TEMPE, Arizona (Ticker) -- At one time, the St. Louis Rams had the "Greatest Show on Turf." Now they have been reduced to a pile of rubble.
With a chance to move into first-place tie in the NFC West, the Rams again struggled on the road in an embarrassing 31-7 loss to the
After Seattle lost earlier in the day, St. Louis (6-8) had its playoff fate in its own hands but came out completely uninspired against an Arizona team which had lost its last four games.
"We didn't see this coming," Rams wide receiver
said. "If there was any game on the schedule we felt confident about winning it would be Arizona but they came out and took control right from the door."
In the first quarter, the Rams fell behind 10-0, failed to register a first down and had minus-20 total yards. The Cardinals gained 108 yards in the opening quarter.
The Rams again had 39-year-old
at quarterback in place of the injured
. But Chandler, who tied a franchise record with six interceptions in last week's loss at Carolina, was pulled early in the second quarter in this one after going 1-of-6 for one yard with an interception.
"I am baffled by it," Rams Coach Mike Martz said. "He (Chandler) has the knowledge of the offense he just doesn't play it in the games. There is no preparation for what we did out there. It is tragic that, that position holds this team hostage."
Chandler was replaced by
, who had not played in a game since the 2002 season. Martin failed to get the once-explosive Rams offense moving and went 15-of-30 for 185 yards.
Despite another hapless performance away from home, the Rams still are tied with Carolina and New Orleans for the final wild card. They remain one game behind Seattle.
St. Louis, which closes the regular season with home games against Philadelphia and the
New York Jets
- two teams headed for the playoffs, lost its final five road games by a combined 164-62.
was responsible for the Rams' only touchdown when he returned a fumble 61 yards for a score late in the second quarter.
The Rams did come close to scoring an offensive touchdown late in the third quarter. But after wide receiver
caught a pass over the middle, he fumbled at the 1 and safety
recovered in the end zone.
It marked the first time the Rams failed to score an offensive touchdown since a 10-3 loss at Philadelphia on December 1, 2002.
Rams running back
returned after missing two games with a knee injury. The former Most Valuable Player continued to look like a shell of his former self as he rushed for 22 yards on 10 attempts. He has gained 35 yards on 30 carries in his last three games.
, surprisingly benched by coach Dennis Green prior to a November 21 game against Carolina, played well in his second game since returning to the starting role.
McCown completed 22-of-35 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns as the Cardinals (5-9) snapped a five-game losing streak against the Rams. He also ran for a pair of scores.
"I think it (being benched) helped me to sit back and watch but don't get me wrong I didn't like it," McCown explained. "When you have played for a significant time then you have to sit down and watch you watch with a different pair of eyes. You can apply what you are seeing with what you are seeing in the game as compared to a rookie that has never played in a game."
Arizona held a 402-186 advantage in total yards.
"Right from the start we had outstanding tempo," Green said. "We were very aggressive how we played defense. "We blitzed about 60 percent of the time and took them out of their running game, that was a key."
The Cardinals still are in the play off hunt, barely. They need to win both of their remaining games and Seattle and St. Louis must lose their last two games for the Cardinals to make the playoffs for only the second time since they moved to Arizona.
"It is very surprising but sometimes it works out like that," Cardinals defensive end Betrand Berry said. "Anything can happen so if we have a chance of getting into the playoffs so be it. We are just going out and try to finish and win back-to-back games."