By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
12/19/2004


TEMPE, Ariz. - Marc Bulger was crystal clear when asked in the quiet Rams locker room Sunday afternoon whether he'd be the starting quarterback next Monday when Philadelphia visits the Edward Jones Dome.

"I'll go ... Yeah, I'll go," said Bulger, who has missed two games and most of another with a bruised throwing shoulder.

The Rams offense has fizzled in Bulger's absence. It scored once a week ago at Carolina, then came up empty Sunday in a hard-to-swallow 31-7 pratfall against the Arizona Cardinals. The Rams' only points came via a 61-yard fumble return by defensive end Leonard Little.

Coach Mike Martz made it clear after the game that the lion's share of blame should be directed at the quarterback position - and mainly at Bulger's understudy, Chris Chandler.

"I'm just angry and upset deep down inside about that whole situation," Martz said. "Hopefully Marc will get back."

Chandler, 39, was on a short leash after throwing six interceptions - a career high for the 17-year veteran - in the 20-7 loss to the Panthers. After Chandler stumbled through a ghastly first quarter Sunday, misfiring on five of six passes and serving up another interception, Martz replaced him with Jamie Martin.

That's the same Jamie Martin whose primary job two weeks ago was playing Mr. Mom at the Chesterfield home where he, his wife, Kelly, and their two young children live.

Martin hadn't thrown a pass in an NFL game in two years, which, he acknowledged, "is a lot different than just tossing the ball around in the back yard."

Martin was signed Dec. 7, two days after Bulger was hurt while being sacked by San Francisco's Bryant Young. Martin underwent a crash course with the playbook and was waved in with the Rams trailing 17-0.

"It was a tough situation," said Martin, 34. "I thought I settled down a little bit and did a decent job. I just didn't make enough throws when we had to have them."

Martin connected on 16 of 31 passes for 188 yards, without an interception. His passer rating was 70.4, compared with Chandler's 0.0.

"God bless Jamie," Martz said. "Think about what he did out there with no preparation. He has no preparation. None. I just tell him to go in there and play. So it was pretty remarkable that he was able to do what he did."

On his second series, Martin directed the Rams into Arizona territory for the first time.

"That was encouraging, just to get some drives going and build a little confidence offensively," guard Adam Timmerman said. "We just couldn't get in the end zone. We were close, especially the one time."

From the Cardinals' 23-yard line late in the third quarter, Martin hit wideout Torry Holt over middle. But as Holt struggled toward the goal line, free safety Ifeanyi Ohalete knocked the ball free, then pounced on it in the end zone. The Rams never threatened the end zone again.

While experiencing relief that "I didn't kill us," Martin also expressed dissatisfaction at his unit's lack of production.

"I didn't turn the ball over, I didn't take sacks, but I also didn't make some throws I should've made," he said. "I'm happy that I got in there and competed. At the same time, the quarterback needs to make throws and put points on the board."

The Rams offense hadn't been shut out since a 14-0 loss to Miami in 1998. "It's definitely something we're not used to," Timmerman said. "For whatever reason, we're just a little out of sync right now