GLENDALE, Ariz. — Janoris Jenkins has been known to make headlines for the wrong reasons. Not this time.
No NFL rookie since 1960 and no Rams rookie ever accomplished what the young St. Louis cornerback did Sunday.
Jenkins, who slipped to the second round of the draft — the 39th pick overall — because of off-the-field issues during his college career, returned two interceptions for touchdowns and St. Louis dominated the second half to hand the Arizona Cardinals their seventh loss in a row, 31-17.
Arizona rookie Ryan Lindley was intercepted four times in his first NFL start.
Jenkins’ returns of 36 and 39 yards emphatically ended the Rams’ streak of five straight games without an opponent turnover.
“A big relief,” he said of ending the takeaway drought. “I felt the defense came out and we played together.”
The talented defender had slipped to the second round for the Rams after he was booted from the Florida team following a pair of marijuana-related incidents and finished his career at North Alabama. Then there was his acknowledgment that he fathered four children with three women.
Just two weeks ago, he and fellow rookie Chris Givens were inactive for the game against San Francisco for violating team rules.
All that was mere history on this big day.
“What a great game by Janoris,” Rams defensive end Chris Long said. “I’m really proud of him. I’m happy for him. When you get one turnover for a score, your chances of winning go up exponentially, so if you get two, I don’t know what the statistic is, but when you do it two times with the same player, it’s pretty awesome.”
Sam Bradford had a pair of 37-yard touchdown passes — to Lance Kendricks and Givens — for the Rams (4-6-1), who snapped a five-game winless streak and beat Arizona (4-7) for the second time this season.
The Rams’ Steven Jackson rushed for 139 yards in 24 carries.
St. Louis outscored Arizona 17-0 in the second half.
Lindley, a sixth-round draft pick out of San Diego State and the third quarterback to start for Arizona this season, completed 31 of 52 for 312 yards and no touchdowns. The interceptions, especially the two returned for scores, outweighed anything else Lindley did.
“I think you just have to understand he’s a young player and he’s got to understand he can’t make a couple of those throws, especially the last one that was returned for a touchdown,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “That was a bad throw because he had Larry (Fitzgerald) down the sidelines. He’s just got to step up and put it up.”
Beanie Wells, back after missing seven games with a turf toe injury, had TD runs of 1 and 12 yards for the Cardinals.
Arizona led 17-14 at the half on Jay Feely’s 32-yard field goal as the second quarter ended.
The third quarter, though, belonged to the Rams.
With St. Louis pinned at its 8-yard line, Jackson ran 46 yards, doubling his previous longest gain of the season. Two plays later, Givens beat rookie Justin Bethel down the left sideline for a 37-yard scoring reception to give the Rams their first lead, 21-17, with 9:58 left in the quarter.
The Rams threatened to extend the lead when Lindley threw right into the hands of Craig Dahl, who returned it 38 yards to the Arizona 12. But after a holding penalty, Greg Zuerlein’s 35-yard field goal try was wide left.
The Cardinals weren’t so fortunate on Lindley’s next bad pass. The rookie underthrew Fitzgerald by 10 yards. Jenkins caught it and in a play almost identical to his earlier TD, raced down the right sideline for the score that made it 28-17.
Dahl’s interception also came when Lindley missed Fitzgerald.
“Those two where I was going to Larry, the two picks, were just real mental mistakes,” Lindley said. “It was things that, it’s unexplainable right now, but I made a bad play. Larry is doing the right thing. I’m just off a little bit on something, rushing something, not trusting what I’m seeing out there.”
With Lindley throwing short passes over the middle, the Cardinals went 91 yards in 15 plays on their first possession, using up 8:55 of the first quarter, to go up 7-0.
But on the first play of the second quarter, Jenkins stepped in front of intended receiver LaRod Stephens-Howling, intercepted the pass and ran untouched 36 yards to the end zone to tie it at 7-7.
Danny Amendola, who played despite a foot injury that prevented him from practicing all week, made a diving grab of Bradford’s 38-yard pass to the Arizona 19 on St. Louis’ next possession and two runs by Jackson put the ball on the Arizona 7. But Patrick Peterson picked off Bradford’s pass over the middle in the end zone to end the threat.
Lindley’s 25-yard pass to Rob Housler and Andre Roberts’ 13-yard run set up Wells’ 12-yard scoring run that put Arizona back on top 14-7.
The Rams tied it 14-all when Bradford threw over the middle to Kendricks, who rumbled into the end zone on a 37-yard scoring play with 1:53 left in the half.
Notes: The last rookie two return two picks for a touchdown was Bobby Franklin of the Cleveland Browns in 1960. … Daryl Washington got his ninth sack, one shy of the Cardinals’ record for a linebacker. … Bradford came out of the game for one play after getting hit by Quentin Groves … Zuerlein’s failure on a 35-yard field goal was his shortest miss of the season. … After getting nine sacks in their first game against the Cardinals, the Rams had just one sack Sunday.