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ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals clinched their first NL Central title in four years, beating the Chicago Cubs 7-0 Friday night behind the strong pitching of Lance Lynn and home runs by David Freese and Matt Holliday.

St. Louis (95-65) has won six of seven and is tied with Atlanta for the best record in the NL. They are assured of home-field advantage when the NL division series starts Thursday.

Adam Wainwright (18-9) was moved up to start Saturday, putting the St. Louis ace on track to start his team's postseason opener against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh or the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Friday, 27 September 2013 22:16
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Colin Kaepernick threw two touchdown passes, Frank Gore had his first 100-yard game of the season and the San Francisco 49ers' defense stepped up without some of their stars in a 35-11 rout over the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night.

Anquan Boldin had five catches for 90 yards and a touchdown, and Gore had 153 yards on 20 carries and a 34-yard score for San Francisco (2-2), which was outscored 46-10 the previous two games. Navarro Bowman had two of the 49ers' five sacks with a strip leading to a fourth-quarter scoring run by Anthony Dixon.

The Rams (1-3) had an overtime win and tie against San Francisco last year, and took the early lead Thursday before falling flat. Greg Zuerlein banged in a 40-yard field goal off the right upright to end a nine-game scoring drought in the first quarter, but the 49ers answered with 28 straight points.

The 49ers came close to a Super Bowl title in February and regained their footing against the team that gave them the most trouble last season. Minus cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and linebackers Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith, they quieted a raucous, hopeful crowd, sending all but a few thousand home early.

Kaepernick had no touchdown passes and four interceptions the previous two weeks and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes. He was 15 for 23 for 167 yards.

Boldin had a monster debut with the 49ers after helping the Ravens beat San Francisco in the Super Bowl, but had been quiet along with the rest of the offense the previous two weeks. He had two highlight catches in the second quarter, a 42-yarder despite Cortland Finnegan getting flagged for holding, and a 20-yard score capped by a dive into the end zone after barely avoiding the sideline.

Gore more than doubled his output from the first three weeks and got a lot more work, too, after totaling just 11 carries last week. Four days earlier, DeMarco Murray burned them for 175 yards in Dallas' 31-7 win.

The Rams have trailed by double digits in every game, making up an 11-point deficit against Arizona in the opener but not gaps of 21 and 24 points against Atlanta and Dallas, and were down by 25 in the fourth quarter against San Francisco.

They got hit by injuries, too, the worst of them when rookie safety T.J. McDonald was carted off with a leg injury in the second half.

After mustering just 25 yards in the first quarter, the 49ers took a noisy crowd out of it in the second, averaging more than 11 yards per snap while piling up 176 yards and two touchdowns. Kaepernick was 8 for 12 for 104 yards in the half, all but 11 of those yards in the second quarter.

The Rams went for it on 3rd-and-1 from the 49ers 34 and Donte Whitner's diving interception in the end zone set up an eight-play, 80-yard drive capped by Gore's 34-yard run on third-and-1 in the final minute that made it 14-3.

The San Francisco defense took Gore off the hook for getting stripped by rookie Alec Ogletree and a turnover, forcing St. Louis into a three-and-out. Davis, who had been questionable with a because of a hamstring injury, broke open for an easy catch in the left side of the end zone to push the lead to 21-3.

Boldin entered with 83 career receptions against the Rams, the most of any opponent he has faced.

 
Thursday, 26 September 2013 23:39
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One of the keys to the Blues success last season, will not be with the team to start the year.

Goalie Jake Allen was one of seven players cut from the training camp roster and assigned to the team's AHL affiliate. Allen will start in goal for the Wolves, but the Blues have made it clear, they want Allen to be with the team in the near future.

The Blues’ roster now consists of 25 players, but they will have to narrow that number to 23 by September 30.

Thursday, 26 September 2013 13:13
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On their way to the Super Bowl last season, the 49ers couldn't solve one team: the Rams. St. Louis beat San Francisco once and the teams played to a tie, rare blemishes on the 49ers' record.

Jim Harbaugh's team gets another shot at the Rams on Thursday night, and the 49ers (No. 12 in the AP Pro32) are 3-point favorites over No. 23 St. Louis.

Coming off successive losses in which their offense was awful, the 49ers are in turmoil. Linebacker Aldon Smith is taking a leave of absence to deal with personal problems. At least in a short week, they have no choice but to concentrate heavily on football.

"I think it's a distraction to whoever wants to think about it, to whoever wants to pay attention to it," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "When I get out there on the field and play, I'm thinking about playing whatever team, I'm not thinking about Aldon and whatever situation went on with him."

Pretty good advice, especially facing Jeff Fisher's Rams, who also come off a poor outing. One of the NFL's top coaches for two decades, Fisher is likely to have St. Louis ready for the defending NFC West champs.

"We've been on the losing end of a lot of games, this organization has," Fisher said. "Now last year, we got our feet back on the map, but I don't think there's a rivalry yet. It's a division opponent. It's a big challenge for us on a short week, but I don't necessarily see it as a rivalry yet. Hopefully, it will become one."

This game could help do that.

49ERS 20-16

No. 21 Philadelphia (plus 10½) at No. 1 Denver

Eagles will score some points. Broncos will score many, many points.

BEST BET: BRONCOS, 40-24

No. 3 Chicago (plus 2½) at No. 15 Detroit

Was tempted to make this BEST BET, too.

UPSET SPECIAL: BEARS, 26-13

No. 8 Baltimore (minus 3½) at No. 24 Buffalo

Along with UPSET SPECIAL, another road team win.

RAVENS, 23-20

No. 9 Cincinnati (minus 4½) at No. 25 Cleveland

And another.

BENGALS, 20-13

No. 26 Washington (minus 3) at No. 30 Oakland

You get the message.

REDSKINS, 22-17

No. 2 Seattle (minus 3) at No. 11 Houston

A real road test for Seahawks. Win convincingly and they rule the NFC. Nope ...

TEXANS, 21-20

No. 7 Miami (plus 6) at No. 4 New Orleans, Monday night

A real road test for Dolphins. Win in any manner and playoff goals look real. Nope ...

SAINTS, 27-20

No. 10 Indianapolis (minus 8½) at No. 32 Jacksonville

Lay the points against Jags until they show something.

COLTS, 24-10

No. 5 New England (plus 1½) at No. 16 Atlanta

Falcons need to figure out their problems now. Tough chore, but doable.

FALCONS, 24-21

No. 28 Minnesota (plus 1) vs. No. 27 Pittsburgh

The first of two London games. What a dud the Brits are getting.

STEELERS, 17-15

No. 22 Arizona (plus 3) at No. 31 Tampa Bay

Turmoil in Tampa leaves Bucs vulnerable, even to injury-ravaged Cardinals.

CARDINALS, 23-20

No. 29 New York Giants (plus 4½) at No. 6 Kansas City

Giants yielded seven sacks to Panthers. Chiefs REALLY know how to get after QBs.

CHIEFS, 20-17

No. 18 New York Jets (plus 4) at No. 17 Tennessee

Two coaches on hot seats whose teams are producing.

JETS, 24-19

No. 13 Dallas (minus 1½) at No. 19 San Diego

Would Cowboys clinch NFC East with win? Not quite.

COWBOYS, 30-23

___

2013 RECORD:

Against spread: 8-7-1 (23-22-3). Straight up: 10-6 (33-15).

Best Bet: 2-1 against spread, 3-0 straight up.

Upset special: 1-2 against spread, 1-2 straight up.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013 17:19
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Rookie Shelby Miller won his 15th game, and Yadier Molina had the go-ahead hit for the St. Louis Cardinals, who wrapped up a three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals and moved another step closer to the NL Central title with a 4-1 victory on Wednesday.

Jordan Zimmermann (19-9) missed his only shot at 20 wins, allowing four runs in seven innings. The Nationals had five hits one day after breaking up rookie Michael Wacha's bid for a no-hitter in the ninth inning.

Matt Adams hit his eighth home run since replacing injured Allen Craig and doubled for the Cardinals, who led the Pirates by 2 1/2 games with three games to go. The Reds lost 1-0 to the Mets on Wednesday and were eliminated from the divisional race.

The Cardinals (94-65) are a season-high 29 games above .500 and have a day off before 14-game winner Lance Lynn faces the Cubs on Friday night to open the final series.

Miller (15-9) was wild high early and walked two of the first three hitters to set up Bryce Harper's RBI single. The Nationals had no other runners in scoring position against the 22-year-old Miller, who allowed a run in six-plus innings and beat them for the second time this season.

Rookie Trevor Rosenthal saved all three games and struck out Adam LaRoche to cap a perfect ninth.

Zimmermann had won his previous four appearances and had been coming off a two-hit shutout of Miami. But he is 0-3 with a 8.27 ERA in six career starts against St. Louis, and lost Game 2 of the NL division series last fall.

Daniel Descalso doubled leading off the third and scored on Matt Carpenter's groundout to tie it. Zimmermann hit Matt Holliday to open the fourth, and Adams doubled ahead of Molina's two-run single that made it 3-1.

Adams hit his 17th homer on a 1-2 pitch in the sixth.

The Cardinals were 15-2 against the NL East and swept Miami and Philadelphia.

NOTES: Zimmermann has 43 career wins, one shy of the Nationals' franchise record held by Livan Hernandez. ... Miller leads all rookies with 15 wins, also the most by a Cardinals rookie since Dick Hughes won 16 in 1967. ... Lynn (14-10, 4.09) faces Travis Wood (9-11, 2.98) on Friday. Stephen Strasburg (7-9, 3.02) gets his final start on Friday at Arizona against Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.28).

Wednesday, 25 September 2013 17:17
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha lost his no-hit bid on Ryan Zimmerman's infield single with two outs in the ninth inning, and St. Louis beat the Washington Nationals 2-0 Tuesday night to close in on the NL Central title.

Making his ninth career start, Wacha came about as close as possible to finishing off the third no-hitter in the majors this season. Instead, the Busch Stadium crowd let out a loud, collective groan as he became the third pitcher to have a bid broken up with one out to go.

Zimmerman hit a chopper just over the 6-foot-6 Wacha, and the ball bounced slowly toward shortstop. A charging Pete Kozma grabbed it with his bare hand and whipped a throw to first that was a little wide, pulling Matt Adams off the bag as Zimmerman arrived.

"I think it nicked off my glove a little bit," Wacha said.

As the ball left Zimmerman's bat, several Cardinals started to climb the dugout railing, ready to pour onto the field to celebrate. Second baseman Matt Carpenter did a little hop, all set for the final out.

But first base umpire Jeff Kellogg correctly called Zimmerman safe, and the Cardinals sagged right along with their fans.

Third baseman David Freese sat crouched in the infield, stunned at how close his 22-year-old teammate had come. Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright put his hands on his head in disbelief.

Wacha (4-1) was pulled after Zimmerman's hit and walked off to a huge ovation. The right-hander struck out nine and walked two.

"I guess I wasn't meant to throw one tonight," he said.

Trevor Rosenthal got Jayson Werth to ground out for his second save.

With anticipation building and fans on their feet in the ninth inning, Wacha retired pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi on a grounder to Kozma before throwing a called third strike past Denard Span.

But on the next pitch, Zimmerman spoiled it.

Texas' Yu Darvish lost a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning against Houston on April 2 and San Francisco's Yusmeiro Petit had his try at perfection end one out shy against Arizona on Sept 6.

Cincinnati's Homer Bailey and the Giants' Tim Lincecum threw no-hitters in July.

The last two no-hitters by St. Louis pitchers came from rookies - Bud Smith in 2001 and Jose Jimenez in 1999.

It has been 30 years since there was a no-hitter in St. Louis. Bob Forsch finished off his second for the Cardinals on Sept. 26, 1983, against Montreal.

Drafted 19th overall out of Texas A&M last year, Wacha has been up and down from the minors a couple of times this season. But he came up big for the Cardinals in the final week as they try to nail down their first division title since 2009.

St. Louis, which already clinched a playoff berth, began the night with a two-game lead in the NL Central over Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The Reds lost to the New York Mets 4-2, falling three games back with four to play.

The Cardinals have won four of five. They remained a half-game behind Atlanta for the best record in the NL.

Washington was eliminated from playoff contention with a 4-3 loss to St. Louis on Monday night. The Nationals have dropped three of four.

Wacha retired his first 14 batters before Adam LaRoche reached on an error by Carpenter at second base with two outs in the fourth.

Span tried to break up the no-hitter with a two-out bunt in the sixth. The ball rolled just foul near third base, and the crowd booed lustily.

Left fielder Shane Robinson made a running catch of a tailing liner off the bat of Anthony Rendon to end the eighth.

Robinson drove in Carpenter with a two-out single off Gio Gonzalez (11-8) in the third. Carpenter began the rally with his major league-leading 55th double.

Yadier Molina pushed the lead to 2-0 with a run-scoring double in the fourth.

Gonzalez came within inches of a no-hitter himself this month. He finished with a one-hit shutout against the Mets after pinch-hitter Zach Lutz's seventh-inning single landed right on the first base line behind the bag.

This time, Gonzalez allowed two runs and six hits over seven innings. He struck out six.

NOTES: Wacha was seeking the 11th no-hitter in Cardinals history. ... Nationals RHP Jordan Zimmermann (19-7, 3.18 ERA) gets his last scheduled shot at 20 wins on Wednesday when he faces RHP Shelby Miller (14-9, 3.12) in the finale of the three-game series. ... The Cardinals are 14-2 against NL East opponents at home.


 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013 22:09
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Carlos Beltran homered, Adam Wainwright earned his 18th win and the St. Louis Cardinals beat Washington 4-3 on Monday night, eliminating the Nationals from playoff contention.

Looking for their first NL Central title since 2009, the Cardinals maintained a two-game lead over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and reduced their magic number to four.

All three teams are headed to the postseason. The Reds and Pirates both won Monday night, clinching at least a wild-card berth when Washington lost.

St. Louis secured no worse than a wild card on Sunday.

All three NL Central contenders have five games left.

The Nationals won the NL East last season with 98 wins but were eliminated by St. Louis in the division series. One year later, they were knocked out by the Cardinals again.

Beltran's two-run homer in the fifth off rookie Tanner Roark broke a 2-all tie. It was Beltran's team-leading 24th of the season and first in 91 at-bats since Aug. 24.

Wainwright (18-9) gave up three runs and seven hits over seven-plus innings. He struck out five, giving him a career-high 214 on the season.

Jayson Werth hit a two-run homer on the 15th pitch of the game. Wainwright then retired nine in a row and allowed just one run on five hits the rest of the way. He moved into second in the NL in wins behind Washington right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who has 19.

Wainwright gave up two singles to begin the eighth. Trevor Rosenthal got two outs for his first career save.

Roark (7-1) gave up four runs and five hits in five innings for his first loss in four starts. He went 45 2-3 innings before allowing his first home run.

Washington closed to 4-3 in the eighth on singles by Anthony Rendon and Steve Lombardozzi and a groundout from Ryan Zimmerman. St. Louis reliever Carlos Martinez got Werth to ground out with a runner in scoring position to end the threat.

The Cardinals climbed within 2-1 on a run-scoring single by Yadier Molina in the first. They tied it on successive singles from David Freese, Daniel Descalso and Shane Robinson in the fourth.

Robinson replaced Matt Holliday in the lineup. Holliday was a game-time scratch for the second night in a row due to back spasms. He is day to day.

NOTES: Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon, 74, returned to the booth four weeks after undergoing surgery to replace an aortic valve in his heart. Shannon, who played on the Cardinals' 1964 and 1967 World Series championship teams, made his announcing debut in 1972. He received a standing ovation when his picture was flashed on the video screen during the second inning. ... The Cardinals have 92 wins, their most since winning 100 games in 2005. ... Cardinals 1B Allen Craig will be re-evaluated Thursday. Craig has missed the last 18 games with a left foot sprain sustained Sept. 4. ... The Nationals have a 24-8 advantage in homers over their last 17 games. ... St. Louis rookie Michael Wacha (3-1, 3.21 ERA) will face LHP Gio Gonzalez (11-7, 3.39) in the second game of the three-game set on Tuesday.

Monday, 23 September 2013 23:10
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MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Norichika Aoki scored three times and doubled home a run, and the Milwaukee Brewers beat sloppy St. Louis 6-4 on Sunday night, hours after the Cardinals clinched a playoff berth.

Wily Peralta (11-15) gave up five hits and walked five in five-plus innings for the Brewers. The Cardinals put the go-ahead run at the plate with two outs in the ninth, but closer Jim Henderson got slugger Matt Adams to strike out to end the game and earn his 26th save.

St. Louis learned earlier Sunday it was assured of at least an NL wild card after Washington lost its doubleheader opener against Miami.

The Cardinals chased Peralta after loading the bases in the sixth with nobody out. Reliever Donovan Hand allowed two runs to score on consecutive sacrifice flies to cut the Brewers' lead to 4-3, but he hot out of the jam by getting Matt Carpenter to strike out on a curve with the tying run at third.

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina misplayed a throw to the plate for another error in a two-run seventh that gave Milwaukee back its three-run cushion. St. Louis also committed two errors in the Brewers' two-run second.

Hand struck out three in his two innings of work to settle down the Brewers. The Cardinals threatened again in the ninth with two outs. Carlos Beltran had an RBI single, and the Cardinals sent the potential go-ahead run to the plate but closer Jim Henderson got slugger Matt Adams to strike out to end the game and earn his 26th save.

St. Louis remains two games up in the NL Central, but now has two teams to fend off in second after the Reds defeated Pittsburgh 11-3 to pull into a tie with the Pirates.

Playing their final home game of 2013, the Brewers closed Miller Park on a high note in a season marked by injuries and the doping suspension of slugger Ryan Braun.

The Cardinals didn't look sharp on the field. Errors by third baseman David Freese and starter Joe Kelly (9-5) helped contribute to the two Milwaukee runs in the second.

St. Louis began the day with an NL-low 71 errors.

Kelly also hesitated on what could have been an inning-ending double play in the first after getting Carlos Gomez to bounce sharply back to the mound with runners on first and third. But Kelly glanced just a split second long enough at Jonathan Lucroy leading off third. The Cardinals got the runner at second but couldn't get the relay to first and Lucroy scored easily for a 2-0 lead.

Leadoff hitter Aoki contributed to rallies in both the first and second. He's tortured Cardinals pitching all season, hitting .406 against them entering the day.

Aoki led off the first with a single and came home on an RBI single by Aramis Ramirez with one out. Aoki then reached on an RBI double in the second before scoring after Kelly threw away a sacrifice bunt attempt by Scooter Gennett.

Aoki also walked twice to reach base in each of his four plate appearances.

Kelly went seven innings, allowing seven hits and six runs - three of them unearned.

NOTES: LF Matt Holliday was scratched from the starting lineup with back spasms. ... St. Louis has a major league-leading 34 wins from rookie pitchers this season, their most since also getting 34 in 1952. ... Manager Ron Roenicke thinks SS Jean Segura will be available for pinch-hitting duties for the Brewers' three-game set starting Monday in Atlanta. Segura, the NL leader in steals with 44, has been sidelined since Wednesday with a strained right hamstring ... LF Khris Davis was out of the lineup Sunday due to a nagging wrist injury, but is also likely to return to action in Atlanta.

Sunday, 22 September 2013 22:29
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- San Francisco linebacker Aldon Smith will miss Thursday night's game at St. Louis and perhaps sit out longer, 49ers CEO Jed York said Sunday.

Smith will seek treatment following his arrest Friday for suspicion of driving under the influence and marijuana possession. After Sunday's loss to the Colts, Smith apologized and acknowledged he will get help, but didn't field questions.

"First off, I wanted to apologize to the team, the organization, my family and everybody I let down," he said. "I also wanted to let it be known that this is a problem and it's something that I will get fixed, and that I'll do everything in my power to make sure that this never happens again.

"I also wanted to let everybody know that once again I'm sorry."

Smith started for San Francisco and had five tackles in a 27-7 loss, two days after he was arrested and jailed early Friday morning following an accident in which his truck hit a tree. York defended the organization's decision to play Smith.

"Our opinion is if you're sitting someone down and paying them to sit down when they're going to seek treatment in the future, we didn't feel like that was an appropriate punishment," he said. "We're not trying to circumvent what the NFL will do. This is about making sure that Aldon has the opportunity to work on something, to get better, and he knows that he has our support and hopefully he has everybody's support in something that is going to be very difficult."

York expects Smith to get help, but the 49ers won't interfere.

"I think Aldon is going to take steps on his own," York said. "We're not worried about that."

Smith is a key pass rusher and sacks leader for the 49ers, and coach Jim Harbaugh had said leading up to Sunday that the NFL would decide how to punish the third-year pro, who turns 24 Wednesday. He had a franchise-record 19 1/2 sacks last season, second in the NFL.

When asked about Smith getting help, Harbaugh said "there's a process there we'll apprise you of at the appropriate time."

"It will be indefinite," York said. "There's no timetable."

York said Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke handled the situation and communicated with him.

"I think this was the best thing for Aldon," York said. "Again, there's no right answer here. We're very fortunate that nobody got hurt, Aldon included and anybody else. And we want to make sure that Aldon is never in a position like this again."

The league is likely to suspend Smith, but whether that is later this season or next year is unclear. 49ers defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs was suspended for Week 1 without pay for a violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy that happened last season. Dobbs was arrested last Nov. 30 - his 25th birthday - for suspicion of driving under the influence and possession of marijuana.

Smith has had a rash of run-ins with the law that raised questions about his character.

"It was disappointing, but we support him, and knowing that what he wants to do is not a one-day fix, it's a long-term fix for Aldon," York said. "Aldon is willing to fight for himself and try to make this right, and I will see it through, and I will support him. I will take any shots that anybody wants to direct at the organization. They can direct at me, and I will support Aldon as long as he is willing to work at this and fight to get better."

Earlier this month, a lawsuit was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court naming Smith by a Northern California man who said he was shot at a party at Smith's house on June 29, 2012.

The players charged a $10 admission and $5 per drink, the lawsuit said. Smith and former 49ers tight end Delanie Walker, 29 were allegedly intoxicated on Smith's balcony when they later fired gunshots in the air while trying to end the party, the lawsuit said.

Before the 2012 home opener last September, Smith was the passenger in a car accident in Santa Clara County in which the driver swerved to avoid hitting a deer. Smith sustained a cut beneath his right eyebrow. He apologized and insisted he had grown up.

The 49ers selected Smith seventh overall in the first round of the 2011 draft out of Missouri. He became an instant impact player like many of the others chosen by Baalke in the past three drafts.

"This was not an easy weekend for us," York said. "Again, I'll support our players as long as they're willing to work toward getting better and being better teammates, better members of the community I believe that Aldon wants to do that, and I will support him and I will stand by him as long as that's what he's willing to do."

Sunday, 22 September 2013 22:27
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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams faltered under pressure.

And they still can't stop Bradford's college teammate DeMarco Murray.

Bradford was sacked six times, after none the previous four games going back to last season, and Murray ran for 175 yards with a touchdown on 26 carries and the Dallas Cowboys beat the Rams 31-7 on Sunday.

"We didn't do really, do anything well today," coach Jeff Fisher said. "I did not see this coming. This is a defining moment for us right now. We've got to get past this and get ready for the 49ers."

With a home game Thursday night against the defending NFC champions, St. Louis (1-2) has to correct things in a hurry.

The good part for the Rams is they don't have much time to worry about another lopsided loss against the Cowboys or another breakout performance by Murray against them.

The running back had a Cowboys-franchise record 253 yards rushing as a rookie two years ago in a 34-7 win over the Rams.

"It's a little frustrating. I'm not really sure why he has to do it against us," Bradford said of Murray, his teammate at Oklahoma.

The Rams had only 232 total yards. They were 0 for 12 on third-down conversions until a 9-yard run on the game's last play.

They had a punt return for a touchdown nullified by a penalty and they trailed 24-0 before finally scoring in the third quarter on a fourth-and-goal play from the 4.

It was the second week in a row the Rams trailed by at least three touchdowns before scoring. They lost 31-24 at Atlanta after being down 21-0 in the first half.

"Pretty much, we had a flat start," said receiver Tavon Austin, whose 84-yard punt return in the second quarter was wiped out by a holding penalty.

"We've got to find ourselves right now. Our back is against the wall. We've got to come out and play harder and harder and hopefully get some wins."

Players and coaches held a closed-door meeting in the locker room immediately after the game.

"We have to stick together," defensive end Chris Long said. "Nobody is going to come in here and save the day. It is on us to change things."

Tony Romo threw for 210 yards and three scores for Dallas, and Murray had his first 100-yard game in more than a year.

It started with a 14-yard run on Dallas' first offensive play, and he had plenty of open space on a 36-yarder to start Dallas' second drive to a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter.

Bradford finished 29 of 48 for 240 yards. But he was sacked four times by halftime when the Rams, trying for their first 2-1 start since 2006, had just 18 yards total offense. Murray had 96 by himself and the Cowboys 202 with a 17-0 lead by then.

The Rams then had a turnover on their first play of the second half when Chris Givens fumbled after a 26-yard catch.

Romo threw 2 yards to Dez Bryant for the first Dallas score. He had a pair of 24-yarders in the second half to rookie tight end Gavin Escobar and Dwayne Harris, who bounced back from a fumble on the game's first punt.

When the Rams finally started getting defenders around Murray at the line of scrimmage, Romo found him on the outside for a pair of catches on a drive that ended with a 2-yard run by Murray for a 17-0 lead.

Murray went around the left end before extending the ball over the goal line right on the pylon, and there was no review.

St. Louis avoided the shutout on Bradford's 4-yard pass to Austin Pettis on fourth down late in third quarter after an interception by rookie safety J.J. Wilcox was wiped out by a roughing-the-passer penalty against Jason Hatcher.

The Rams had a chance to stay in the game on their next drive, but Bradford threw behind Givens while Givens on fourth down. Dallas scored three plays later for a 31-7 lead when Romo hit Harris in stride in the back of the end zone.

"You name at it as far as execution errors and we did it today," Bradford said. "In the first half, we just never got anything going, played behind the chains all day. First play (of the second half), turn the ball over. Just things you can't do. Just a very poor performance on our part today."

Sunday, 22 September 2013 22:26
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  CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — A Pepsi franchise is planning to build a new customer service center in Cape Girardeau (juh-RAHR'-doh) that could create 74 jobs. The M...

Man charged in Kansas City-area highway shootings

  KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas City-area man has been charged with 18 felony counts in connection with about a dozen recent random highway shootings...

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