GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The red zone had been like a gold mine for the Arizona Cardinals during their 3-0 start. They scored touchdowns on 11 of their first 12 trips inside opponents' 20-yard line -- the second most such scores in the NFL.
On Sunday against the St. Louis Rams at University of Phoenix Stadium, the red zone was more like a dead zone for Arizona.
The St. Louis defense forced the Cardinals to settle for five field goals and the Rams offense got three touchdown passes from quarterback Nick Foles, two of which went to wide receiver Tavon Austin, as the Rams held on for a 24-22 victory.
The win snapped a two-game slide by the Rams (2-2). The loss was just the fourth at home for the Cardinals under third-year coach Bruce Arians.
"When you're playing someone like Carson (Palmer) with the athletes that they have and as well coached as they are, you go into it saying, 'They're going to get down there, but field goals are going to be a win for your defense,'" said Rams coach Jeff Fisher, whose team is 2-0 in the NFC West after also having beaten the Seahawks in Week 1. "When you can hold them to three rather than seven, you feel pretty good about it."
Arizona relied on the leg of Chandler Catanzaro to stay in the game after failing to score touchdowns on each of its first four trips into red zone territory. The Cardinals finally found pay dirt after Foles' 20-yard touchdown pass to Austin gave St. Louis a 24-15 lead with 8:16 left to play.
The Cardinals went on an 80-yard drive, capped by quarterback Carson Palmer's 23-yard touchdown throw to rookie running back David Johnson. But after the extra point, Arizona was still trailing by two.
The Cardinals forced the Rams to punt and got the ball back with plenty of time left. But the league's highest-scoring offense couldn't answer back one last time, as the Cardinals stalled with an incomplete pass on fourth-and-2 form the Rams' 43-yard line with 1:44 remaining.
St. Louis running back Todd Gurley rushed for 146 yards on 19 carries, which included a 52-yard run in the fourth quarter that set up the Rams' game-clinching touchdown.
"I was disappointed in the second half and our lack of discipline defensively stopping the run, giving up some big chunks to Gurley, who's a heck of a back," Arians said. "We just lost our discipline and our inability to make some plays in the red zone. We'll get back to work and get on the road. Now that we've lost one at home, we better win some more on the road."
Palmer finished the day 29 of 46 for 352 yards. Foles was 16 of 24 for 171 yards to go along with his three touchdowns.
"We had a couple plays we didn't make on third down," Palmer said of the Cardinals ineffectiveness in the red zone. "It's a very good defense. I think aside from our defense, it's one of the best, probably the best defense. ... We just didn't make enough plays. I didn't make enough plays. We had chances."
Gurley rushed for all but five of his yards in the second half, which included a 30-yard scamper down the sideline near the end of regulations where he alertly went down to help run more time off the clock.
"I was just being a smart player and made the right decision," he said. "I didn't want to go out of bounds and hold onto the ball. I could have easily scored, but not, I was just trying to get the win."
The Cardinals never trailed at any point in any of their first three games, but that changed in a hurry on Sunday.
David Johnson fumbled the opening kickoff after returning it to the 17-yard line and getting crushed by a hit from Mark Barron. Three plays later, Foles connected with Austin over the middle for a 12-yard touchdown.
Just one and a half minutes into the game, the Cardinals were behind 7-0.
Arizona continued to mount drives, but the Rams kept them out of the end zone every time the Cardinals got close.
After a 62-yard drive to the Rams' 4-yard line, the Cardinals had to settle for a 21-yard field goal from Catanzaro. After a 13-play drive that got them to the 9, they had to settle for a 27-yard field goal. And it happened one more time in the first half after the Cardinals went 56 yards before stalling at the 21 and taking a 42-yard field goal to stay within 10-9.
The Rams converted two of the Cardinals' three turnovers into touchdowns, including a fumble by wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald as the Cardinals were putting together another long drive in the third quarter. Foles capped a 58-yard drive with a perfect pass in the back of the end zone to wide receiver Stedman Bailey that went for an 18-yard score.
"We've been on the other side of that before where we felt like we turned the ball over too much and say it's got to be frustrating," Rams defensive end Chris Long said. "They're a good football team and you have to do things like that to win in this league and create opportunities for your offense."
Catanzaro's fourth field goal of the day, a 38-yarder, brought the Cardinals to within 17-12 at the end of the third quarter. His 29-yarder three minutes into the fourth quarter made it 17-15.
NOTES: Rams LB James Laurinaitis, who last week surpassed 14-time Pro Bowler Merlin Olsen as the franchise's all-time leading tackler (921), made his 100th consecutive start on Sunday, the third-longest active streak among linebackers. ... With the return of G Mike Iupati to the starting lineup, the Cardinals made Ted Larsen, who had started the first three games at left guard, inactive on Monday. ... The Rams' defense entered Sunday's game leading the league with 30 negative plays. ... Rams LB Alex Ogletree left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury and after the game, coach Jeff Fisher said Ogletree will likely require surgery.