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Witherspoon recovers fumble as Rams edge Warner, Cardinals

Sep 24, 2006 - 11:45 PM GLENDALE, Arizona (Ticker) -- Will Witherspoon and the St. Louis Rams' new-look defense came up big once again.

Witherspoon recovered a fumble with less than two minutes remaining to thwart a late drive as the Rams held on for a 16-14 triumph over the Arizona Cardinals in a matchup of NFC West rivals.

It was the second victory in three games for the Rams (2-1), who have been outstanding defensively under first-year coach Scott Linehan.

Signed to a six-year deal in the offseason, Witherspoon has been instrumental in St. Louis' defensive resurgence. The linebacker had six tackles Sunday and saved his biggest play for the final moments.

Trailing 16-14, Arizona had a 1st-and-10 on the St. Louis 18 and appeared primed for a game-winning field goal. But former Rams quarterback Kurt Warner fumbled the snap, and Witherspoon recovered the loose ball at the line of scrimmage, icing the contest.

"I saw it there and thought to get on it," Witherspoon said. "Everybody realized the ball was out, and someone kicked it and it nearly went through my legs. It is one of the things that you really can't believe but you are really happy it happened."

"I just fumbled it," Warner said. "It is one of those plays that you never want to have happen and it happened."

St. Louis had a chance to close out the game on the previous possession, but quarterback Marc Bulger fumbled at the Rams 34, giving the Cardinals some life.

"They have a good kicker, and I was thinking loss and how am I going to face the team," Bulger said. "When you fumble the ball like that, you are hoping for anything. I didn't see any flags, I didn't believe it."

Free agent newcomer Corey Chavous and fellow safety O.J. Atogwe both had interceptions for the Rams, who forced four turnovers.

"Our defense is really showing maturity by not letting a couple of big plays by their offense effect them," said Linehan, who has preached a more hard-nosed, conservative approach. "Those stops were we held them down in the zone, we are opportunistic."

St. Louis took the lead for good with 3:20 remaining in the first half when Marc Bulger found Torry Holt for a nine-yard touchdown pass, pushing the score to 10-7.

Bulger completed 21-of-31 passes for 309 yards and a TD while Holt had season highs of eight receptions and 120 yards for the Rams, who have won seven of their last nine meetings with the Cardinals.

"We put a great deal of emphasis this week on coming out and establish some type of rhythm," Holt said. "We went back to a couple of things that we hooked up on in the past. So (Bulger) can close his eyes and know that I am there."

Warner, who won a Super Bowl and two MVPs with St. Louis from 1999-2004, completed 19-of-28 attempts for 256 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.

"We had a chance to win the game," Warner said. "The fumble along with three other plays I made cost us this football game. It was lousy, I feel terrible. Any one of those four (turnovers) - if I don't make it we probably win the football game.

Anquan Boldin had 10 receptions and 129 yards for Arizona (1-2), which has dropped two straight since a season-opening win here against San Francisco.

"I don't think I have been more disappointed since I have been here," Cardinals coach Dennis Green said. "I don't think I have ever been more angry since I have been here, and I have had some (bad) days since I have been here, believe me. None of them compare to today."

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