Bulger, Faulk on in finale
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Friday, Sep. 03 2004

OAKLAND, Calif. - Marc Bulger, Marshall Faulk and Co. looked sharp on the
opening drive for the Rams. Very sharp. Then they called it a night. Next stop,
Arizona on Sept. 12 at the Edward Jones Dome in the Rams' regular-season
opener.

Bulger completed three of three passes for 66 yards and a touchdown, before
giving way to Chris Chandler in the Rams' preseason finale Thursday against
Oakland. Call it a short and very sweet night, because Bulger left with a 158.3
passer rating - the highest passer rating possible.

Faulk got five opening-drive touches, later giving way to Lamar Gordon. That's
right, Gordon was back three weeks after undergoing ankle surgery.

"We like to get the ball to Marshall, and things went to plan," Bulger said.
"Hopefully, it'll give us some momentum going into the Arizona game. I think we
were ready to go after last week's performance. But it's nice to shore some
things up and then get a look at the young guys."

But despite the good start by the Rams' offense, the defense faltered in the
fourth quarter. A late Oakland touchdown gave the Raiders a 28-24 victory.
Rookie Jeff Smoker's Hail Mary pass for the Rams was intercepted in the end
zone by linebacker Tim Johnson as time expired.

The Rams finished the preseason with a 1-3 record, their third straight losing
record in preseason play. The Rams are 2-10 in exhibitions since the start of
the 2002 preseason.

After a strong finish in the Washington game, the Rams defense struggled
through another slow start against Oakland.

The Raiders marched 77 yards with the opening kickoff for a touchdown, making
it four straight games that Rams opponents had scored on their first
possession. Chicago and Washington opened with field goals, and Kansas City
started with a touchdown.

Oakland converted three third-down plays on the drive, including a scrambling
five-yard TD pass from Rich Gannon to Justin Fargas. Rams tackle Damione Lewis
got a hand on Gannon but was unable to bring him down.

Sloppy tackling helped the Raiders keep the drive going, with Adam Archuleta
and Aeneas Williams missing a tackle on one third-and-9 play, and Pisa
Tinoisamoa missing a tackle on another third and 9.

After the Oakland touchdown, the Rams' offense responded in kind. The Rams had
managed only one first-quarter field goal all preseason. But this time, the
Rams put up seven on their first possession.

Faulk was featured on the drive, carrying three times for nine yards and
catching two passes for 20 yards. But the big play was a 46-yard completion
from Bulger to tight end Cam Cleeland on the Rams' fourth offensive play.
Cleeland got behind a linebacker and then ran over safety Derrick Gibson, who
was helped off the field to get his shoulder examined.

The play, which carried to the Oakland 9, was the second-longest gain of the
preseason for the Rams - topped only by Torry Holt's 58-yard reception last
week against Washington.

After Faulk gained two yards up the middle, he caught a seven-yard swing pass
from Bulger for a touchdown with 5 minutes 33 seconds remaining in the opening
quarter. The Rams successfully picked up a blitz on the play, with Faulk
breaking a tackle at the 3 to reach the end zone.

But Oakland responded with a big play of its own in the second quarter. In at
quarterback for the Raiders, Kerry Collins hit Alvis Whitted over the middle
for a 60-yard touchdown with 9:28 left in the opening half. In keeping with the
early theme for the Rams defense, two Rams missed tackling opportunities on the
play, most notably backup safety Rich Coady.

It was the longest gain from scrimmage against the Rams this preseason. And
save for the 44-yard pass from Patrick Ramsey to Taylor Jacobs, which resulted
in a lost fumble by Jacobs, it was the only play from scrimmage longer than 26
yards against the Rams in exhibition play.

The Rams got back on the scoreboard late in the first half on a 27-yard field
goal by Jeff Wilkins with 2:14 left in the half. The Rams had a chance for a
touchdown, facing a third and eight from the Oakland 9. But Grant Irons of the
Raiders got around left tackle Scott Tercero, hitting Chandler just as he
released the ball. The play was ruled incomplete and out trotted Wilkins for
the field goal, and the Rams trailed 14-10 at the half.

Cleeland, who missed the Rams' first two preseason games with a hamstring
injury, was heard from again in the third quarter. He caught a 3-yard TD pass
from Smoker on a third-and-goal play midway through the third quarter, giving
the Rams a 17-14 lead.