ST. LOUIS, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- John Carney ended a wild comeback by kicking a 27-yard field goal with one second remaining Sunday, giving the New Orleans Saints a 34-31 victory over the previously unbeaten St. Louis Rams -- who blew an 18-point lead and turned the ball over eight times.
New Orleans benefited from four turnovers during the third quarter alone, during which they came back from a 24-6 deficit to take a 31-24 lead. Aaron Brooks threw three touchdown passes in the third period.
"Our defense got our offense going," Saints coach Jim Haslett said.
Carney kicked five field goals with the winning boot following St. Louis' eighth turnover of the game. New Orleans safety Chris Oldham recovered a fumble by Trung Canidate and returned it 43 yards to the Rams' 36 to set up the game-winner.
It marked the third straight year the Rams (6-1) were denied a 7-0 start. The lone remaining unbeaten team heading into Sunday, St. Louis was last 7-0 in 1985.
This also was the first time the Rams had lost a home game started by Pro Bowl quarterback Kurt Warner, who was 17-0, including playoffs. But Warner was intercepted four times with three of them coming in the second half. He threw for a season-high 385 yards.
St. Louis maintained a 1 1/2-game lead over New Orleans and San Francisco (both 4-2)in the NFC West.
"I feel like we're good enough to be 7-0," Rams middle linebacker London Fletcher said. "I know a ton of teams would kill to be 6-1, but not us. We strive for perfection. We strive for excellence."
"Everything went our way in the first quarter and in the third nothing went our way," Warner said. "It may have been the worst we played in a quarter."
Filling in again for the injured Marshall Faulk, Canidate had just 19 yards on 12 carries but caught 10 passes for 107 yards.
The loss was especially painful since it was New Orleans which dethroned the Rams as NFC West champions last season and knocked them out of the playoffs in the wild card round.
Brooks is fast developing a reputation as a Ram-killer. He earned his first win here in his first start last November and passed for four touchdowns in New Orleans' 31-28 victory over the Rams in the playoff game at the Superdome in December.
On Sunday, Brooks put on a show in the third quarter, hitting Joe Horn with scoring passes of 46 and six yards and connecting with Willie Jackson on a 49-yard touchdown in a span of less than 6 1/2 minutes.
"We're a great football team, give us credit," Brooks said. "We're down and dirty. We grind it out. No style points coming from here."
Rams coach Mike Martz wasted no time with his bag of tricks, calling for a pass off a reverse on St. Louis' second play of the game. It worked to perfection as Az-Zahir Hakim, a high school quarterback, lofted a 51-yard touchdown down the right sideline to Isaac Bruce 52 seconds into the game.
Bruce finished with seven catches for 179 yards despite suffering a broken finger in the first half.
New Orleans turned the ball over on its first possession. Tight end Cam Cleeland caught a short pass, but had the ball stripped away by linebacker Don Davis and cornerback Aeneas Williams recovered for the Rams at the New Orleans 44.
Five plays later, tight end Ernie Conwell scored on a two-yard run 4:01 into the game, increasing the lead to 14-0.
Carney kicked field goals of 33 and 44 yards for the Saints in the first half.
Canidate scored on a one-yard run 1:26 into the second quarter to cap an eight-play, 74-yard drive. The key play in the drive was a 38-yard pass interference penalty against cornerback Kevin Mathis.
After Jeff Wilkins had his streak of 30 straight field goals snapped, he kicked a 54-yarder with 1:26 left in the half.
But disaster struck in the third quarter for the Rams.
Rookie Deuce McAllister returned the opening kickoff in the second half 46 yards to the St. Louis 48. Two plays later, Horn caught a 46-yard touchdown pass 58 seconds into the quarter to pull the Saints within 24-13.
On St. Louis' first possession, Sammy Knight came in on a blitz from his safety position, batted a pass by Warner with his left hand, picked it off and raced 13 yards to the St. Louis 16.
But the Saints had to settle for a 44-yard field goal by Carney 3:21 into the quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Dre Bly fumbled after he was hit by Richard Newsome and Fred McAfee recovered for the Saints at the St. Louis 16.
Five plays later, Brooks rolled right and drilled a six-yard touchdown to Horn. But Ricky Williams failed to run in for the two-point conversion, leaving New Orleans behind, 24-22.
After the Rams went three-and-out, Brooks made another big play, hitting Jackson deep down the right sideline for a 49-yard touchdownto give New Orleans its first lead at 28-24. The Saints again failed on the two-point conversion.
Defensive end Darren Howard intercepted a short pass by Warner and returned it 37 yards to the St. Louis 23, setting up a 23-yard field goal by Carney with 3:54 left in the quarter, giving the Saints a 31-24 advantage.
St. Louis tied the game with a 12-play, 87-yard drive which Warner capped with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Torry Holt with 7:20 left in the fourth quarter.
But when it appeared the Rams were driving for the go-ahead score at the New Orleans 23 with 4:14 left, Canidate fumbled after he caught a screen pass and Oldham recovered and raced 43 yards before he was pushed out of bounds at the St. Louis 36.
"We just can't let the ball go like that," Canidate said. "My job is to hold onto the ball regardless of whether they're trying to strip it. I can't put balls on the ground."