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Warner passes for 401 yards, overcomes turnovers

11/19/2001

FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- Kurt Warner grasped the ball with his
healed right thumb and threw the New England Patriots off their
winning track.

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
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.