The score wasn’t 44-6, so to the outside world, the Cardinals weren’t nearly as ugly Sunday.

But inside the locker room, shaving 35 points off a losing deficit in seven days didn’t mean much.

The mood was somber after a 30-27 overtime loss to St. Louis at Sun Devil Stadium, more so, said one Cardinals official, than after the pounding the team took the previous week in Cleveland.

“I’d rather lose by 50,” said safety Adrian Wilson, “than get beat like this.”

Added coach Dave McGinnis, “I’d be lying if I didn’t say that one stings really deep.”

Heads hung after Rams kicker Jeff Wilkins drilled a 49-yard field goal to end the game. The playoffs have long since faded from being a realistic goal for Arizona (3-8). Now the motivation is apparently about saving McGinnis’ job.

Quarterback Jeff Blake chided the media and fans looking for McGinnis to get fired, admitting the subject “is a soft spot with us.” Defensive tackle Marcus Bell also brought up the matter on his own.

“We’re playing for more than us, we are playing for Coach Mac’s job,” Bell said. “Guys want him here. Got people riffing about getting rid of Mac and all this. That’s bull.”

Still, the losses mount, and that can’t be good for McGinnis.

It didn’t have to be that way against the Rams (8-3), who had blown a 14-0 lead. St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger started 9-for-9 but soon degenerated into the player who had been nearly replaced by Kurt Warner the past two games.

Bulger threw four interceptions, with one returned 70 yards for a touchdown by Renaldo Hill to get the Cards within 14-10 late in the first half. The Cards sacked him four times. Meanwhile, the offense managed three points on a pair of drives inside the St. Louis 5, throwing an incompletion on fourth down on one drive. On another possession, Blake was being dragged down by Rams defensive end Grant Wistrom but instead of smartly taking a sack, he threw the ball right to Rams cornerback Travis Fisher. The play went for a 57-yard touchdown and a 24-10 Rams lead.

But in a span of 3:08, encompassing the last play of the third quarter and into the fourth, Blake threw two touchdowns to Anquan Boldin to tie the score, 24-24. A fifth Bulger turnover, this time a fumble on a sack by linebacker Ron McKinnon, set up a go-ahead field goal by Neil Rackers with 6:05 left.

What happened the rest of the way was what shredded the Cards emotionally.

“It’s like a dagger in the heart,” running back Marcel Shipp said. “The momentum changes for us, and we couldn’t close the deal.”

Cornerback Coby Rhinehart picked off a Bulger pass on the next Rams possession and returned the ball to the St. Louis 38. But the first play was a run by Shipp that lost 5 yards. Eventually, the Cards had to punt.

On his own 12 with 3:23 left, Bulger finally stuck it to the Cards. Keyed by a crucial fourth-and-7 pass of 23 yards to Torry Holt that Bulger dropped in between three Cardinals defenders, the Rams took 15 plays before Wilkins kicked the game-tying field goal on the last play of regulation. “We got to (Bulger), but they do what they do every week,” Wilson said. “(The comeback) was nothing new to him.”

The Rams won the coin flip for overtime, and despite starting at their own 14, needed only seven plays to set up Wilkins.

“In the bitter end,” McGinnis said, “we couldn’t get it done.”

That may have been the most hurtful point. The Cards’ history this season says they win close games at home. It’s how they beat Green Bay, San Francisco and Cincinnati. It should have been how they beat the Rams.

“You almost expect to win,” said fullback James Hodgins, a former Ram. “To me, it hurts more than losing by 38 points.

“They are dangerous. With a minute left, they can still move the ball 90 yards downfield. I’d seen it a couple times (as a Ram). This time I’m on the other end of it. I wish I wasn’t.”

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.