Rams 21, Falcons 19
ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Isaac Bruce wouldn’t let special teams mistakes and turnovers stop the St. Louis Rams.
Bruce caught 10 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns, his third 100-yard receiving day in four games, sending the Rams past the Atlanta Falcons 21-19 Thursday night in an unlikely battle for first place in the NFC West.
A sellout crowd of 59,700 watched what could be the final NFL game played at Busch Stadium. A news conference is scheduled for Friday to announce whether the $260 million Trans World Dome will be ready for the Rams-49ers game Oct. 22, but it’s likely the Rams (5-1) will have one more game at Busch.
Bruce has caught six touchdown passes in his first year as a starter. In the last two games, he has totaled 372 yards receiving. He set up one of the scores when he ran 51 yards off a lateral on a punt return from Todd Kinchen to the Falcons 9 late in the first half.
The Rams have been successful on that play the last two games, but special teams, a big plus in their 4-0 start, nearly did them in this time. Kevin Ross returned a blocked field goal attempt 83 yards for a score in the second quarter and Eric Metcalf returned a wobbly Sean Landeta punt 66 yards for a score in the third quarter.
The Rams also had a fumble and an interception. After committing no turnovers the first four games, they’ve had four the last two games.
Tony Zendejas’ second field goal of the game, from 45 yards with 11:58 to go, cut the gap to 21-19. But the Rams ran out the final 6:36.
Chris Miller completed 27 of 38 passes for 328 yards for St. Louis and Jerome Bettis had his best day of the season with 88 yards on 19 carries.
Jeff George was 16 for 30 for 160 yards for Atlanta (4-2).
The Rams dominated the first half, outgaining Atlanta 292 yards to 109, but an 83-yard return on a blocked field goal attempt by Ross kept the Falcons in striking distance at 21-10.
St. Louis was in positiion to make it 17-0 on a 27-yard kick by Steve McLaughlin but Roger Harper got his arm on the ball, Ross picked it up, and evaded a couple of tackles to score down the sideline with 3:05 left in the half.
The Rams had a reply, with Kinchen executing a lateral on a punt return for the second time in as many games. Kinchen skipped the pass to Bruce on the opposite sideline, but Bruce scooped it up and returned it 51 yards to the 9. Bruce caught his second touchdown pass from that distance with 41 seconds to go in the half.
The Rams answered on Miller’s 9-yard pass to Bruce with 41 seconds left in the half. The Falcons had enough time, though, to set up a 40-yard field goal by Zendejas on the last play of the half.
Miller’s first pass of the game was dropped by Pat Carter, then he hit 11 in a row. The Rams took the lead with 1:45 left in the first quarter when a backpedaling Miller connected on a 59-yard touchdown to Bruce.
They made it 14-0 on Johnny Bailey’s 12-yard run on a pitchout with 11:09 left in the half. Bailey ran behind a convoy of three wide receivers and tackle Wayne Gandy, and scored untouched.