Rams capitalize on Packers' mistakes

ST. LOUIS – Another dome, another ugly game for the Green Bay Packers. Whenever the Packers hit the artificial turf, more often than not, they seem to stumble, fumble and bumble the game away. Once again, Green Bay burned itself on the carpet.<p>

Plagued by four turnovers and an ineffective pass rush, the Packers dropped their second straight game as the St. Louis Rams capitalized with a 34-24 victory Sunday before 66,201 fans in the Edward Jones Dome.

Green Bay's loss, combined with Minnesota's victory over the Denver Broncos further buried the Packers in the NFC North Division. The Packers (3-4) will try to regroup during their upcoming bye week, then figure out how to pressure the quarterback when they resume their season Nov. 2 in, of all places, the Metrodome against the 6-0 Vikings.

"We just played stupid football today," said Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman. "We didn't do the things you have to do to win a football game, particularly against a good team, particularly on the road."

The Rams turned three of Green Bay's turnovers into 17 points. In a game similar to their 2001 playoff loss to the Rams in the same building, the Packers self-destructed early and never were able to get it together. Besides fumbling the ball away twice, the Packers were penalized six times and miscommunicated on a botched punt return. Brett Favre threw an interception late in the game that helped the Rams (4-2) seal their third straight victory and 10th straight at home.

"We had our share of plays, but in the game of football, especially when you play away, turnovers are going to make the difference," said Favre, who threw six interceptions in a 45-17 playoff loss to the Rams after the 2001 season. "That was absolutely the deciding factor today. Our turnovers combined with their ability to get something out of them was the difference. We did get 10 points off of their turnovers also, but giving the ball away just kills you."

The Rams shut down Ahman Green, who entered the game as the NFL's second-leading rusher. Green was held to a season-low 35 yards on 20 carries, an average of 1.8 yards per carry. Take away Najeh Davenport's 76-yard touchdown run late in the game, and the Packers were held to 40 yards rushing on 25 carries out of their 372 total yards.

"Well, you have to understand that this is a very good, very fast run defense," said Sherman. "They got us from the backside, from the backside chase. I thought they played real well. We were a shoe tackle away from breaking a run that we have broken in the past that we didn't break today."

St. Louis, which raised its takeaway total this season to 16 including an NFL-high 10 fumble recoveries, converted two of Green Bay's three first-half turnovers into touchdowns and took a 21-10 lead.

Prior to Green's fateful fumble in overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs a week earlier, the Packers had 280 touches without a fumble. But Green and Davenport each coughed the ball up in the first half, and the Packers botched a punt return when a ‘live' ball bounced off the back of Al Harris' leg and was recovered by the Rams.

Green's fifth fumble of the season late in the second quarter spoiled what was shaping up to be a Packers' scoring drive. The Rams, instead, recovered the loose ball on their own 29, then marched downfield behind quarterback Marc Bulger, who often had plenty of time to pass the ball. After tossing strikes of 13, 19 and 9 yards to wide receiver Isaac Bruce, Bulger hit wide receiver Torry Holt, who beat cornerback Mike McKenzie on a slant route for a 9-yard touchdown, giving the Rams a 21-10 lead with 57 seconds left in the second quarter.

"I think our coverage was decent," said safety Darren Sharper. "You got to call it like you see it. I am not saying someone specific, but you can't have a guy back there patting the ball with time."

Bulger, who improved to 10-2 as a starter for the Rams, completed 22 of 34 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted twice off passes that were deflected at the line of scrimmage.

"It doesn't matter who the receiver is, if you don't have time to throw it, it's not going to get done," said Bulger. "For (running back) Arlen (Harris) to come in with that line and to have as much time as I have right now, it's just fun out there because I don't have to worry about getting hit."

The Rams entered the game with the NFL's top-ranked passing offense, averaging 275.2 yards per game, and quickly took advantage of the Packers' first turnover of the game, taking a 7-3 lead on Bulger's 39-yard touchdown pass to Holt. Packers punt returner Antonio Chatman called for a fair catch and let the ball bounce to the turf, but Harris, who was blocking for Chatman, was within a few yards and the ball deflected off the back of his leg, allowing the Rams' James Whitley to recover on Green Bay's 40.

"Al Harris was so tuned in tune to his defender that he could not see or hear what was going on," Sherman explained. "It's unfortunate that that happened. He was giving great effort on the play, doing a great job as a jammer but unfortunately the ball hit him and it resulted in points."

Arlen Harris, who stepped in for the injured Lamar Gordon early on and rushed for 79 second-half yards and 85 for the game, scored on a 3-yard run with 3:47 left in the first quarter as the Rams went up 14-3. Bulger's 24-yard pass to Bruce followed by his 20-yard strike to tight end Brandon Manumaleuna to the 3 set up the touchdown.

The Packers kept close, thanks to two St. Louis turnovers in the first half, converting both into 10 points.

Green turned a screen pass into a 21-yard touchdown early in the second quarter to close the Packers to 14-10. Favre's 26-yard pass to wide receiver Javon Walker keyed the three-play drive, which began on cornerback Al Harris' interception of a deflected pass at the Rams' 47.

Defensive end Aaron Kampman, starting in place of the injured Joe Johnson, deflected Bulger's second pass attempt of the game and safety Marques Anderson out-jumped everyone in the vicinity to grab his first interception of the season.

Green ran three times, pounding the ball to the 19, and Ryan Longwell booted a 33-yard field goal to give the Packers a short-lived 3-0 lead.

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