Updates. With AP Photos.By R.B. FALLSTROMAP Sports Writer
Jeff Fisher began rebuilding the St. Louis Rams’ confidence when he was hired in mid-January. Now they’ve got the results to back it up.
Heading into a three-day break and a 10-day gap between games, the Rams (3-2) have more to savor than just knocking off previously unbeaten Arizona. They’ve already topped their win total from the dismal 2011 season with 11 games to go, and they’re 3-0 at home for the first time since 2003.
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”To be in this position and to have this franchise above .500 is a beautiful thing,” middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. ”I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Far from satisfied, too. Never too early to start thinking about next weekend’s game at Miami.
Cornerback Cortland Finnegan and Laurinaitis, an Ohio State alum, are driving to Columbus, Ohio for the Ohio State-Nebraska game on Saturday.
”But I’m downloading all the Dolphins stuff,” Finnegan said. ”So, football won’t be too far away from me.”
The key to the 17-3 victory over the Cardinals was a fast-improving defense that sacked Kevin Kolb nine times, the Rams’ best total in 14 years, with very little blitzing. End Robert Quinn, one of three first-round picks on the line, had a career day with three sacks.
The Rams, who totaled six sacks the first four games, stopped Arizona twice inside the 20 in the final minutes.
”It’s a new mindset overall,” Quinn said. ”We knew we had it in us, it’s just really fitting the pieces and getting them to click together. Everything is starting to jell.”
On his third sack, Quinn stripped Kolb and Williams Hayes recovered at the Arizona 47 with less than two minutes to go to stop the Cardinals’ final chance.
”We knew they were going to come,” Fisher said. ”I hope keep coming.”
Rookie corner back Janoris Jenkins had his best game of the year with three pass breakups, and also filled in ably on punt returns after Amendola was injured in the second quarter.
”He’s just coming right along,” Finnegan said. ”It’s just exciting to have somebody like that you can mentor to, but doesn’t really need it.”
Amendola could be out several weeks with what the Rams have described vaguely as a shoulder injury. Amendola, who was second in the NFL with 31 receptions after Week 4, was seen pointing to his right collarbone before leaving for X-rays and could be out a month.
”Obviously, losing Danny is big,” quarterback Sam Bradford said. ”Everyone knows that he’s a big part of our offense. A lot of what we do runs through him.”
Fisher was mum on the injury, saying he’d have an injury report on Wednesday. Amendola showed his emotion before heading in for X-rays when he flung his helmet into a wall with his left arm.
”I’m not commenting on any injuries from the game,” Fisher said. ”It’s a competitive issue. If Danny’s going to miss a game, I’ll discuss the timing, which I’m sure that he’s going to miss a game.”
The defense took the pressure off an offense that’s scuffled lately. Tight end Lance Kendricks’ first-quarter touchdown reception was the first TD for the offense in three games.
Bradford had one of the worst days of his career, completing only 7 of 21 passes for 141 yards and enduring an 0-for-12 funk that included an end zone interception by Patrick Peterson. There were some drops, but he also threw too high, led receivers by too much, or not enough.
”A lot of little things. It was nothing major,” Bradford said. ”We just never really got ourselves in rhythm. Fortunately, our guys up front were able to get the run game going in the second half when we needed it.”
Bradford emerged in time to hit rookie Chris Givens, the fastest player on the team, in stride on a 51-yard touchdown pass that put St. Louis up by 14 points early in the fourth quarter. Givens had a few drops earlier in the game.
”I told him I was going to come back to him,” Bradford said. ”I’m never going to lose confidence in those guys. He’s young, he’s learning.
”Obviously, he made a great play for us when we needed it.”
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