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Warner gets well at Pats' expense

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 3, 2002

FOXBORO, Mass. -- Kurt Warner, bothered all season by a sprained right thumb injured in the Rams' 20-17 overtime opening-game victory at Philadelphia, was pain-free against the Patriots in the regular-season meeting of the eventual Super Bowl teams.

Warner put the hurt on New England's pass defense. He completed 30-of-42 for 401 yards and three touchdowns in the 24-17 victory that ended the Patriots' three-game winning streak.

"I watched him in warmups," coach Mike Martz said. "I've never seen him like that. He was unconscious."

The Rams came out with a league-best 8-1 record. They lost their next game 24-17 to the Bucs, then won six in a row to end the season. The Patriots, 5-5, wouldn't lose another game.

The Rams overcame injuries that knocked five players out of the game: strong safety Adam Archuleta, defensive tackle Damione Lewis, defensive end Leonard Little, linebacker Mark Fields and wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim.

"It was a pretty impressive effort," Warner said. "With some guys going down, everybody else pulled together and played great."

The game turned on a turnover, Antowain Smith's fumble at the Rams' 3-yard line with the Patriots pushing to add to their 10-7 lead. Aeneas Williams recovered and Warner engineered a 97-yard drive capped by his 9-yard touchdown pass to Marshall Faulk with 31 seconds left in the half to put the Rams ahead to stay. Warner completed 7-of-8 for all 97 yards in the 1:41 drive, the only incompletion a spike to stop the clock.

Warner threw scoring passes of 16 yards to Torry Holt in the first and 11 to James Hodgins in the fourth.

New England's touchdowns came on Terrell Buckley's 52-yard interception return and Tom Brady's 10-yard pass to David Patten that ended the scoring with 7:46. Brady fell to 5-3 since taking over after Drew Bledsoe suffered bleeding in his chest resulting from a hit by the Jets' Mo Lewis.

"We can look at this game and learn from it," cornerback Ty Law said, "but I think we can also look at this game and say we can play with anybody."

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