key personal foul penalty on Rams cornerback Quintin Mikell on 3rd-and-18 kept the drive alive, and Wells capped it by pounding his way into the end zone from a yard out.
On the first play of the second quarter, Lindley threw a quick pass intended for LaRod Stephens-Howling. Jenkins jumped the route, stepped in front of the running back and took the interception 36 yards the other way for a score.
Wells scored again midway through the second when he took a delayed draw and outran Cortland Finnegan to the right pylon for a 12-yard TD.
Bradford tried forcing a pass in the end zone on the ensuing drive and was picked off by Patrick Peterson, but the Rams got the ball right back and Bradford hooked up with Lance Kendricks on a 37-yard score with 1:53 to play.
Lindley ran an effective two-minute drill and managed to get into field-goal range before halftime, as Jay Feely’s 32-yard kick put the Cardinals on top, 17-14.