ST. LOUIS, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Trung Canidate replaced an injured Marshall Faulk and scored on a one-yard run with 4:16 left in the fourth quarter Sunday to give the unbeaten St. Louis Rams a 15-14 decision over the New York Giants.
The Giants knocked out Faulk, did not allow St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner to throw a touchdown pass and forced four second-half turnovers, but still came up short.
St. Louis' winning touchdown drive also featured a questionable interference call against New York safety Sam Garnes.
The Giants reached the St. Louis 39 with 1:12 remaining, but rookie safety Adam Archuleta, one of eight new starters on St. Louis' revamped defense, forced a turnover with a jarring hit on Giants receiver Joe Jurevicius.
Kerry Collins threw an eight-yard pass over the middle to Jurevicius, but Archuleta knocked the ball loose and defensive end Grant Wistrom picked it off at the St. Louis 27 to seal the win.
"That was a heck of a team that we beat," Rams coach Mike Martz said. "It was a slugfest. One of those heavyweight bouts you would expect out of the last two NFC champions."
The defeat was especially painful for the Giants (3-2), who have lost to the Rams (5-0) each of the last three years. But in the previous two contests, the Giants could not handle St. Louis' offensive weapons and were outscored, 69-34.
Warner had his 21st 300-yard day, but was sacked six times and left the field dazed after being sandwiched by defensive ends Michael Strahan and Kenny Holmes in the fourth quarter.
"They came in with a great game plan," said Warner, who was 28 of 46 for 316 yards with an interception. "Their front four came after us and caused some havoc. Way too much Strahan."
Strahan, a three-time Pro Bowler, recorded a career-high four sacks, a forced fumble and six tackles.
"No one gave us a chance," Strahan said of the matchup between the defending NFC champion Giants and the Super Bowl XXXIV champion Rams. "They thought this offense was high powered but our defense was good."
Faulk, the reigning NFL MVP, was forced to leave the game with a sprained right medial collateral ligament after fumbling for the second time in the third quarter. He was held to 25 yards on eight carries and caught five passes for 38 yards.
"They played a good game," Faulk said. "Top that with the mistakes we made and you have a close ballgame."
"Against a team that good in their house, I thought our defense played outstanding," Giants coach Jim Fassel said. "We showed some tremendous focus. We kept going and going."
But Canidate, a first-round pick in 2000, stepped in for Faulk and caught a seven-yard pass on a fourth-and-four play on St. Louis' game-winning drive before drawing the critical pass-interference penalty.
With a third and eight at the Giants' 24 and the Rams trailing, 14-9, Warner threw a pass for Canidate, who raced down the left sideline toward the end zone. Garnes raced over and tugged at Canidate's jersey as the ball sailed by and was called for interference.
"I put my hand on him. I know I didn't pull him," Garnes said. "I just don't want to talk about the call."
"He tugged on his shirt but it didn't look like the ball was catchable," said Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn.
Afterwards, Fassel had to restrain himself from talking about the officiating.
"I don't even want to talk about the officials. I don't have enough money," Fassel said. "I don't want to talk about one call. I'm not that wealthy of a man."
Warner had to be helped to his feet after the hit and was replaced by Jamie Martin for one play. Canidate took a handoff from Martin and ran behind left guard for the winning touchdown.
Warner returned for the two-point conversion attempt, but threw a wobbly pass to the end zone that was dropped by Giants rookie cornerback Will Allen.
Archuleta, one of St. Louis' three first-round picks in the 2001 draft, then made the big defensive play to seal the win for the Rams, who remain the league's only unbeaten team and improved to 5-0 for the third straight year.
"I hit him (Jurevicius) and I heard the crowd go crazy," Archuleta said of his hit. "I saw Grant running around and it was just happiness."
"It just popped up into the air and I was just praying I didn't drop it," Wistrom said.
St. Louis failed to reach the end zone in the first half, but held a 9-7 lead on three field goals by Jeff Wilkins.
The Rams committed four second-half turnovers, the second coming when Faulk fumbled after being hit by linebacker Jessie Armstead and linebacker Mike Barrow recovered for the Giants at the St. Louis 28.
But on the next play, Collins attempted to hit Amani Toomer down the left sideline, but cornerback Dexter McCleon made a leaping interception and returned it 23 yards to the St. Louis 26.
New York cashed in on the Rams' third turnover of the second half and the second by Faulk, who fumbled after being stuffed for no gain by Barrow and defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin recovered for the Giants at the St. Louis 34 with 33 seconds left in the third quarter. Faulk suffered a sprained MCL on the play and did not return.
"We made so many errors on offense that it is just not like us," Martz said. "That is a great defense. I don't want to take anything away from them, but by the same token, we need to clean things up and match the job of our defense."
Ron Dayne broke off a 17-yard run on the next play. Two plays later, Collins was sacked for a seven-yard loss by defensive tackle Tyoka Jackson. But on a third-and-18 play, Collins rifled a 25-yard touchdown pass to Ike Hilliard with 13:33 left in the fourth quarter, giving the Giants a 14-9 lead.
Collins completed 18 of 32 passes for 250 yards. Jurevicius was his chief target, catching six passes for 101 yards.
New York forced its final turnover when Warner fumbled after being sacked by Strahan and Holmes recovered for the Giants at the St. Louis 39.
The Giants failed to take advantage, however, and were especially hurt by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Dayne. On a second-and-six play, Dayne gained five yards to set up what should have been a third and one at the St. Louis 30. But Dayne stuck the ball in the face of linebacker London Fletcher after he was tackled and was slapped with a 15-yard penalty.
On third and 16, Collins threw an incompletion and the Giants were forced to punt with 8:42 left.
"We have to play smarter," Collins said. "You don't get opportunities like this to beat a good team. You have to take advantage of them."
The Rams then took off on their winning 12-play, 77-yard drive which featured passes of 17 yards to Isaac Bruce and 18 yards to Az-Zahir Hakim. With a fourth and four at the New York 33, Canidate raced past Armstead and caught a seven-yard pass to keep the drive alive.
The Giants played without Tiki Barber, who missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury. Dayne picked up the slack with 88 yards on 20 carries, including a four-yard touchdown 2:54 into the game.