0

North's Cook has huge game in NFL season opener

St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook (89) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Jerraud Powers (25) during the second half at Edward Jones Dome. St. Louis defeated Arizona 27-24. (Photo: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook (89) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Jerraud Powers (25) during the second half at Edward Jones Dome. St. Louis defeated Arizona 27-24. (Photo: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

ST. LOUIS -- Jared Cook admitted to feeling frustration about his somewhat limited role during the first four years of his NFL career, spent with the Tennessee Titans.

If Sunday's season opener is any indication, the new St. Louis Rams tight end might have made the right call in leaving Nashville.

Cook caught seven passes for 141 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Rams rallied in the fourth quarter for a dramatic 27-24 win Sunday over the Arizona Cardinals at the Edward Jones Dome.

Greg Zuerlein's 48-yard field goal with 40 seconds left capped St. Louis' rally from a 24-13 deficit after three quarters. The 6-foot-5, 254-pound Cook made the key play on the winning drive, taking a short pass near the right sideline and breaking a tackle on the way to a 25-yard gain.

"Most definitely," Cook said when asked if he envisioned an expanded role. "Coach Schotty (offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) did a heck of a job. There's a lot of guys on this offense who contributed. It was awesome."

Thanks mainly to Cook, quarterback Sam Bradford hit on 27-of-38 passes for 299 yards, notching a quarterback rating of 100.7. He was 8-of-10 for 76 yards in the fourth quarter comeback.

"We want our passers looking for Cook," said Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who notched his 150th regular season victory. "That's why we brought him here."

Cook's 36-yard catch and run on the third quarter's last play and Brian Quick's 16-yard reception to the 1 set up Bradford's 1-yard scoring flip to Cook with 12:56 remaining. Bradford's two-point run cut the deficit to 24-21.

Robert Quinn then sacked Carson Palmer for the third time and forced a fumble that fellow defensive end Chris Long recovered at the Arizona 22. Zuerlein cashed it in with a game-tying 38-yard field goal with 9:04 remaining.

In his first game for the Cardinals, Palmer was sharp most of the day and completed 26-of-40 attempts for 327 yards and two touchdowns, both to Larry Fitzgerald. But in the fourth quarter, Palmer was relatively ineffective, hitting 6-of-10 for 61 yards as Arizona managed only four first downs and converted only 1-of-4 third downs.

"I don't think we gave ourselves as many manageable third-down situations in the fourth quarter," Fitzgerald said. "It seemed like we did a better job of doing that in the first three quarters."

After a scoreless first quarter, both teams put up 10 points in the second quarter. Arizona grabbed a 7-0 lead 49 seconds into the period on Palmer's 4-yard touchdown pass to Fitzgerald.

Zuerlein got St. Louis on the board with a 36-yard field goal with 11:20 left in the half, but the Cardinals' Jay Feely answered with a 30-yard field goal at the 5:23 mark. However, the Rams delivered an equalizing touchdown with 26 seconds left in the half on Bradford's 13-yard connection with Cook, who stretched the ball across the right front pylon.

Zuerlein's 25-yard field goal with 13:57 left in the third quarter gave St. Louis its first lead at 13-10, but it didn't last long. Arizona defensive tackle Dan Williams intercepted Bradford's pass -- it was tipped by linebacker Matt Shaughnessy -- and rumbled 2 yards for the go-ahead touchdown at the 10:34 mark.

The Cardinals then appeared to take control when Fitzgerald hauled in Palmer's 24-yard scoring strike with 1:47 remaining in the third for a 24-13 lead. But St. Louis ruined their plans with its frenetic finish.

For Cook, the rally also redeemed a mistake which probably cost the Rams the game's first score. Arizona rookie Tyrann Mathieu stripped him of the ball from behind after a 47-yard gain to the Cardinals' 8 late in the first quarter and Karlos Dansby recovered in the end zone for a touchback.

"It's never something you want to have happen," Cook said. "It's something I wish I had back. But you have to come back from mistakes. It's just part of the game."

Teammates were quick to support Cook and point out chances to come. He made the most of them.

"He made some huge plays today. We've seen him do it all training camp, so it wasn't a surprise to us," said Bradford.

NOTES: Among the inactives for Arizona were RB Ryan Williams, a healthy scratch who has apparently been beaten out by Alfonso Smith and Andre Ellington, and TE Rob Housler (ankle). ... Each team had a player serving an NFL-related suspension. Cardinals LB Daryl Washington is sitting out the first four games, while Rams backup RB Isaiah Pead will return next week when St. Louis visits Atlanta. ... The Rams start the season with the NFL's youngest roster, averaging 24.98 years of age. Twenty-eight of the 53 active players are either rookies or second-year men.