The Rams hold a 5-4 advantage over the Pats.

1989 meeting

On Christmas day of 1989, the Los Angeles Rams needed to win their last regular season game against the Patriots.

-20 below wind chill factor didn't bother the team from LA. Greg Bell had one of his best days as he ran for 209 yards.



Too bad the St. Louis Rams aren't in the AFC East. Rookie Az Hakim and June Henley each scored two touchdowns and the Rams overcame three first-half turnovers and the loss of starting quarterback Tony Banks for a 32-18 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday.

  All but one of the Rams' four victories this season have come against playoff contenders from the AFC East.

New England, Buffalo and the New York Jets.

  The Patriots (8-6) wasted a big game from rookie running back Robert Edwrds, who gained 196 yards on 24 carries, and hurt their playoff chances by losng for the first time in four games.

  Quarterback Drew Bledsoe missed two series in the first quarte while having a new splint set on his surgically-repaired right index finger, and he wasn't very effective after he returned, going 11-for-35 for 176 yards.

  Bledsoe threw a touchdown pass to Lovett Purnell, but was sacked five times and knocked down repeatedly under heavy blitzing. Purnell replaced tight end Ben Coates, who missed the game after the death of his mother last week.

The Patriots also lost wide receiver Terry Glenn, who fractured his right ankle late in the first half.

  Banks is out for the season after tearing the medial collateral ligament of his left knee with 4:36 to go in the first quarter.

Backup Steve Bono had a slow start with an interception and fumble in the first half, but was 7-for-12 with no mistakes after the break.

  Hakim, a fourth-round draft pick, didn't play the first seven games and entered with 11 catches for 135 yards.

He replaced former first-round pick Eddie Kennison in the lineup and had four catches for 50 yards. He also scored on a 34-yard reverse to put the Rams ahead for good, 25-18, with four minutes left in the third quarter.

  Henley, who spent all last season on the practice squad, got his first start. He had 86 yards on 24 carries and scored on a pair of 1-yard runs.

  The Rams won for only the second time in 12 games in the Trans World Dome.

Officially, the game was the team's 34th consecutive sellout since moving from Anaheim, Calif., in 1995, but the 64,000-capacity stadium was at least one-third empty.

St. Louis scored on its first two possessions for the first time all season, including a 9-yard scoring pass from Banks to Hakim, and led 17-15 at the half.

  Edwards had 166 yards on 14 carries in the first half, including gains of 53, 47 and 36 yards. But he was stopped three times from the 1 in the third quarter as the Rams forced a fourth field goal from Adam Viniatieri that gave the Patriots their only lead at 18-17 with 7:49 left.


Three turnovers. And five regulars leaving with injuries. These are the kinds of games you have to win if you want to be a champion. They test your moxie and your depth.

The Rams passed that test Sunday night, holding off the New England Patriots 24-17. They returned home with the best record in football (8-1) and now prepare for another prime-timer - a Monday night home game with Tampa Bay.

"If you think you're going to be in the hunt at the end you've got to win games like these," offensive guard Adam Timmerman said.

The Rams won with 401 yards passing by Kurt Warner, after a shaky start, and seven receptions apiece by Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Marshall Faulk.

The defense held New England in check even though it lost safety Adam Archuleta (concussion), defensive tackle Damione Lewis (broken foot) and defensive end Leonard Little (sprained knee) in the first half.

Outside linebacker Mark Fields was added to the list with a sprained ankle in the second half. Lewis needs surgery and could be out for the season.

"This is a team of character," Little said. "We're deep in every position. So that gives us a chance to not lose a step when somebody goes out."

Just when things looked bleak, the Rams defense came up with a huge turnover, and the offense responded with a monster drive.

Already leading 10-7, the Patriots took over on their 32 midway through the second quarter following Jeff Wilkins' second missed field goal of the season.

Gambling successfully on fourth and 2 from the Rams' 44, the Patriots marched all the way to the St. Louis 4.

On first and goal, Patriots running back Antowain Smith steamed up the middle for the goal line. But London Fletcher stripped the ball from Smith, and Aeneas Williams recovered on the 3.

"I was out there in a very (upset) mood," said Fletcher, who was agitated because the Patriots were having some success running the ball. "But the thing that we constantly preach is first man tackle, second man strip."

After a play fake, Kurt Warner lobbed a 22-yard completion to backup tight end Jeff Robinson. Then Warner and Ricky Proehl got together. Over and over. And over. Warner threw three consecutive passes over the middle to Proehl, who gained 20, 19 and 10 yards.

Just minutes earlier, Warner was seen arguing with Proehl after the first of two Warner interceptions in the first half.

The three Warner-to-Proehl completions - which came on successive passes - advanced the ball to the Patriots' 26 with just over a minute to play in the half. Bruce moved the chains, spinning away for a 10-yard gain and a first down to the Patriots' 9. Warner spiked the ball to stop the clock with 36 seconds to play.

On the next play, Warner passed to Faulk short of the end zone over the middle. Faulk bowled over Patriots safety Matt Stevens for the touchdown, giving the Rams a 14-10 lead with 31 seconds to play before halftime.

"No matter what happens the rest of this year, the turning point for this football team, is when the defense took the ball away on the 3-yard line and we took it 97 yards before the half," Mike Martz said.

"That says it all in my mind. I think that's a huge statement about what this team is all about."

The Rams had taken a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter after Dexter McCleon's third interception of the season. He grabbed a pass that bounced off New England running back Kevin Faulk - a distant cousin of the Rams' Marshall - with St. Louis taking over at the Patriots' 18.

On third and eight from the 16, Warner found Torry Holt open in the end zone for Holt's fourth TD of the season. But then the interception bug struck again for the Rams. On the next St. Louis possession, Terrell Buckley intercepted a Warner pass and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown. This was a play where Proehl and Bruce almost collided. Bruce, in fact, was ducking to avoid Proehl and didn't see the pass.

Warner said he and Proehl had a miscommunication on the play.

That tied the score 7-7 with 1:55 left in the half. But only for a while. Warner threw another interception on the Rams' next possession. It was Warner's 13th interception of the season and his ninth in three games. The ball was intended for Faulk, but Warner threw the ball late and didn't appear to see Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who swooped in for the ball and returned it the Rams' 40.

The turnover set up the Patriots for a 33-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri and their only lead of the game - 10-7 with 14:06 left in the second quarter. The Patriots had one other scoring chance, following the Rams' third turnover of the game. New England recovered on the St. Louis 46 following a botched center exchange from center Andy McCollum to Warner. But once again, the St. Louis defense came to the rescue. Fletcher, who played a superb game, picked off Brady over the middle on the very next play and returned it 18 yards to the New England 42.

When all was said and done, Warner completed 30 of 42 passes and three for three TDs. "The thumb feels good again," Warner said. "It's exciting to get back out there and throw the ball the way you want to. We made a couple mistakes early on, but we corrected that."