Up next: Any more wins out there for Rams?

This was supposed to be the "easier" part of the schedule for the Rams. After navigating through the first seven games of the season with one win against teams that currently are a combined 48-29 and having played none of their division games, the Rams prepared to enter a six-game stretch that featured five games against division opponents, including two each against Arizona and Seattle.

Four of those six games are in the books, and there has only been a win over Cleveland, while falling twice to Arizona and once to Seattle, with two of the losses coming at home.

Sunday's 23-20 loss to the Cardinals featured a Patrick Peterson punt-return touchdown along with allowing Arizona running back Beanie Wells to ramble for a club-record 228 yards, 124 of which came on two plays.

Now, the Rams approach their final five games, which includes division-leader San Francisco twice, a road Monday trip to Seattle and games against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Those teams (counting the 49ers twice) have a combined record of 37-18.

Said coach Steve Spagnuolo, who now has a 10-33 record as the team's head coach, "My pride and competitiveness says that no matter what we've got to find a way to win. So that's where I'm at and I think the players feel the same way. So no matter what this week, guys will come back and work their tails off. Play for the fans, play for themselves. Represent them well, have a lot of pride. And go out and try to win a football game. That's how we'll approach it."

Spagnuolo has consistently had that same message, but the frustration is showing in his offense, which managed just 272 yards against Arizona and converted only 3-of-13 (23.1 percent) third-down opportunities. On two occasions Sunday, turnovers gave the Rams the ball at the Arizona 31- and 37-yard line and they not only didn't score any points, but had three-and-outs each time.

Said running back Steven Jackson, "We position ourselves a lot of times in these games - especially the last four or five weeks - to win the games. We keep coming up short, and we keep coming up short in areas, to be quite honest with you, on the offensive side of the ball which is very frustrating. Me being a part of that side of the ball, I'm definitely embarrassed.

"I take responsibility in that area as well. I don't know what we need to do, but hopefully we find an answer to it because when you have that field position, when you have the defense creating turnovers, we as a unit have to come out with points."

THE RAMS LOSS TO THE CARDINALS also included the same litany of issues that have created St. Louis' mind-numbing 2-9 record, which is tied for second-worst in the NFL with Minnesota: too many false starts, including one on first-and-goal from the 3-yard line; failure to capitalize on turnovers; and an abysmal third-down conversion rate of 23.1 percent (3-for-13).

The game began with five consecutive runs by Steven Jackson. One gained 19 yards, but the other four totaled 1 yard, including an odd decision to have Jackson run from the Wildcat on third-and-9. That play lost 1 yard.

The next Rams' possession began at the Cardinals' 31 thanks to a Rod Hood interception, but on first-and-10 from the 16, left tackle Adam Goldberg had Arizona linebacker Sam Acho zoom by him. Goldberg hit quarterback Sam Bradford from behind, and the ball was coughed up on a sack/fumble.

The next possessions were low-lighted by a Jason Brown false start on first down (three-and-out), a Harvey Dahl illegal-formation penalty that wiped out a completion to Brandon Lloyd on second-and-8 (another three-and-out when Brandon Gibson never turned around for a Bradford pass on third down) and a Lloyd false start on second-and-10.

Yet, the Rams led 7-3, thanks to Nick Miller's 88-yard punt return, when they began a possession on their own 20 with 3:52 left in the half. To that point, St. Louis had run 20 plays for 63 yards.

For a brief moment, the offense resembled that of a professional team. Running back Jerious Norwood gained 16 yards on three runs, Bradford hit Lloyd for 11 yards on third-and-4, and after a Lloyd drop on first down, Bradford hooked up with Gibson for 22 yards to the Arizona 26-yard line.

On the next play, Lloyd gathered in a Bradford pass for 26 yards, and the Rams were at the 3-yard line. But they quickly reverted back to their typical ways.

There was a Brown false start on first down, then a sack on second down, taking the ball back to the 17-yard line. The clock then went all the way down to 12 seconds left in the half before the Rams called their final timeout. They took one shot into the end zone, and then Josh Brown kicked a 35-yard field goal for a 10-3 halftime lead.

The apparent indecision resulted in coach Steve Spagnuolo addressing what happened before he was even asked about it after the game.

"Certainly, we can't go backwards with a 5-yard penalty; that's on everybody," Spagnuolo said. "We need to clean that up. And then to take the sack. At that particular point, my decision was to let it (clock) come down and kick the field goal. I just felt like it was going to be a tight football game, and points, we had to have points. I didn't want to take a chance of losing them, so I was trying to be smart there.

"We were a little bit in disarray, and then as the offensive coaches talked to me, they said, 'Let's take one shot.' And so I thought maybe that was a good thing to do, and then we kicked it. So that's why I did what I did at the end there. Certainly, we've got to find a way when we're at the 3-yard line to get it in the end zone."

Spagnuolo was more under siege than after any other game because of decisions not to go for first downs on fourth-and-short, not challenging a recovery of a Lance Kendricks fumble, and the apparent decision to have Donnie Jones punt the ball down the center of the field to Patrick Peterson, the result being an 80-yard touchdown.

During the week, Spagnuolo was asked if the Rams would kick to Peterson. Not pleased with the question, he said, "We're going to do what we gotta do to make sure that it's not an issue. How's that?"

On Sunday, Spagnuolo said, "The intent was not to go down the middle. It's tough. Tough to do that. Donnie's done a heck of a job for us now. (Peterson) is a good returner. As we studied it during the week, it was to kick it outside the numbers. If it went out of bounds, that was great. If not, we could pin him in there, which I thought we did in most instances. But we got bit again."

Yes, they did, in more ways than one. It's difficult to imagine them not getting bit in the final five games of the season.

LINEUP WATCH: With tackle Mark LeVoir out with a pectoral injury, and tackles Rodger Saffold (pectoral) and Jason Smith (concussion) both on injured reserve, the Rams shuffled their line. Right tackle Adam Goldberg moved to left tackle, right guard Harvey Dahl slid over to right tackle, and Jason Brown, who lost his center job two games previously, played right guard. Brown last played guard on the elft side with Baltimore in 2007. He had two false starts (one on first-and-goal from the 3-yard line) and one holding penalty.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Cardinals, who played in St. Louis until 1987, registered their seventh consecutive victory over the Rams on the road. The last time the Rams beat Arizona at home was in 2004.

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