ST. LOUIS — Marshall Faulk was a no-go, and that slowed the St. Louis Rams.
But Ram Coach Mike Martz, who played without his two biggest stars, wasn't using Faulk's pre-game knee injury as an excuse after the Super Bowl champions were upset by the Carolina Panthers, 27-24, Sunday night.
"We did miss him, but that's not why we lost," Martz said. "They did a good job against our offensive line, and we just made too many mistakes."
Carolina quarterback Steve Beuerlein threw two touchdown passes, and Joe Nedney kicked a 46-yard, game-winning field goal with 40 seconds left.
"Nobody gave us a chance to keep it close with these guys," Beuerlein said. "I have a lot of friends on that team, and I told them we needed this thing a heck of a lot more than you did."
The Panthers (4-5) handed the Rams (7-2) their second loss in three games and ended their winning streak in the Trans World Dome at 15 games.
"They made all the plays," Rams cornerback Dexter McCleon said. "We were coming hard at them and they were able to get the quick passes off."
Running back Tshimanga Biakabutuka helped to set up the game-winner with a 10-yard gain on fourth and two from the St. Louis 42. Nedney was perfect on four field-goal attempts--the other kicks from 35, 45 and 24 yards, and has missed only once in 17 attempts this season.
"What a wonderful weapon," Coach George Seifert said.
Beuerlein said he lobbied Seifert to go for it on the fourth-down play.
"I could tell he was burning up inside," Beuerlein said. "He didn't want to punt it."
Martz, the architect of the NFL's No. 1-ranked offense, went conservative before the Panthers' winning drive. On fourth and six from the Panthers 35 with 6:31 to go, he elected to punt, and rookie John Baker shanked an eight-yarder.
"I thought our defense would hold them," Martz said. "I thought if we could pin them inside the 20, we could get into a situation to kick a field goal.
"We just couldn't stop them."
Ram quarterback Kurt Warner, who broke the little finger of his throwing hand in a 54-34 loss at Kansas City on Oct. 23, will miss at least two more games.
But his backup, Trent Green, completed 29 of 42 passes for 431 yards and two touchdowns.
Faulk's backup, Justin Watson, scored on a three-yard run. But he finished with only 12 yards in 12 carries, and the Rams ran for only 31 yards as their NFL-record string of 14 consecutive 30 point-plus games ended.