It wasn't as if Vitt was predicting the Rams would duplicate that against the Texans. He was simply trying to convey the message that no matter how bad things appear, there is always hope. So it was that the Rams fell behind the Texans 24-3 at halftime, and then scored 10 points in the last 30 seconds of the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime.
Eerily, the final score of 33-27 was the same overtime score for that win in Seattle. Of course, the major differences were rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick being at quarterback this time instead of Marc Bulger, and the fact that the Rams needed a successful onside kick to get the ball back to tie.
This time, kicker Jeff Wilkins made a 47-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. Last year against Seattle, it was a 36-yard kick. This time, wide receiver Kevin Curtis scored on a 56-yard pass play to win the game. Last year, it was 52-yard pass to Shaun McDonald.
"This might top it," guard Adam Timmerman said.
Mostly, it was because of the play of Fitzpatrick, who replaced backup Jamie Martin in the first quarter after Martin experienced blurred vision following a sack.
Asked about any big comebacks he'd engineered in college at Harvard, Fitzpatrick said, "Yeah, my first time I ever played at Harvard was against Princeton. I came in down, and we won the game. And then my next game, which was my first start, we were down I think 21-0 at halftime to Dartmouth and we came back to win."
The matter-of-fact way Fitzpatrick plays belies his status as a rookie seventh-round pick. But the players notice.
Said Curtis, whose only catch of the game was the game-winner, "He came in and acted like he's done it before. He wasn't nervous. He just came in and played the game."
Added Timmerman, "He did a great job. He definitely deserves a lot of credit. He has a lot of poise. He has great presence. We cranked out some plays and were moving down the field. He knew where guys were going to be. It was a couple of times where he could have done better, but he came back and redeemed himself."
Fitzpatrick exhibited the same traits he did in the preseason when he beat out Jeff Smoker for the No. 3 job.
"I don't think you can say enough," Vitt said. "He was under duress a lot. Most of the time, all day, the Texans showed some different looks. It's what we talk about all week long in practice. He's got poise, he's got intelligence, he's got a strong arm, he's got great feet, and he's got the ability to make the impromptu play."
Most notably, Fitzgerald came through in clutch situations and also ran for 23 yards on three attempts to aid the comeback.
In the second half, Fitzpatrick completed four of six passes for 59 yards and three first downs on third down. One was a 19-yard touchdown to Torry Holt. He also ran for a first down on third-and-10, hit wide receiver Isaac Bruce for a 43-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-6, and the Texans were guilty of a 35-yard pass interference penalty on third-and-3.
The touchdown to Bruce cut Houston's lead to 27-24 with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. But the biggest third-down success might have been an 11-yard completion to Holt on third-and-9 from the Rams 11-yard line in overtime. That kept the possession alive, and two plays later Curtis streaked to the end zone after a quick hitch pass to the left.
Fitzpatrick exuded a confidence that was difficult to explain. He said, "You've always got a chance. The biggest thing when you're in those situations, you need to get everybody around you fired up. I knew there was no way we were going to lose that game. You sort of get that feeling of invincibility, with the way the offense was playing late and the way the defense really stepped up."
As for the coming week against Washington, Vitt wasn't ready to publicly state who would start at quarterback. Martin was visiting an ophthalmologist Monday to check his continued blurred vision.
Asked whether Fitzpatrick would get the first start of his career Sunday, Vitt said, "I'm not here to discuss that right now. We'll wait and see."
Quotes and Notes
--Quarterback Jamie Martin left the game Sunday in the first quarter because of blurred vision after a sack. It was first announced that Martin had suffered a concussion.
"He didn't get a concussion, but he took a hard hit and had some blurred vision," interim head coach Joe Vitt said.
Martin went to a Houston hospital, then got back in time to see rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick throw the winning touchdown pass to Kevin Curtis.
"They were worried about it being part of the eye, the retina, because my vision was gone," Martin said. "They just wanted to make sure it was safe to fly home. "
--Left tackle Orlando Pace missed some practice time before the game against Houston because of a hamstring injury. He played the first half against the Texans, then sat out the second half.
"I think I re-aggravated it a little bit," Pace said. "And I have a hip flexor, or something like that. I think I was trying to overcompensate for the hamstring, and ended up kind of banging my hip up a little bit. I could barely move out there. So they thought it was best for me to sit out the second half."
Pace had an MRI Monday, but the results were not immediately known.
--Chris Claiborne not only was benched for Sunday's game against Houston, but he never got on the field after being signed in the offseason to be the team's starting middle linebacker. Replacing him was Trev Faulk.
"He's a little bit quicker," interim coach Joe Vitt said of Faulk. "Has a little bit better range. Technically, he has to work on some technique things now. He has to play with a better pad level and better footwork. We got more production out of that position (Sunday). We haven't shut the door on Chris. Chris is going to get more work next week."At this point, when we played (Sunday), we're going to do whatever we can to put our best 11 players on both sides of the ball out there. We're going to judge that on how they do in practice. If you perform well in practice, then you're going to get the chance to play. If not, it's the next guy's turn."
--QB Jamie Martin, who experienced blurred vision Sunday after a sack, visited an ophthalmologist Monday for further tests.
--LT Orlando Pace underwent an MRI Monday after aggravating a hamstring injury along with suffering a hip flexor.
--SS Adam Archuleta did not play Sunday because of a concussion suffered the previous week against Arizona. Archuleta visited a specialist in Los Angeles last Friday, and experienced some headaches standing on the sideline Sunday.
--CB DeJuan Groce, who was inactive Sunday because of a concussion, is expected to be available for the game against Washington.
--MLB Trev Faulk started Sunday for the first time this season, and played well. He replaced Chris Claiborne and is expected to start again against Washington.
--MLB Chris Claiborne was replaced as the starter Sunday against Houston by Trev Faulk, and did not play in the game. Coaches believed the defense's production would be better with Faulk.
REPORT CARD VS. TEXANS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Rookie QB Ryan Fitzpatrick made his season debut in relief of Jamie Martin and threw three touchdown passes, guiding the Rams to a 33-27 overtime victory. Fitzpatrick had a passer rating of 117.4, and 105 of his 310 yards came after an onside kick recovery late in the fourth quarter. Pass protection was again a problem, as Martin and Fitzpatrick were sacked a total of seven times.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- RB Steven Jackson had 110 yards on 25 carries one week after being stuffed by the Cardinals. Jackson scored on a 1-yard run, two plays after it appeared he fumbled at the goal line, but officials ruled him down by contact.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- A tale of two halves. In the first half, QB David Carr completed 13 of 17 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns, and also rushed three times for 28 yards. His first-half passer rating was 147.3. In the second half, Carr did complete 12 of 17 passes, but for only 122 yards and no touchdowns, and he rushed once for 11 yards. CB Chris Johnson competed better in the second half, and the Rams improved on third down. In the first half, the Texans were 5-of-7 on third down. They were 2-of-6 in the second half.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- A run defense that had been gashed numerous times this season allowed just 88 yards on 26 carries by Texans running backs. Domanick Davis had 78 yards, but he needed 25 attempts to do it.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- There was enough bad not to give this grade, but the excellence of PK Jeff Wilkins and his responsibility for the victory has to be recognized. In a span of about 30 seconds at the end of the fourth quarter and at the start of overtime, Wilkins hit an onside kick perfectly, made a 47-yard field goal to tie the game with four seconds remaining and then drilled the overtime kickoff into the end zone. The bad? An offside penalty by Chris Johnson on a first-half kickoff cost the Rams a fumble recovery and led to a Houston touchdown after a 40-yard return. The return game for the Rams was poor, as Terry Fair averaged 17.0 yards on four kickoff returns. But Wilkins overcame it all.
COACHING: A -- Give idle coach Mike Martz an assist for this victory. Martz is as responsible as anyone for Fitzpatrick performing as he did. Interim coach Joe Vitt continues to preach individual responsibility, and while it took until the second half, perhaps the message is getting through.
Receiver Anquan Boldin is mad, frustrated and still simmering Monday from what he considered poor officiating in a 24-17 loss to Jacksonville.
Boldin thought the Jaguars secondary got away with several plays that should have drawn penalties Sunday.
The Cardinals lost their composure in the loss, with 11 penalties for 105 yards. Boldin twice was called for personal fouls, once for flinging cornerback Terry Cousin to the ground and once for removing his helmet to show his disapproval that interference or illegal contact wasn't called.
"Honestly, I watched film today, and a lot of this stuff is pathetic, just to say the least," Boldin said Monday. "There were times they (the officials) were right there. I can see if it was a situation where they were blocked or really couldn't see. You had a plain view."
Coach Dennis Green didn't seem to disagree. He was asked if it was true that the Cardinals don't get calls from the officials.
"I think it's pretty obvious to anybody that watches television and hears the commentators," he said.
The Cardinals are the fourth most penalized team in the league and have been called for 23 penalties in the past two weeks.
"Obviously, we did some things we weren't supposed to do," Green said. "We made mistakes. All of that's true, but if you are going to hold everybody accountable, hold everybody accountable."
When asked if a lack of discipline played a part in the penalties, Green said he has never used the word "discipline" in his years as a coach.
"I think most players play hard," he said. "I think some guys get excitable about it, guys disagree with some of the calls. Guys feel that the play that they could have made, they didn't get a chance to because of the defense that was against them, and reacted in what I would consider a negative fashion because it takes you out of your game. You can't be yelling at the officials and all those other things.
"Penalties hurt us, and I think our guys understand it. But they're high-strung, and they should be high-strung. I don't think you can be successful without being high-strung.
"I think (Sunday), it didn't help us."
Quotes and Notes
--Cornerback Antrel Rolle returned to Phoenix last week after spending most of the past two months away while rehabilitating his knee injury.
Rolle was injured in the second game of the season and hasn't played since the third game of the season. He had torn meniscus repaired, normally an eight- to 12-week injury. The team didn't place him on injured reserve, hoping he would be able to return late this year.
If he progresses in the next few weeks while working with trainers, the Cardinals are hopeful he can play the final two or three games.--Kicker Neil Rackers struggled a little with the swirling winds Sunday at Sun Devil Stadium, missing his first field goal of the season. Rackers had made all 31 attempts this season until missing one in the fourth quarter against Jacksonville.
--WR Bryant Johnson's injured right shoulder made remarkable progress last week and he was able to play against Jacksonville. Johnson wasn't supposed to play Sunday unless there was an emergency, but he was pressed into duty in the fourth quarter.
He responded with five catches for 77 yards, including one that set up a touchdown.
Report Card vs. Jaguars
PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Kurt Warner passed for 300 yards again, but most of that came after the team was down by two touchdowns. In the first half, the Cardinals had just 90 yards of total offense.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The Cardinals fell behind early and ran the ball just 16 times. The production was decent, but circumstances prevented the team from staying with it.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- Jacksonville didn't get much production out of its passing game, but the Cardinals didn't make any big plays against it, either. No sacks and no interceptions.
RUSH DEFENSE: C -- It was decent, but they gave up too many big runs, including two that went for touchdowns.
SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- Neil Rackers missed his first field goal, and Jacksonville scored on a 91-yard kick return.
COACHING: D -- The Cardinals hit double digits in penalties again, indicating a lack of discipline. Dennis Green shouldn't put up with players losing their cool and drawing personal fouls.