Eagles hold off Rams in battle of backups

ST. LOUIS (Dec. 18, 2005) -- Mike McMahon made a lot of bad plays. He also made the winning play.

The Philadelphia Eagles' backup threw three interceptions but also tossed the game-winning touchdown pass to long snapper Mike Bartrum on the first play of the fourth quarter in a lackluster 17-16 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

On a rare day when neither quarterback threw for 100 yards, McMahon did the bare minimum to win.

"I had some highs and lows," McMahon said. "You're going to have that in some games. Luckily, our defense stepped up and made some big plays and gave us some short fields."

The game matched two of the NFC's biggest disappointments, and lived up to that billing with mistakes aplenty. Together, the teams were penalized 28 times for 230 yards, divided pretty much equally.

"It wasn't the prettiest thing, obviously," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "We do need to get better."

The Eagles (6-8) won for the second time in eight games and sent the Rams (5-9) to their fifth loss in six games.

"When you keep shooting yourself in the foot, which is the same old story, the same old broken record, you don't have a chance," interim coach Joe Vitt said. "It's a shame, it really is."

The most electrifying play came early, a 59-yard touchdown sprint by Ryan Moats, who squirted through a pileup at the line and broke three tackles for the Eagles' first score. Bartrum made the decisive play when he caught a 3-yard touchdown pass after McMahon rolled out. He has two catches all season, both for 3-yard scores.

McMahon said Bartrum was the "third or fourth" option on the play. He also said he's never thrown a ball to him in practice.

"If there wasn't anything else there I was going to throw it out of the back of the end zone," McMahon said. "As I kept moving he just kind of stopped right in the hole."

Brian Dawkins' interception and 24-yard return to the 28 set up the winning score.

McMahon, starting for injured Donovan McNabb, was 15 for 28 for 97 yards. Rams defensive back DeJuan Groce thought he looked disoriented all day.

"He was very confused out there, and it helped us out in the secondary," Groce said. "He didn't really know what was going on."

Still, McMahon did enough to trump Rams rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was 10 for 24 for 69 yards with one touchdown and an interception.

Fitzpatrick, who threw three touchdown passes in his NFL debut after subbing for an injured Jamie Martin Nov. 27 at Houston, threw for his first score in three starts. But he was so ineffective the 35-year-old Martin replaced him with 6:40 remaining.

Starting quarterback Marc Bulger, who missed his fourth straight game with a shoulder injury, delivered the news to Fitzpatrick.

"Today was a tough game," Fitzpatrick said. "That's just the move they had to make. They felt like they needed a spark, and it's fine."

Steven Jackson reached 1,000 yards for the first time for the Rams and Marshall Faulk had his best game of the year in a reserve role, the pair combining for 169 yards on 32 carries. But Faulk, who got more playing time because of Jackson's minor hip pointer, was thrown for a 2-yard loss on his biggest carry, a fourth-and-1 at the Eagles 36 with 3:14 to go.

The Rams capitalized on a lost fumble by Lamar Gordon to take a 16-7 lead on Jeff Wilkins ' third field goal of the game, a 28-yarder. The Eagles made it a one-score game again with David Akers' 31-yard field goal.

Jackson had 62 yards on seven carries on the Rams' opening drive, setting up a 26-yard field goal by Wilkins. Moats got almost as many yards on one attempt, squirting free at the line and breaking three tackles for his big run to put the Eagles ahead.

Pisa Tinoisamoa's interception of an underthrown pass by McMahon and 20-yard return to the 5 led to the Rams' go-ahead score. On the next play, Fitzpatrick hit Torry Holt on a 5-yard score for his first touchdown pass in three weeks.

Wilkins added a 53-yard field goal, his longest of the season, to put the Rams ahead 13-7 at the half.

Notes: Holt has 53 touchdowns with the Rams, tied with Elroy Hirsch for second on the franchise list. ... Wilkins has 101 points, his fifth 100-point season. ... The Rams were whistled for eight false starts, three on rookie guard Claude Terrell. ... Faulk's previous season best was 50 yards on six carries against the Titans in Week 3. He had 87 yards on 16 attempts after entering the game with 175 yards on 35 carries for the year.

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