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Rams Clearly the Best in NFC West

November 15, 1999|From Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — Back at home, the St. Louis Rams were back in playoff form.

Kurt Warner threw two touchdown passes, increasing his NFL-leading total to 26, and the Rams got defensive touchdowns from Todd Lyght and Mike Jones in a 35-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

The Rams (7-2) recovered convincingly from successive excruciating losses at Tennessee and Detroit.

"Our defense basically won the game for us," said tight end Roland Williams, who caught a touchdown pass. "They were making a lot of plays and they just shined."

Until Marshall Faulk tacked on a gratuitous 18-yard run with 1:11 to play, the offense and defense each had produced two touchdowns. The Rams got their first two-touchdown game from the defense since 1995.

"For a while, we were a little worried about it," Warner joked. "When our defense goes out and gets us 14 points, we can't complain too much."

The Rams won their sixth in row at home, their longest streak since 1984-85. They're 5-0 at the Trans World Dome, where they've quickly developed into a hot ticket and are drawing sellouts while winning by an average score of 35-10.

The game was the first of five in a row against NFC West competition and gave St. Louis a four-game lead with seven to play. The Panthers (3-6) were without running back Tshimanga Biakabutuka, who missed his third straight game with a sprained ankle, and have lost three of four.

Warner, who had thrown only 11 passes entering the season, fell one touchdown pass off the NFL record pace of Dan Marino, who had 48 in 1984. He was 19 for 29 for 286 yards with one interception. His scoring passes were to Isaac Bruce from 22 yards and Roland Williams from 19.

Not that all the Panthers were impressed.

"They were about what I thought they were going to be," said free safety Mike Minter, who had a fumble recovery. "Fourteen points on the defense, and that last one, you can't count that.

"So that's pretty good. They've been putting up 30-something points on everyone."

Lyght's 57-yard interception return with 15 seconds to play in the first quarter was the Rams' biggest defensive play, giving them the lead for good at 14-7. Lyght took away the inside route from Patrick Jeffers and the pass from Steve Beuerlein, who had been nine for nine, hit him right in the numbers.

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