Turning point: Lance Kendricks penalized

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A look back at the turning point play in the St. Louis Rams' 31-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon:

The situation: With 4:13 to go in the third quarter and the Rams leading 14-10, the Rams began a drive at Arizona's 45 on the heels of linebacker Alec Ogletree's interception and 43-yard return. Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer saved a touchdown by running Ogletree out of bounds, but the Rams still firmly had momentum in their corner and a golden opportunity to take a two-score lead.

The play: On first-and-10, the Rams sent tight end Jared Cook over the middle where quarterback Austin Davis hit him in stride near Arizona's 25-yard line. Cook looked like he would be tackled on the spot but he shed safety Rashad Johnson's tackle attempt and turned toward the right sideline where he had more room to run. As Cook darted to the right, Arizona safety Tony Jefferson took off in pursuit. As Jefferson turned toward the sideline to chase Cook, Rams tight end Lance Kendricks stepped up and immediately dropped Jefferson with a crushing block.

"I tried to legally hit him," Kendricks said. "The guy is kind of short so I tried to really get down and hit him with my shoulder. Whether I made helmet contact or not, I’m not really sure, it happened kind of fast but I was just playing fast at that point. I wasn’t trying to take him out or anything like that. I was just trying to play fast and the refs happened to call a penalty."

Indeed, a flag came out with a call on Kendricks for an illegal blindside block. It had nothing to do with helmet-to-helmet contact and everything to do with rules intended to protect defenders. But, as Rams coach Jeff Fisher explained, the rule is supposed to be enforced only when the defender is moving north and south and the blocker has his back to a goal line. In this case, Kendricks was coming from a sideline angle which shouldn't prompt a flag.

Even impartial outside observer Mike Pereira, the former NFL vice president of officiating, said the call was incorrect.

The fallout: The penalty cost the Rams 15 yards from the spot of the foul, which was the 20-yard line. But there was more yardage lost than just those 15. Cook's run actually ended inside Arizona's 10 (the exact spot was hard to tell because it was unclear where he stepped out), which means it actually cost the Rams something closer to 25 yards of field position. Instead of first-and-goal, it was first-and-10 at Arizona's 35. The next three plays netted minus-12 yards and left the Rams to punt instead of getting at least a field goal. A chance to take a seven- to 10-point lead became a punt and with momentum switching sides, the Cardinals surged to 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for the final margin.

"We score there things might change," Fisher said. "But if we got the first down, I remember the ball was 9, 10, 14 yards down, somewhere around there. We have a chance to score points. The game could considerably change at that point, but it didn’t."

Technically, it did. Just not in the Rams' favor.