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Cards Muddy Division Race By Blowing Out St. Louis

Cardinals 31, Rams 7

By Bob Baum
Associated Press
Monday, December 20, 2004; Page D09

TEMPE, Ariz., Dec. 19 -- The NFC West is so bad that a team with a losing record could win it -- even the Arizona Cardinals.

The St. Louis Rams had a chance to take control of the NFL's worst division on Sunday, but they fell flat in a 31-7 loss to the Cardinals.

Cardinals' Josh McCown lunges for one of his two rushing touchdowns. He threw for two more. (Matt York -- AP)

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Josh McCown threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more as the Cardinals snapped a four-game losing streak.

McCown, starting his second game since being benched for three, went 22 of 34 for 287 yards with no interceptions. He had touchdown passes of eight and four yards to Larry Fitzgerald, and scoring runs of one and nine yards.

A victory would have moved the Rams into a tie with Seattle atop the division. Instead, the Rams fell to 6-8, just one game ahead of the Cardinals (5-9), who improbably are still alive.

"We didn't see this coming," Rams wide receiver Torry Holt said. "If there was any game on the schedule that we felt confident about coming in and winning, it would be Arizona."

If Arizona wins its last two games, and both Seattle and St. Louis go 0-2, the Cardinals would take the division title at 7-9. Arizona will play at Seattle next Sunday.

"I'm surprised that a 5-9 team is in it, but I'm not surprised that it's this team," McCown said. "We have it in us. We have the talent, we have the capability to do this, it's just a consistency thing."

Arizona built a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter and St. Louis never got closer than 10 points after trimming the lead to 17-7.

With quarterback Marc Bulger out with a shoulder injury, 39-year-old Chris Chandler lasted just four possessions for the Rams before he was replaced by Jamie Martin, who played in the regular season for the first time in two years. He was signed by the Rams earlier this month when Bulger was injured.

The Rams had minus-20 yards of offense in the first quarter as Chandler went 1 for 6 for one yard and an interception. He was sacked twice.

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