By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
Monday, Dec. 27 2004

When quarterback Marc Bulger was injured Dec. 5, he was leading the NFL in
passing yardage and the Rams were in control in the NFC West. Much has changed
since then.

With Chris Chandler failing miserably in relief of Bulger, the Rams dropped
back-to-back games at Carolina and at Arizona. That dropped them to 6-8 heading
into Monday night's game against NFC East champion Philadelphia.

With its victory Sunday over the Cardinals, Seattle (8-7) clinched a playoff
spot. But the Rams still had a shot at wresting away the division title. It
would take victories over the Eagles and New York Jets, coupled with a Seahawks
loss next week to Atlanta.

The first critical component in that possibility was getting Bulger back in the
lineup. That happened Monday, his bruised throwing shoulder having made a
sufficient recovery. The second part, of course, was beating the Eagles: And
the Rams did that, 20-7 in front of 66,129 at the Edward Jones Dome.

Bulger connected on 20 of 27 passes for 225 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown
pass to wide receiver Isaac Bruce. Bulger, who wasn't intercepted, had a gaudy
passer rating of 110.9.

More important, his shoulder held up well. "I didn't take too many hits - a
couple here and there, and it felt good," Bulger said. "So, it'll be nice to
get five more days rest on it. I don't think it'll be sore this week, so it'll
be in good shape."

Jamie Martin, who relieved Chandler vs. the Cardinals, was in the backup slot,
with Chandler No. 3 and rookie Jeff Smoker inactive for the first time.

Bulger practiced last week and experienced no adverse effects, coach Mike Martz
reported. "He's something else. He did a real good job," Martz said.

Chandler, 39, threw six interceptions - a personal high for his 17-year career
- in the 20-7 loss to the Panthers on Dec. 12. After he went one for six, with
another interception, in the first quarter the next week at Arizona, Martz
yanked him for Martin.

Martin, 34, was solid, completing 16 of 31 passes for 188 yards, without an
interception, in the 31-7 defeat.

He would've started against the Eagles had Bulger not bounced back. "Any time
Marc's in there, he's going to make our team better," tackle Orlando Pace said.

The Rams did most of their damage on the ground, rolling up 209 rushing yards.
Rookie Steven Jackson had 148 yards on 24 carries, and Marshall Faulk added 54
yards on 17 attempts.

"The credit has to go to the line," Bulger said. "Steven played great and
Marshall played great, but you can't do it without those guys up front. They
took it upon themselves to pretty much win this game offensively for us. ...

"You try to run as much as you can. When you're gashing them for 6, 7, 8 yards
at a time, why switch it?" Bulger said. "Just look around the league ... it's
everything. They can't just put their ears back and come at you. A running game
in the NFL is the most important thing going."

It was particularly important for the Rams on their first possession. They
marched 73 yards on 10 plays - all runs. Jackson carried six times for 46
yards, and Faulk added 27 yards on four carries. Jackson got the TD on a 5-yard
burst off left guard.