CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – For a team that once built its reputation on scoring at will, the ineptitude of the St. Louis Rams’ offense was stunning.

The Carolina Panthers sacked Marc Bulger seven times and shut out St. Louis 15-0 on Sunday, the fifth straight loss for the Rams. Jake Delhomme threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith, and that was all the offense the Panthers would need.

It was the first time the Rams, devastated by the loss of Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace in last week’s game, scored zero points since 1998.

Mike Rucker had two sacks, including one for a safety with 2:24 left, while former Ram Damione Lewis and Chris Draft each had 1 sacks for Carolina, which tied a team record for sacks in a game.

Rookie DeAngelo Williams took over for injured running back DeShaun Foster and rushed for 114 yards on 20 carries as the Panthers (6-4) won their second straight game.

The Panthers, coming in ranked 28th in the league in rushing, had a team-record 244 yards on the ground against the Rams, who have allowed seven different running back to rush for over 100 yards.

Bulger was 19-of-34 for 142 yards and two interceptions, while the Rams (4-6) dropped five passes – three by Isaac Bruce, who left in the fourth quarter with blurry vision.

On 12 possessions, the Rams had nine punts, an interception, a fumble and a safety as they finished with 111 yards.

The Rams, forced to shuffle their offensive line after losing Pace, had no answer to the Panthers’ pass rush. Carolina, sending six or seven defenders on nearly every play, sacked Bulger five times in the first half.

St. Louis punted on all six first-half possessions and had only 38 yards.

Carolina’s banged up secondary was never threatened despite being without starting cornerback Ken Lucas (thigh). Rookie Richard Marshall started opposite Chris Gamble.

Christian Morton, signed off the practice squad less than a month ago, was the nickel back and Dion Byrum, signed on Thursday off Tampa Bay’s practice squad, saw extensive time as the No. 4 cornerback.

Morton, who grew up in St. Louis, intercepted Bulger deep in Rams’ territory late in the third quarter. It led to John Kasay’s 34-yard field goal that put the Panthers head 13-0 heading into the fourth quarter.

Byrum later ripped the ball away from Torry Holt to end the Rams chances with just over five minutes left.

The Panthers led 3-0 late in the second quarter when Delhomme lofted a deep pass down the left sideline. Smith extended his arm to create some space against Oshiomogho Atogwe, caught the ball at the 15, and beat Corey Chavous to the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown.

Smith, who caught a 69-yard touchdown pass in the second overtime against the Rams in the 2003 playoffs, had a first-quarter TD catch called back by a penalty.

Smith appeared to injure his left shoulder early in the third quarter. After being helped off the field, Smith vomited in the trash can – the second straight week he was sick during a game. Smith returned on the next series, had four catches for 90 yards.

The Panthers, who came in averaging 92.3 yards rushing per game, dominated on the ground despite losing Foster in the second quarter to an elbow injury. X-rays were negative but Foster, who had nine carries for 63 yards, did not return.

Delhomme was 13-of-25 for 191 yards and an interception. He was sacked twice by La’Roi Glover.

AP-ES-11-19-06 1640EST


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