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Panthers Defeat Rams 27-24

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Minus their two biggest stars, the St. Louis Rams were just another team.

Steve Beuerlein threw two touchdown passes and Joe Nedney made four field goals, including a 46-yarder with 40 seconds remaining, in the Carolina Panthers' 27-24 upset of the Super Bowl champions Sunday night.

The Rams were without Marshall Faulk, whose right knee locked up on him during pre-game warmups after it was drained earlier in the day. Faulk, who was to undergo arthroscopic surgery early Monday, joined Kurt Warner on the sidelines.

Team doctors estimated that Faulk, who leads the NFL with 1,326 yards rushing and receiving, will be out 2-3 weeks. That probably also is the timetable for Warner, who has already missed two games with a broken little finger on his throwing hand.

``I didn't know he was going to be out until they announced the starting lineups,'' offensive tackle Orlando Pace said of Faulk. ``But we can't feel sorry for ourselves.''

Trent Green was 29-for-42 for 428 yards and two touchdowns and Faulk's backup, Justin Watson, scored on a 3-yard run for the Rams. But Watson finished with just 12 yards on 12 carries, Green had trouble finishing drives and kicker Pete Stoyanovich, subbing for injured Jeff Wilkins, missed from 37 yards in the third quarter.

First-round pick Trung Canidate, drafted as Faulk's backup, was active for the first time in seven games after recovering from a sprained foot, but did not play. Martz, who said last week that it was time for Canidate to get on the field, gave no explanation.

The Panthers (4-5) handed the Rams (7-2) their second loss in three games and ended their 15-game winning streak in the Trans World Dome. They also ended the Rams' 12-game winning streak against NFC West opponents and St. Louis' NFL-record streak of 14 straight games with 30 or more points. The Rams' division lead is down to one game over New Orleans.

``We really feel like we accomplished something,'' Beuerlein said. ``We've laid a lot of eggs this year, and the bottom line for us now is we've done something good.

``Now we've got to follow it up and if we can do that, who knows what might happen?''

The outcome hinged on a bold move by Panthers coach Seifert and a conservative move by Rams coach Mike Martz, the architect of the NFL's No. 1-ranked offense.

Seifert decided to go for it on 4th-and-2 from the St. Louis 42 and Tshimanga Biakabutuka gained 10 yards to set up Nedney's game-winning field goal.

``It went back and forth in my mind,'' Seifert said. ``I was seriously considering punting the ball and then using timeouts and trying to regain some field position.

``But if you don't want that to be your style, you've got to go for it.''

Nedney was perfect on four attempts, also connecting from 35, 45 and 24 yards, and has missed only once in 17 tries this season.

``It'd better be good,'' Nedney said. ``After all the work this offense and defense has done, blood, sweat and tears for 59 minutes and 10 seconds, it's my job to go out there and show some points.''

On fourth-and-6 from the Panthers 35 with 6:31 to go, Martz elected to punt rather than go for it. Rookie John Baker shanked an 8-yarder to jump-start the Panthers' winning drive.

``I thought our defense would hold them,'' Martz said. ``I thought if we could pin them inside the 20, we could get into a situation to kick a field goal.''

The Rams appeared to take control midway through the third quarter when Dexter McCleon intercepted Beuerlein's pass on the Panthers' first play after Green's 4-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce. Watson scored five plays later on a 3-yard run for a 24-16 lead.

Carolina tied it on a 13-yard pass from Beuerlein to Donald Hayes, and Beuerlein ran it in for a 2-point conversion with 10:43 to go. The score came only two plays after Doug Evans recovered his second fumble of the game, this time after Bruce coughed up the ball at the St. Louis 26.

Notes: Reggie White, described by Martz last week as a player ``at the end of his career,'' had two sacks. ``The comments did fire some people up, but I know Mike Martz and I don't think he meant anything,'' White said. ... Opponents have scored first in eight of the Rams' nine games. The exception was San Diego, a 57-31 loser in Week 5. ... The Panthers allowed only four touchdown passes their first eight games.
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