ST. LOUIS — It was a lot like old times for Kurt Warner.

The St. Louis Rams’ former hero won his first game in the town where he produced a pair of Super Bowl teams and a pair of MVP awards, throwing three touchdown passes in a 38-28 victory against his old team.

Warner’s homecoming was not nearly as dramatic as his emergence in 1999 from Arena League success. Still, he doubled his season total for touchdown passes in six starts with a pair of fourth-quarter scores that gave the Cardinals (3-7) breathing room at the finish.

The Rams (4-6) took another blow to flagging playoff hopes and lost quarterback Marc Bulger, the man who replaced Warner in 2003, for the second time this season with a shoulder injury. Bulger, who missed two games earlier, left with a bruise late in the third quarter.

Bulger was hurt on one of three sacks by Adrian Wilson, who also had a fumble recovery and a forced fumble.

Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald both topped 100 yards receiving for the Cardinals, who split the season series with the Rams. Boldin caught eight passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, and Fitzgerald had nine receptions for 104 yards and a 7-yard score late in the fourth quarter.

Neil Rackers also continued a perfect season with three field goals, including a 51-yarder in the third quarter. He’s 31-for-31 on the year, and his field goal total is a franchise season record.

Fitzgerald’s touchdown was one of three by the Cardinals in the final 8:11 that blew open the game, one of the scores set up by a 90-yard kickoff return by Reggie Swinton and a second by a lost fumble by Rams backup QB Jamie Martin.

The go-ahead score was a 9-yard catch by rookie Adam Bergen, his first career touchdown, that along with a 2-point conversion catch by Boldin put the Cardinals ahead 24-17.

Warner was 27-for-39 for 285 yards to lead the Cardinals to a season-high for points, and only their second 30-point effort of the season. He threw for 327 yards but no scores in a 17-12 loss at home to the Rams in Week 2.

The Cardinals completely stuffed the Rams’ running game, holding Steven Jackson to 6 yards on 12 attempts. Jackson had the team’s only two carries for minus-2 yards in the second half.

Warner’s return was something shy of an emotional homecoming.

The Cardinals passed on a chance to get him a pregame ovation when they elected to introduce their defense instead. The team alternates offense and defense. Warner got his first – and only – big cheer when he led the offense on the field for the first time early in the first quarter.

He waved twice to the crowd before settling over center, upon which time the fans promptly deserted their former hero and began cheering to drown him out.

AP-ES-11-20-05 1640EST


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