ST. LOUIS -- After having a day to mull it over, Steve Spagnuolo's answer remained the same: The Rams coach again would have punted the ball to Patrick Peterson in the shadow of the Arizona Cardinals goal posts and taken his chances.
Most Mondays have been tough for the Rams, who are 1-7 at the midpoint of the season, but usually because they've been trying to move past a blowout. The latest defeat had to be a lot more difficult to swallow because it came down to an attempt to pin the Cardinals deep that went spectacularly awry when Peterson evaded four tackles on his 99-yard touchdown return in overtime.
Spagnuolo was convinced Peterson wouldn't field the ball in overtime, and even if he did, the coach expected to get a stop that would result in an Arizona punt and a short field for St. Louis.
"It's still amazing that somebody fields that punt," Spagnuolo said Monday. "He's got a lot of confidence in himself. The flip side is if he fields that thing and we tackle him at the 3, in an overtime game when all you need is a field goal to win, and certainly that's what we were hoping for."
The failure of a Rams punt-coverage unit that entered the game fourth in the NFL and exited at 21st was the last of several late missteps -- being stuffed on a fourth-and-1 running play, having a game-winning field-goal attempt blocked -- by a team that couldn't build on its upset of the New Orleans Saints the previous week.
The defense had a big day in limiting the Cardinals to 262 total yards. But there's no margin for error with an offense that has eight touchdowns all season and scuffled again when it counted, even with Sam Bradford back at quarterback.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press