By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Thursday, Oct. 30 2008
Up next: Noon Sunday vs. Cardinals, KTVI (Ch.2)
Even though it's been five years now since Kurt Warner last played for the
Rams, this undoubtedly remains Marc Bulger's least favorite week.
That's because Warner and the Arizona Cardinals are coming to town — to play
the Rams and the man who replaced him as starting quarterback in 2003.
With all due respect to Warner, Rams veterans long ago grew weary of answering
questions about Warner returning to play his old team.
"You guys ask that question every year," defensive end Leonard Little said. "I
just treat him like a regular quarterback now. He's a friend of mine. He got us
a world championship here."
"If my mom was the quarterback, I would tackle her, too," Little said.
And just imagine how Bulger feels. Replacing a local legend is never easy, and
a fresh wave of Warner nostalgia seems to have been created with this visit. In
part, because Warner is playing about as well as he has since he came into the
NFL. And in part, because Bulger isn't.
So predictably, Bulger wasn't biting when asked Wednesday if he ever viewed
games as a matchup of quarterback vs. quarterback.
"No," Bulger replied.
Or a rivalry of two quarterbacks going head to head?
"I don't, no," Bulger said.
As long as he is playing in St. Louis, or until he wins a Super Bowl or a
league MVP award, this will be Bulger's burden as a Ram. Such sentiment is
compounded because Bulger's numbers are down once again from the high standards
he set in his first five seasons in the NFL, from 2002-06.
One game shy of the midway point of this season, Bulger's completion percentage
(58.7) and passer rating (79.4) are on track to be the second-lowest totals of
Although Bulger threw for a season-high 301 yards against a still formidable
New England defense, his critics were out in full force after the Rams' 23-16
loss to the Patriots.
"I'm playing good enough, I think, to win," Bulger said, when asked to evaluate
his play this season. "We all want to play better. In the fourth quarter we've
been trailing a lot this year, so you've got to force the issue a little bit.
But I've been pleased with the way we haven't turned the ball over, and we've
kept ourselves in games."
There has been an emphasis on reducing turnovers since Jim Haslett took over as
head coach for the fired Scott Linehan. Bulger is throwing more balls away when
under pressure, or when nothing's there. A couple of his high throws in the end
zone against New England were reflections of that new emphasis.
Some analysts — armchair and otherwise — continue to harp on Bulger's
mechanics. So when asked Wednesday about throwing off his back foot, Bulger
came as close as he has ever come to snapping at a reporter.
"I don't feel I do," Bulger said. "So if my coach tells me I'm throwing off my
back foot, then I stop throwing the way I do. But my mechanics haven't
For the most part things have gone well for Bulger under Haslett. Although his
numbers weren't great against Washington, he did engineer a game-winning
comeback in the fourth quarter. A week later, he had his first 100-plus passer
rating of the season in a romp over Dallas.
Last Sunday in New England, Bulger was headed for another 100-plus rating until
the fourth quarter. But after going 12 for 18 for 232 yards and a touchdown
through three quarters, Bulger was six for 16 for 69 yards and an interception
in the fourth.
For his part, Haslett has been sympathetic yet honest in assessing Bulger's
"I've said it before, I think Marc's playing OK," Haslett said. "Can he do
things better? Yeah, obviously. I think everybody on this team could do better.
But you've got to understand, you've got a young group of rookies (at wide
receiver), and Torry (Holt) is trying to help those guys out, and Marc's trying
to help them out.
"And we've got some young running backs. Our line hasn't been together (intact)
all year. So it's a combination of everything. He's going to have to just keep
fighting through it and he'll be fine."
Route mistakes by rookies Keenan Burton and Donnie Avery helped scuttle
Bulger's final two passes of the game, including an interception on third and
15 from the New England 38 with just over a minute to play. But Bulger hasn't
pointed fingers and has earned the respect of the rookies.
"One thing I really love about him is that he's not a guy that's going to jump
down your throat and just tell you how bad you are for (making a mistake),"
Burton said. "Because he gets a lot of the blame for a lot of things. But
sometimes it's really not him. It may be me messing up.
"So I just really appreciate his attitude towards me. I know Donnie also
appreciates it. Us being rookies, we still make mistakes, and he hasn't yet
thrown us under the bus or talked crazy to us. He talks it out with us."