ST. LOUIS – With 0:40 left in regulation and the game tied at 24-24, St. Louis place kicker Greg Zuerlein gave the Rams a 27-24 lead when he drilled a 48-yard field goal. St. Louis then held on for the final 0:40 seconds to earn the win in its season opener, sending home a crowd of 55,279 happy from the Edward Jones Dome.
"We were very excited," Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said. "You take them when you can get them like that. We are very excited to be able to open the season with a win here at home against a divisional opponent."
Zuerlein's winning field goal came after the Rams forced Arizona to go three-and-out. It was the fourth field goal of the game for Zuerlein.
Rams' quarterback Sam Bradford said the win was "crazy."
"There were so many ups and downs in this game," Bradford said. "We had so many opportunities to score and didn't. … I think it says a lot of the guys in this locker room, for a young team to endure some of the things we did today."
The Rams started the fourth quarter trailing Arizona 24-13.
"It would have been really easy after being down 11 for this team, being as young as we are to get down in the first game at home," Bradford said. "But, the mood on the sideline never changed. The confidence never left us and we knew that we were the ones stopping ourselves and that if we went out there and executed, things were going to be okay."
However, the score didn't stay that way long. The Rams got within one possession when Bradford connected with new tight end Jared Cook on a one yard TD pass. Bradford shocked the stadium and the Cardinals when he then rushed the ball into the end zone to convert the two-point play with 12:56 left in the game.
"I think they had no idea I was going to run the ball," Bradford said. "That is why it worked so well, but hey, we will take what they give us."
Five plays into Arizona's next drive, Robert Quinn sacked Carson Palmer and forced a fumble. The fumble was recovered by Jake Long, giving the Rams possession at the Cardinals' 22 yard line.
However, as with a turnover earlier in the game, the Rams were unable to turn the takeaway into a touchdown and instead had to settle for a field goal. Zuerlein's 38 yarder with 9:04 left tied the game at 24-24.
The next three possessions, two by the Cardinals and one by the Rams, all ended in punt. The Cardinals' final punt of the evening gave the Rams the ball their own 20 yard line with 1:54 left in the game.
For Bradford, that was more than enough time to set up the game-winning field goal drive.
"That was a great job," Fisher said. "He has a good feel for our offense. He made the throws and made the conversion, he even turned himself into a running back there for the two-point conversion."
Late in the first quarter, the Rams had a chance to score first. Bradford connected with Cook on what would have been 55 yard TD strike, but as Cook was making his way to the end zone, he had the ball popped out of his grasp for a fumble. The ball went into the end zone and was recovered by the Cardinals for a touchback.
"There are a lot of errors we have to address," Fisher said. "Most of those were just self-inflicted wounds. The penalties or, Cook is off and running forward to the end zone and you have to monitor players every so often that you always have to carry that ball high and tight because you never know when something is going to happen."
Arizona followed that turnover with an eight-play, 80-yard drive touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead. The Rams responded with a drive of their own. covering 61 yards on 7 plays, but were only able to get a 36-yard field goal.
Each team scored on its next drive as well.
Arizona increased its lead over St. Louis to 10-3 with a 30-yard field goal with 5:23 left in the half before the Rams responded with a 12-play, 80-yard drive resulting in St. Louis' first touchdown of the year, a 15-yard strike from Bradford to Cook to tie the game at 10-10 with 0:26 left in the half.
Cook finished the game with two touchdowns and 141 yards receiving on seven catches. It was the first time in Cook's five-year career that he scored multiple TD's in one game.
"That is really surprising," Bradford said after being informed Cook had never scored twice in a game before. "A guy with his talent and his ability, for this to be his first game with two touchdowns is almost shocking. Hopefully this is the first of many multiple touchdown games for him."
Bradford was 27-of-38 for 299 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Second year running back and first time starter Daryl Richardson finished the game with 63 yards on the ground on 20 carries while also catching five passes for 33 yards.
Arizona opened the second half with possession, but three plays into the half, Trumaine Johnson intercepted Palmer and returned the ball 29 yards before being tackled. The Rams were unable to move the ball any closer and had to settle for a 25-yard field goal from Zuerlein. At the time, the field goal gave the Rams a 13-10 lead.
Defensively the Rams forced two turnovers, an interception and a fumble, and recorded four sacks. Three of the sacks went to Robert Quinn. The final sack went to Williams Hayes and essentially ended the game.
"Things just worked in my favor," Quinn said. "I got up on the ball and the defensive line was keeping double teams off me. The DBs and linebackers were giving me time to get back there."
Fisher was pleased with Quinn's performance.
"It was an exceptional job," Fisher said. "We thought that they were going to try and get the tackles some help and they did at times, but when they didn't, (Quinn) was there to take advantage of it. He made big plays when we needed them."
With the Cardinals trying to drive following Zuerlein's field goal, Hayes sacked Palmer six yard loss with 0:15 left on the clock. Following the next play by the Cardinals, the game was over.
Fisher enjoyed watching the final seconds tick down.
"Watching the game clock tick to zero," Fisher said when asked about his favorite part of the game. "That is my most favorite part."
With the win, the Rams will head into their two-game road trip with a 1-0 record and in first place. While fellow NFC West opponents, San Francisco and Seattle also won, the Rams win was a conference game and the other two were non-conference.
St. Louis' next game will be at Atlanta on Sunday, Sept. 15. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.