Dallas 13, St. Louis 10

Sept. 29, 2002 at 8:55 PM
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ST. LOUIS, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- A 48-yard field goal on the final play of the game by rookie Billy Cundiff gave the Dallas Cowboys a 13-10 victory Sunday over the St. Louis Rams, who remained winless and who lost quarterback Kurt Warner.

The NFL's most prolific quarterback over the last three years, Warner had struggled along with the rest of his teammates this season. He suffered a broken pinky finger in the first quarter, when he was thrown to the ground as he was throwing his league-leading eighth interception.

"It is like, 'please wake me up,'" Rams tight end Ernie Conwell said. "Last week was like your junior high girlfriend breaking up with you and you get this sick feeeling in your stomach. This week, it's like a nightmare.

"Somebody please turn the lights on and wake me up."

"Things haven't gone in our favor," Warner said. "Good teams have to make the breaks for themselves. That is what we have to start doing."

Jamie Martin came on and completed 25 of 38 passes for 262 yards with one touchdown and one interception. But he was unable to put the Rams' dormant offense into overdrive and took a costly sack in the final two minutes.

Defensive end Greg Ellis, who earlier picked off Warner, crashed through and dumped Martin for a six-yard loss on third down. That made Jeff Wilkins' field goal attempt a 49-yarder and he hit the right upright with it.

"We have been talking that we needed to step up and it was my turn to step up today," Wilkins said. "I didn't do it."

"That was just my fault," Martin said. "I can't hold on to the ball and take a sack. I've got to know the situation and get it out of there. It was just my fault and a bad play by me."

The Cowboys took over on the Rams 39' with 1:27 remaining and Quincy Carter showed poise in directing the game-winning drive. With no timeouts, the second-year signal-caller spiked the ball to stop the clock three times. The last time came with just one second left after a risky five-yard pass over the middle to Ken-Yon Rambo almost allowed the clock to expire.

"I knew we didn't need a touchdown to win it," Carter said. "I knew we just needed to keep moving the ball down the field. I thought as a collective group we did a great job of handling the two-minute drive."

"We just didn't feel like we could kick it from there and we felt we could get the clock stopped," Cowboys coach Dave Campo said of the short pass to Rambo. "We had enough time to get back and get it stopped and we were fortunate to get it stopped."

Cundiff came on and drilled the longest kick of his brief career.

"(Being) 0-4 is big, but it's not the end of the world," Rams receiver Isaac Bruce said. "We've got a division game next week (against San Francisco). We'll go out there and play hard. We're going up against a team that has been preparing to play us since the offseason, so it's going to be big."

It will have to be done without Warner, who may have surgery and is expected to miss four weeks. He had a similar injury in 2000 and missed five weeks.

"It may be a little bit worse because it is down in the joint," Warner said. "I thought it was dislocated. We tried to pop it back in and it wasn't popping backing in because it was broke."

"How long it will take to heal, I don't know," Rams coach Mike Martz said. "Usually, those things take about a month, four weeks as I understand. I haven't talked to the doctors yet, so we'll just have to see."

The Rams are off to their worst start in nearly 40 years. In 1962 in Los Angeles, they lost a franchise-record six games to open the season en route to a 1-12-1 campaign. In 1963, they dropped their first five.

"There's nobody in this league feeling sorry for us, I'll promise you that," Martz said. "We've got no choice. We've got to toughen it up, and just keep battling back. That's life. What are you going to do? You can't sit and stew about that kind of stuff."

"No one in here is expecting any pity, or any pats on the back, or any sympathy calls from anybody around the league," Rams star running back Marshall Faulk said. "We still think a lot of ourselves. I'm going to continue to think that way and continue to work as hard as I can."

The Rams also became the fourth team to lose its first four games after reaching the Super Bowl. The 1987 New York Giants dropped their first five, but the last three of those came with replacement players during a strike.

Carter was 26 of 36 for 204 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Discounting spikes, he was four of four for 36 yards and also ran for a first down on the final drive, taking a huge step in justifying owner Jerry Jones' faith in him.

Emmitt Smith had 58 yards on 13 carries for the Cowboys (2-2), who bounced back from last week's 44-13 loss to Philadelphia and have won two of three since their season-opening debacle in Houston.

"I think the biggest thing that we talked about was steady improvement from game to game," Campo said. "I think we're headed in that direction."

Smith needs 304 yards to surpass Walter Payton as the NFL's all-time leading rusher.

With Warner out, the Rams relied more on Faulk. The NFL's best all-around back had 18 carries for 73 yards and eight catches for 67 yards but was kept out of the end zone. The interception by Ellis set up the game's first score.

Carter threw a 15-yard pass to Robert Thomas and Smith ran 11 yards before Carter found Darnay Scott with a 17-yard touchdown pass with 5:19 left in the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Martin moved the Rams 63 yards entirely through the air in 79 seconds. Faulk caught passes of 11 and 15 yards, Torry Holt caught a 13-yarder and Isaac Bruce hauled in a 21-yard TD pass that tied the game.

In the third quarter, Martin took a different approach, mixing the run and pass in a 15-play, 65-yard drive that consumed nearly nine minutes but only produced a 27-yard field goal by Wilkins with 2:05 remaining.

"It's hard to say I gained a lot of confidence today when we lost the game, but I started to feel pretty good out there, so hopefully it will carry over," Martin said.

Carter showed his leadership early in the fourth quarter. During an 11-play, 59-yard march, he twice ran for 10 yards and also threw a 13-yard pass to Joey Galloway. A 35-yard field goal by Cundiff tied it with 4:23 left.

"He's going to improve from game to game," Campo said. "A couple of times today, he took off when he had an opprtunity to take off and that will come we gets more used to doing what he has to do."

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