Rams Coach Spagnuolo Would Kick to Peterson Again
ST. LOUIS (AP) - After a day to mull it over, Steve Spagnuolo's answer was the same: The St. Louis Rams coach would have punted the ball to Patrick Peterson in the shadow of the Arizona Cardinals goal posts, and taken his chances again.
Most Mondays have been tough for the Rams, who are 1-7 at the midpoint of the season, but usually because they've been trying to move past a blowout. This time, the latest defeat had to be a lot tougher to swallow because it came down to an attempt at pinning the Cardinals that went spectacularly awry when Peterson evaded four tackles on his 99-yard touchdown return in overtime.
The Rams got two safeties earlier in the 19-13 loss after punts by Donnie Jones resulted in terrible field position for the Cardinals. Spagnuolo was convinced Peterson wouldn't field the ball in overtime, and even if he did, he expected to get a stop that would result in an Arizona punt and a short field for the Rams.
Or maybe even a third safety on inexperienced quarterback John Skelton to end it.
"It's still amazing that somebody fields that punt," Spagnuolo said Monday. "He's got a lot of confidence in himself. The flip side is if he fields that thing and we tackle him at the 3, in an overtime game when all you need is a field goal to win, and certainly that's what we were hoping for."
The failure of a punt coverage unit that entered the game fourth in the NFL and exited at 21st was the last of several late miss-steps by a team that couldn't build on its upset of the New Orleans Saints the week before.
After the Cardinals stopped Steven Jackson on third down, Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDanels called the same running play on fourth-and-1, and Jackson got stuffed again.
"When you saw the first one, you thought you still had a chance to get it, so we went with the exact same play," Spagnuolo said. "You practice those things, you believe in the guys you're doing it with. You go in planning to get it."
The left side of the line collapsed when Arizona's Calais Campbell blocked Josh Brown's attempt at a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation.
"A tall guy," Spagnuolo said, "and a little bit too much penetration."
The defense had a big day, limiting the Cardinals to 262 total yards. But there's no margin for error with an offense that has eight touchdowns all year and scuffled again when it counted even with Sam Bradford back at quarterback.
Bradford, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft and the Offensive Rookie of the Year, has only three touchdown passes this season. The Rams are next-to-last in the NFL in third down efficiency, and were just 3 for 14 against Arizona.
Bradford missed the previous two games with a high left ankle sprain, and might have been rusty after getting only about a half-practice to prepare. Bradford wore a brace in the game and was back in a walking boot after the loss, and remained in it on Monday with what Spagnuolo called general soreness.
"I think our team was sparked by the fact that he was out there playing. I think he showed a tremendous amount of courage to go out there and hang in there and stay in there with all the things that the quarterback has to face," Spagnuolo said.
"I'm sure he'll tell you he wished he would have played better in certain areas."