8:30 PM ET, November 18, 2001
Warner completed 30 of 42 passes for 401 yards and three touchdowns, and St. Louis won 24-17 Sunday night despite his two interceptions and injuries that knocked five Rams out of the game. None returned. "The thumb feels good again," he said. "It's exciting to get out there and throw the ball the way you want to. It's probably as good as I've felt this year." Even before the game against a team that was 5-2 in its previous seven games, coach Mike Martz knew how well Warner was throwing. "I watched him in warmups. I've never seen him like that. He was unconscious," Martz said. The Patriots (5-5) controlled the NFL's most productive offense for most of the first half, leading 10-7 until the final minute. That's when Warner completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Marshall Faulk that put St. Louis (8-1) ahead to stay. The 97-yard drive began when Aeneas Williams recovered Antowain Smith's fumble as the Patriots appeared about to make it 17-7. "No matter what happens the rest of the year, the telling point about this team was when the defense took the ball away at the 3-yard line," Martz said. New England's other turnovers came on two interceptions by the NFL's fourth-ranked defense against Tom Brady. "It's not like they stopped us. If anything, we're just stopping ourselves," Brady said. "We played against a real good team and I think we were right there with them." Brady dropped to 5-3 since taking over after Drew Bledsoe suffered bleeding in his chest after being hit by Mo Lewis of the New York Jets. For the first time since then, Bledsoe was cleared by doctors for contact and was the No. 2 quarterback. He didn't get into the game, but the defeat could energize the growing quarterback controversy. The Patriots' only offensive touchdown came on Brady's 10-yard pass to David Patten with 7:46 left in the game, making it 24-17. But they never got the ball back as St. Louis held it for the remaining 14 plays. "We can look at this game and learn from it, but I think we can also look at this game and say we can play with anybody," Patriots cornerback Ty Law said. The Rams' defense was solid despite the loss of two of its three first-round draft choices this year, defensive tackle Damione Lewis and strong safety Adam Archuleta, plus linebacker Mark Fields and end Leonard Little. Wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim left in the first quarter with a sprained left ankle. "It was a pretty impressive effort," Warner said. "With some guys going down, everybody else pulled together and played great." In the second quarter, Archuleta sustained a concussion and Lewis broke a bone in his right foot. In the third quarter, Fields sprained his left ankle, and Little sprained his knee. Lewis was expected to undergo surgery Monday. Warner's two interceptions gave him nine in three games as all four first-half scoring plays resulted from turnovers. Warner threw a 16-yard scoring pass to Torry Holt on the third play after Dexter McCleon's interception gave St. Louis the ball at the New England 18. "That ball had vapor coming off of it," Martz said of the touchdown pass. The Patriots tied the game on Terrell Buckley's 52-yard interception return with 1:55 left in the first quarter. On the Rams' second offensive play after that, Tedy Bruschi intercepted another pass by Warner, giving the Patriots the ball at their 40. That drive ended with Adam Vinatieri's 33-yard field goal that gave New England a 10-7 lead 54 seconds into the second quarter. The Patriots nearly increased that lead, moving 64 yards in 11 plays to a first down at the 4 before Williams recovered Smith's fumble. "We don't get rattled," Rams receiver Ricky Proehl said. "We know what we're capable of doing." Warner needed just 1:41 to move the Rams 97 yards in eight plays, ending with the pass to Faulk 31 seconds before halftime. Warner completed seven of eight passes for all 97 yards, with the only incompletion being a spike to stop the clock on the play before the touchdown. "Every time they get the ball, it could be a momentum shift," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "It's a potential touchdown regardless of where they get it." Jeff Wilkins' 35-yard field goal made it 17-10 after three quarters, and Warner threw his last touchdown pass -- an 11-yarder to James Hodgins -- 4:28 into the fourth quarter.Game notes
Kurt Warner has his eyes on the Niners.
Smith was held to 36 yards rushing after gaining 117 and 100 in his previous two games. ... Holt, Faulk and Isaac Bruce each caught seven passes for the Rams. ... St. Louis is 5-0 on the road, outscoring opponents 143-74. ... New England's three-game home winning streak ended. ... Buckley's last interception return for a touchdown also came against St. Louis on Sept. 4, 2000, when he was with Denver.
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