Rams 38, Giants 24
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The St. Louis Rams are finally starting to look like the team that won the Super Bowl less than a year ago.
Not only is Trent Green keeping the offense in gear with Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk sidelined, but the defense is starting to become a force since Bud Carson returned as a consultant three weeks ago.
Green threw touchdown passes to four receivers and scrambled for another, and the Rams used three turnovers and a couple of big special teams plays to post a 38-24 victory over the New York Giants.
"I can't tell you coming into this game that we were going to treat this game as the Super Bowl," Rams rookie coach Mike Martz said after his team won for the eighth time in 10 games. "We were excited about playing another 7-2 team with a shot at winning their division. It's just a great indication of where we are."
For the Giants, it was another indicator that they still have a long way to go to be considered among the NFL's elite, even though they still have a half-game lead over Philadelphia (7-4) in the NFC East.
"This is a game that could have gotten us over the hump and established us as one of the better teams in the conference," said Giants quarterback Kerry Collins, who threw three touchdowns. "But I still like our chances."
New York gave away the game in the first half, falling behind 28-7 as its four-game winning streak ended.
Green and the Rams capitalized on a fumble, a punt return, a fake field goal, an interception and a 15-yard personal foul against Michael Strahan in putting the Giants away early.
The Giants had a chance to get back in early in the third quarter after scoring to close the gap to 28-14. An interception by linebacker Ryan Phillips and a run by Tiki Barber got New York to around the 1-yard line. But the Rams stopped Ron Dayne on two runs.
After New York cut the lead to 28-17 by settling for Brad Daluiso's field goal, Green sealed the game by leading the Rams on consecutive scoring drives that pushed the margin to 38-17.
The key, though, was the defensive stand.
"Kurt and Marshall are out, but most of the defense is healthy and we are starting to feel good about ourselves," said linebacker London Fletcher, who had one of the stops on Dayne and an interception that set up Green's last TD.
"Bud has come in and he is like the new neighbor who isn't afraid to speak his peace," Fletcher added. "He has ruffled some feathers, but we needed that. We're determined not to let adversity split us up or ruin our season."
Since Carson returned, St. Louis has not given up more than 27 points in a game. Opponents had been averaging 32.6 points.
The offense also has looked great since Green took over after Warner broke a finger on Oct. 22.
Green completed 27 of 45 passes for 272 yards. His threw touchdown passes to Roland Williams, Torry Holt, Ricky Proehl and Isaac Bruce. The four touchdowns tied Green's single-game best, set while playing for Washington against Arizona in 1998.
Green also ran for 54 yards on six carries, including an 18-yard scramble for a TD late in the second quarter.
With Faulk sidelined for the second straight week with a knee injury, the Rams still rushed for 141 yards against the NFL's second-best rushing defense.
"This just goes to show this is a complete team," said Warner, last season's regular-season and Super Bowl MVP. "This isn't about one or two guys. This is about a complete team, what we have from top to bottom. . . . This is more the team we saw last year. This shows we're a great football team."