Kii Sato, Associated Press
ST. LOUIS — At the start of the day, the St. Louis Rams were a distant second as a downtown attraction. Strictly a warmup act before the Cardinals' World Series parade.
Fans who stayed away to establish early position on the parade route missed the Rams' stunning 31-21 upset of the New Orleans Saints — and a pregame appearance by the crosstown champions.
Chris Long swung an imaginary bat in tribute to the Cardinals after the first of his three sacks.
"It just hit me. We've got Chris Carpenter in the building, I saw Molina and all those guys," Long said. "I'm usually not one for celebration, but that was fun to do."
Steven Jackson scored two touchdowns in his first 100-yard game in three seasons and backup quarterback A.J. Feeley, starting for the second straight week in place of injured Sam Bradford, threw his first touchdown pass in four years.
Drew Brees failed to take advantage of a beat-up secondary, throwing two interceptions and barely keeping alive his touchdown pass streak at 35 games on a meaningless score in the final seconds. A week earlier, he threw five touchdown passes in a 62-7 rout of the winless Indianapolis Colts. He thought the Saints came in uninspired.
"We talked about this all week and tried to guard against it," Brees said. "Obviously, we didn't do a very good job of preparing ourselves."
The Saints (5-3) were two-touchdown favorites against a team that was one of the NFL's worst on both sides of the ball. They were shut out in the first half for the first time since 2007 and surrendered a season-high six sacks. The Rams (1-6) totaled 11 sacks the first six games.
"I don't think I've ever seen that many points scored in an NFL game, but when people just assume it's going to happen to you, you take it personal," safety Quintin Mikell said. "That's what we did, took it personal."
Darian Stewart returned an interception for the clinching touchdown late in the fourth quarter, the team's first defensive score in more than two seasons, and rookie Robert Quinn blocked a punt to set up one score and had a sack.
The Saints were shut out in the first half for the first time since 2007, trailing 17-0 and never got closer than 10 points in the second half.
Saints receivers were bottled up by a secondary missing its top three players, and the rushing game totaled just 56 yards on 20 carries. Saints radio reported that offensive guard Carl Nicks and line coach Aaron Kromer had to be separated after squabbling near the end of the game.
The Rams trailed by double digits in each of their first six games, and before Sunday had the lead for only 6:28 all season. They led at halftime for the first time since they were up 3-0 against the 49ers in the 2009 season finale in a 28-6 loss.
Brandon Lloyd caught his first touchdown pass in his second game with the Rams after coming over in a trade with Denver.
"The players here are really good," Lloyd said. "We just need to buy in to what we're doing, and we'll start seeing wins like this."
The Rams wore throwback jerseys in a nod to their 1999 Super Bowl championship team and the Cardinals' appearance helped fire up a crowd growing accustomed to disappointment from the Rams. The game was sold out, but there were hundreds of empty seats.
Manager Tony La Russa donned a Bradford jersey and Carpenter, the Game 7 winner, went out for the coin toss wearing a Jackson jersey. Rams players attended Game 3 of the World Series in Texas last week — Albert Pujols' three-homer game — the night before their 34-7 loss to the Cowboys in Dallas.
Jackson had 159 yards on 25 carries, including a 32-yard jaunt on fourth-and-2 to set up his second touchdown that made it 24-0 in the third quarter.
Jonathan Vilma got the Saints on the board after recovering Feeley's fumble on a sack by Malcolm Jenkins, and Pierre Thomas scored with 10 minutes left to cut the gap to 10.
The first quarter was scoreless, a victory in itself for the Rams, given they've been outscored 59-13 in the opening period. Then, shockingly, they took control.
They capitalized on a pair of turnovers to go up 17-0 at the break. Jackson scored on a 3-yard run two plays after rookie Robert Quinn's blocked punt, the first in three NFL seasons against Thomas Morstead. Josh Gordy's interception at the Saints 38 gave St. Louis another short field that led to Lloyd's 8-yard catch.
Notes: Jackson has 28 career 100-yard games, passing Marshall Faulk for second in franchise history and 10 behind Eric Dickerson. He passed Faulk for third in yards from scrimmage (11,500) and passed Dickerson for fourth with 59 TDs. ... Attendance of 57,179 was about 7,000 shy of capacity. Tickets were available for $5 on StubHub and the Rams sold tickets for $23, the number worn by Cardinals World Series MVP David Freese.
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