Cardinals hold off Rams 17-13 in Bradford's debut

BY foxsports • September 13, 2010

So much for breaking in the No. 1 pick gently.

Sam Bradford threw 55 passes in his debut, the third-highest total in St. Louis Rams history. The 2008 Heisman Trophy winner ended up one big pass shy of pulling an upset in the Arizona Cardinals' 17-13 opening victory on Sunday.

''You can't expect him to just turn things around in one day,'' running back Steven Jackson said. ''But he's made huge strides and he's going in the right direction.''

Bradford answered questions about his surgically repaired throwing shoulder long ago, and said his arm felt just fine after going 32 for 55 for 253 yards and a touchdown with three interceptions.

''That's probably a little higher than I would have imagined if you'd asked me before the game,'' Bradford said. ''But I threw it a lot in college, so I'm used to it.''

The high point was Bradford's 1-yard touchdown pass to Laurent Robinson when the Rams gambled on fourth-and-goal on the last play of the first half and tied it at 10. Bradford punched his fist in the air in triumph after rolling out and hitting Robinson.

''We're just confident in what Sam can do,'' coach Steve Spagnuolo said, ''and he did it.''

The Rams' last two drives, though, ended with interceptions. Larry Fitzgerald's 21-yard touchdown grab with 6:13 to go from new quarterback Derek Anderson held up for the two-time defending NFC West champions, who countered four lost fumbles with enough big plays to beat the Rams for the eighth straight time.

''Obviously, they're a very much improved team, I knew that coming in,'' Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ''That quarterback did a nice job for his first game, he really made some big-time throws.''

Adrian Wilson had two interceptions, including one in the end zone to end the game, plus a blocked field goal and a sack. Steve Breaston was even better with a career-best 132 yards on seven receptions plus a touchdown-saving play in the third quarter that would have put the Rams up by 10 points.

Breaston stripped defensive lineman Clifton Ryan just shy of the end zone after Anderson's fumble. Lyle Sendlein recovered the ball in the end zone for a harmless touchback.

''That's a big D tackle, he's not in the norm of carrying the football,'' Breaston said. ''You get up on him and go for the ball.''

Anderson, the successor to retired Kurt Warner, was 22 for 41 for 297 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. He took a pounding, including two sacks, without flinching.

''I feel like a champion,'' Anderson said. ''The defense kind of bailed us out, they played great.''

Kerry Rhodes' pick on fourth-and-10 from the Arizona 21 just after the two-minute warning appeared to be the clincher for Arizona. A fumble by Tim Hightower, who scored Arizona's other touchdown on a 1-yard run in the second quarter, gave St. Louis another chance. It finally fizzled out at the Arizona 36 on Wilson's second interception.

The Rams have lost 14 in a row at home, and they've dropped 15 straight to NFC West opponents.

''We didn't capitalize on a lot of the opportunities,'' said Jackson, who had 81 yards on 22 carries. ''We have to have a killer instinct. We have to be able to put them away.''

Fitzgerald was held in check by cornerback Ron Bartell much of the game and had only three receptions for 43 yards. He finally shook free on the touchdown grab with 6:13 to go.

Breaston's fourth career 100-yard game, and first since 2008, picked up the slack.

Mark Clayton, acquired from the Ravens on Monday, had a career-high 10 receptions for 119 yards for St. Louis.

Arizona wide receiver Early Doucet injured his left groin in the first half and did not return.

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