Cardinals bog down in red zone, suffer 1st loss to Rams
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Arizona rookie David Johnson was a hero two weeks ago when he returned the opening kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown.
On Sunday, he fumbled the opening kick away. That led to a St. Louis touchdown, the first time Arizona has trailed this season. And the Cardinals never led in a 24-22 loss.
"You’re not going to win many games kicking field goals in the red zone and losing the turnover battle," coach Bruce Arians said, "especially in our division."
Rams rookie Todd Gurley rushed for all but two of 146 yards after halftime and Tavon Austin caught two touchdown passes.
Gurley saw his most extensive action as a pro and his 52-yard run set up what was the winning touchdown.
"It is just football," Gurley said. "I have played it my whole life and you ready your keys and study the game and everything will slow down for you.
Nick Foles threw for three TDs, two after Arizona turnovers, and St. Louis’ defense held the Cardinals (3-1) to field goals on four of five trips inside the red zone.
Arizona had a third-and-2 at the Rams 43 in the final minutes, but Carson Palmer overthrew receivers on consecutive plays to turn the ball over on downs.
The Rams (2-2) are 2-0 against the NFC West. They beat Seattle in the season opener.
After scoring 48 and 47 points in its last two games, Arizona got five field goals from Chandler Catanzaro — from 21, 27, 42, 38 and 29 yards. The Cardinals scored touchdowns in 11 of 12 trips to the red zone in the first three games. They were 1 for 5 on Sunday.
"Every time we are in the red zone, we don’t let nobody cross into the end zone," Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins said.
It was only the fourth loss in the Cardinals’ 19 home games under Arians, and Palmer lost for the first time in 10 starts. He completed 29 of 46 passes for 352 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
"I flat out did not make enough plays for us to win the game," Palmer said. "We had a chance there at the end and I didn’t make the plays for us."
Arizona plays its next two, and six of its next eight, on the road.
"Sometimes these things are a blessing in disguise," Palmer said, "just because I think this team will respond exactly the way it’s supposed to."
With the Rams clinging to a 17-15 lead, Gurley burst through the line and broke a couple of tackles for a 52-yard gain to the Arizona 16, and Foles threw 12 yards to Austin and the lead was 24-15 with 8:16 to play.
Gurley could have had more but slid to the ground to help run out the clock late.
The Cardinals finally got their only touchdown when Palmer lofted a 19-yard pass to Johnson for the score that made it 24-22 with 4:38 left.
On the opening kickoff, Johnson was at about the 15-yard line, Mark Barron knocked the ball loose and Daren Bates jumped on it for St. Louis at the Arizona 13. On third down from the 12, Foles threw over the middle to Austin, just the Rams’ seventh touchdown of the season.
Moments later, Johnson dropped a sure touchdown and Arizona settled for one of its many field goals.
NOTES: St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher said inside linebacker Alec Ogletree broke an ankle in the first half and will require surgery. Fisher said he didn’t know if Ogletree would be lost for the season, that he might be listed as injured designated to return. … The Rams sacked Palmer four times. He was sacked once in the first three games.
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