Cardinals edge Rams 23-20Posted: Updated:
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Patrick Peterson tied an NFL record, bedeviling St. Louis Rams special teamers for the second time in three weeks. Beanie Wells set a franchise record.
Somehow, the Arizona Cardinals didn't win big. They had just enough to make it seven in a row in the city they fled in 1987.
Wells had 228 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown in only his third career 100-yard game and Peterson became the fourth player in league history with four punt returns for a touchdown in a season in a 23-20 victory on Sunday.
"The kid's amazing," Wells said of Peterson. "I mean, he's a beast."
Wells broke loose for 71 and 53 yards and rebounded after his fumble led to the tying score for St. Louis. The 53-yarder came on the possession after his turnover and set up Jay Feely's go-ahead 22-yard field goal with 4:12 remaining.
Wells aggravated a lingering right knee injury on the fumble, but couldn't wait to get back out there. He set the record with a 14-yard gain to the Rams 34 on the game's next-to-last play to help secure the Cardinals' third win in four weeks.
The lone regret? Not going the distance on either of his long carries.
"I blame it on my knee brace," Wells said with a laugh. "I've got a big old offensive lineman's knee brace."
Rookie Sam Acho also had a career day on defense with two sacks and a fumble recovery.
Arizona (4-7) overcame another awful outing from John Skelton, who made his fourth straight start in place of injured Kevin Kolb and was 12 for 23 for 114 yards and two interceptions.
Skelton didn't mind that the Rams seemed to be most interested in stopping the pass.
"You're always going to have ups and downs, but I don't think anybody lost confidence in the offense," Skelton said. "Beanie had a great day and a lot of it goes to him for working hard."
Brandon Lloyd's 16-yard TD catch from Sam Bradford tied it at 20 midway through the fourth quarter. Nick Miller had an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first for the Rams (2-9) only three days after he re-signed with the team.
The Rams juggled their offensive line to little effect, sliding guard Harvey Dahl to tackle, shifting Adam Goldberg to left tackle and inserting Jason Brown at guard two games after Brown lost his center job. Steven Jackson was limited to 64 yards with a 3.8-yard average and Bradford passed for 203 yards.
Peterson's 99-yard punt return stunned the Rams in overtime three weeks ago in Arizona and he was untouched on an 80-yard return in the third quarter, dodging just a few tacklers before finding clear sailing to put Arizona up 20-10. St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo had vowed that the rookie would not beat the Rams again and Donnie Jones did a good job of directional punting except for one effort.
"We got bit again," Spagnuolo said.
Peterson is the fourth player with four punt returns in a season and the first in NFL history with four returns of 80-plus yards. The cornerback from LSU was the fifth pick in the draft.
Wells was an even bigger factor, eclipsing the previous franchise mark of 214 yards by LeShon Johnson in 1996 at New Orleans. In the earlier meeting against the Rams, Wells had just 20 yards on 10 carries.
The Rams are the worst in the NFL against the run. But they'd been much improved in four games since surrendering 253 yards to the Cowboys' DeMarco Murray, holding two opponents to fewer than 100 yards.
"Every week we talk about stopping the run, and when you don't this is what can happen," middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "We gave up too many big plays."
Acho has five sacks, three against the Rams. His fumble recovery set up Wells' 7-yard scoring run midway through the third quarter.
The Cardinals overcame three turnovers to keep their dominance going in St. Louis, the town they departed for the desert in 1987. It's their longest road winning streak against any opponent. They're only 2-5 on the road this year.
Clock management cost the Rams a chance for a touchdown at the end of the half. Lloyd's 26-yard catch had them at the 3 with 43 seconds left, but after a false start and Acho's second sack for a 9-yard loss, at least 10 seconds were wasted before St. Louis called the last timeout with 12 seconds left.
Spagnuolo wanted to kick a field goal then but gave the offense one more chance, an overthrown pass in the end zone, before settling for a 10-3 lead at the break.
"I just felt like it was going to be a tight game and we had to have points, and I didn't want to stand a chance of losing them," Spagnuolo said. "So I was trying to be smart there. We were in a little bit of disarray."
The Rams re-signed Miller on Thursday after placing wide receiver Mark Clayton on injured reserve with a knee injury. He gave them the lead on their only big play of the first half, skirting the defense and scoring untouched with a convoy the last 30 yards of the return.
Notes: The Cardinals have won 10 of 11 overall in the series. ... Other players with four punt returns for a TD are Devin Hester (2007), Rick Upchurch (1978) and Jack Christiansen (1951), who was a rookie when he first set the record. ... Wells has a career-best eight touchdowns rushing, one more than his rookie year in 2009. ... Wearing a No. 1 Rams jersey, St. Louis hip hop artist Nelly participated in the coin toss. ... Miller's punt return for a TD was the Rams' first since an 85-yarder by Dante Hall on Sept. 30, 2007 at Dallas.