Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bulger Down and Out With a Concussion

Sports Illustrated

St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger suffered a concussion in Sunday's 24-19 loss to Seattle, and coach Scott Linehan said it was too early to know if he'll be available for next week's game against Atlanta.

Bulger left after making a shovel pass midway through the first quarter. He was hit by several players, but threw a pass that was intercepted by defensive end Patrick Kerney. But coach Scott Linehan said Bulger was initially hurt on the Rams' first possession on a blindside sack by linebacker Leroy Hill.

"He didn't seem quite right on the sidelines," Linehan said. "We talked a little bit, and I could tell by looking at him right when he walked off that something was different.

"He mentioned that he didn't feel good, and that is a big concern. He said he was starting to feel nauseous."

Bulger, who missed two games earlier this season with broken ribs, walked on his own to the locker room. He was replaced by Gus Frerotte.

The starting QB has taken a beating behind an offensive line decimated by injuries this season. Bulger, who was 3-for-5 for 32 yards and the one interception, has been sacked 30 times this season.

Bulger has completed 61 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and nine interceptions in what has been a disappointing season after he signed a six-year, $65 million contract extension on the first day of training camp. That deal made him the highest-paid player in franchise history. The contract included $27 million in guaranteed money and put him in a group of six quarterbacks making $10 million annually.

St. Louis' problems on the offensive line began in Week 1 when left tackle Orlando Pace was lost for the season with a torn triceps, the first of several linemen to be hurt. The Rams have used 15 line combinations this season.

Bulger was among several players hurt Sunday.

Center Brett Romberg also left in the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. He missed three games earlier this season with injuries to both ankles. His status for next week was not known.

Rams linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa left in the third quarter with a sprained left knee and will have an MRI Monday.

Seattle wide receiver D.J. Hackett hurt his right ankle in the third quarter. Coach Mike Holmgren wasn't sure when he would return.

Hackett suffered a high right ankle sprain in the season-opener against Tampa Bay and missed six games. He entered Sunday's game questionable with a knee injury.

Hackett had four catches for 41 yards against St. Louis. He had a career-best nine catches for 136 yards and a touchdown last week against the Bears.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Rams' late stand holds off 49ers

By Greg Beacham

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Though the St. Louis Rams still have problems, they're nothing compared to the San Francisco 49ers' historic woes.

Marc Bulger shook off another beating to pass for 155 yards and an early touchdown to Torry Holt, and the St. Louis defense was solid until the final seconds Sunday in a 13-9 victory over the 49ers, who lost their eighth straight.

Bulger was sacked six times by the 49ers, who also sacked him six times in the clubs' first meeting. The Rams (2-8) couldn't score a touchdown after their opening drive and managed just 38 yards of offense in the second half, but the defense had little trouble with San Francisco's league-worst offense until two desperate fourth-quarter drives.

After floundering all afternoon, the 49ers (2-8) drove 68 yards in the final 1:28 to the St. Louis 21. But with 3 seconds to play, Trent Dilfer's final pass was intercepted at the goal line by Oshiomogho Atogwe.

After the longest winless start in the franchise's 70-year history, the Rams have won both outings with Steven Jackson back in good health. The star running back had 92 persistent yards in his second full game after missing four weeks with a torn groin muscle and most of another game with a bulging disk in his back.

Dilfer passed for 231 yards -- 141 in the fourth quarter -- while filling in for Alex Smith as the 49ers slid into their longest losing streak since 1999. San Francisco hasn't won since its trip to St. Louis in mid-September, and hasn't scored a touchdown since the opening drive of its loss in Atlanta two weeks ago.

San Francisco had a chance to tie it late, but tight end Vernon Davis and Darrell Jackson dropped tough potential touchdown catches on consecutive plays leading up to the 2-minute warning. Coach Mike Nolan settled for Joe Nedney's third field goal.

Dilfer was 20-of-42 with an interception in his latest chance to fill in for Alex Smith, who sat out with a sore throwing arm that caused plenty of drama in San Francisco over the past week. Smith wore his helmet while watching on the sideline, but didn't play.

After performing poorly in the 49ers' last three losses, Smith complained his arm wasn't as healthy as he or Nolan claimed, exposing a lack of communication between the coaching staff and its franchise quarterback.

Until the final minutes, Dilfer couldn't spark an offense that managed 96 yards in the first three quarters before finishing with 244. The Rams' defense had its way with the San Francisco offensive line, repeatedly stopping Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore at the scrimmage line.

Holt's 3-yard TD catch capped a 79-yard march on St. Louis' opening drive. Both defenses stiffened after that, particularly after halftime. Both teams combined for 29 net yards and one first down in the third quarter.

The 49ers didn't gain 100 total yards until Dilfer's shovel pass to Gore with 10:10 to play, and Nedney's 38-yard field goal cut St. Louis' lead to seven points.

The Niners made another solid drive to the Rams 28, but Davis couldn't haul in a heavily defended catch over the middle. Then a solid throw to Jackson bounced off the veteran receiver's hands.

San Francisco harassed Bulger in its last victory, a 17-16 squeaker in which St. Louis muffed a punt and missed a field goal in the final minutes.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Rams surprise New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — Marc Bulger's most meaningful handoff of the season didn't take
place on the field Sunday. Minutes after the Rams' startling 37-29 victory over
heavily favored New Orleans, Bulger turned in the visitors' locker room and
handed a game ball to. ...

Scott Linehan.

In a season of offensive crises and eight straight losses — as well as the
"infamous" rolling of the eyes in Seattle — it was a nice gesture by Bulger.
Bulger said he didn't act on his own in handing the game ball to the Rams'
beleaguered head coach.

"I asked a couple of guys and they all agreed," Bulger said. "It was for
sticking with us. It's not like he's been punishing us (for the losses). He
gave us our time off and treated us like men.

"I think he's the reason why we came out with some energy (Sunday). It wasn't
by accident. Obviously, he wasn't going to give himself the game ball and take
credit. But I think it was important for him to be acknowledged for the job he

Bulger's work Sunday wasn't bad, either. His assorted injuries doing better
from the bye week, Bulger put together his best performance of the season. His
completion percentage of 81.8 percent (on 27-of-33 passing) was a career high.
His passer rating of 125.0 was his best since the Washington game last
Christmas Eve.

But he got plenty of help Sunday. Bulger's numbers were all the more impressive
considering he was working behind his 25th different starting combination on
the offensive line as a Ram. Four of the six offensive linemen who played
Sunday weren't even on the Rams' roster at the start of training camp.

Running back Steven Jackson's bulging disc held up well enough to get 27
touches, including 22 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown. Jackson also threw
a touchdown pass on a trick play, his first TD toss since his days at Eldorado
High in Las Vegas.

Wide receiver Torry Holt didn't score but topped 100 yards receiving for the
second game in a row, with 124 yards on eight catches. All told, the Rams piled
up a season-high 409 yards, albeit against a Saints defense that was missing
three injured starters.

As for the St. Louis defense, coordinator Jim Haslett's aggressive blitzing
schemes kept one of the league's hottest offenses and hottest quarterbacks
(Drew Brees) off-balance for three quarters. With a 34-7 lead early in the
fourth quarter, Haslett basically stopped blitzing.

The Saints nearly made the Rams pay for that change in strategy by scoring
three fourth-quarter touchdowns. But Dane Looker's recovery of an onside kick
with 29 seconds remaining ended any hope for a miracle comeback by the Saints

Instead, it was Bulger kneeling in the "victory" formation to end the game. It
was that football — from the final play of the game — that Bulger handed to
Linehan in the locker room. This came after Linehan had handed game balls to
Haslett, linebackers coach Rick Venturi and secondary coach Willy Robinson —
all former Saints coaches.

"I'm very proud of our football team," Linehan said. "I'm certain not many
people gave this football team much of a chance going on the road, with the way
we'd started our year. For obvious reasons, I don't blame them."

After enduring the stress of an 0-8 start that led to questions about his job
security, Linehan said he'll never take winning for granted.

"You've got to enjoy them all," he said. "It's hard to win in this league — and
we proved that this year. You can get in a downward spiral, and it's hard to
come out of."

In the days leading up to the game, and even on game day, the Rams did
everything in their power to break out of that spiral.

Bulger said the Rams practice the victory formation every week. "And every week
we've lost, so we actually switched the direction we do it in our indoor
facility," he said. "Maybe that's what it was."

Or maybe it was the Saturday night speech by safety Corey Chavous in the team
hotel, imploring his teammates to play with more energy. Tight end Randy
McMichael said Chavous told the team to "just go back to playing football like
you played it when you were a little kid. Not for the money. Just go out there
and have fun."

Haslett addressed the team before the game and at halftime.

Members of the Rams' equipment staff even visited a voodoo "queen" in New
Orleans on Saturday in search of a way to break out of the 0-8 hex.

Somehow it worked. The karma changed. And despite being double-digit underdogs,
the Rams won a regular-season game for the first time since Dec. 31, 2006 in

"Hopefully, it's kind of contagious and rolls over to next week," center Andy
McCollum said. "You've got to play like you're having fun out there. Even when
you lose, it's a fun game. But it's a heck of a lot more fun when you win."

For the first time this year, the Rams know that's the case.