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Thread: Inside Slant
Rams coach Mike Martz has been saying it for a while, that quarterback Marc Bulger is among the elite players at his position in the NFL.
And Martz reiterated that after Bulger's performance Monday night in the Rams' 20-7 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Bulger was back in the lineup after missing two starts because of a shoulder injury suffered early in the team's Dec. 5 game against San Francisco.
He missed games against Carolina and Arizona on the road; the Rams lost both and scored just seven offensive points in the two games combined.
While a strong running game helped Bulger in the win over the Eagles, he did complete 20 of 27 passes for 225 yards and one touchdown.
"I thought he was terrific," Martz said of Bulger's play. "Lots of zip on the ball, probably as much zip as he's had all year. He recovered very nicely. He didn't have any issues with that shoulder at all. You could see from the strength and the way that ball came out. You can see throughout the year when the shoulder is bothering him, he doesn't have that kind of zip. There were about five games this season, when you look at him, he didn't have the zip he had (Monday) night. He's back, completely.
"Goodness gracious, he is playing at such a high level right now. He has such confidence. It showed in that game. He has such a command of what's going on on the field. I'm kind of in awe of the guy right now. He is playing at the highest level."
It was known that Bulger had also injured his shoulder against Miami on Oct. 31, and Martz also revealed he had banged it in the season opener.
"He just didn't say anything about it," Martz said. "I didn't know it, either, but he 'fessed up to somebody else. He had been playing most of the season at seven-eighths or three-quarters arm strength."
The Rams' fate will be in Bulger's hands Sunday when the team tries to make the playoffs with a win over the Jets. Even with a win, the Rams still need help to get in, but the fact they even have a chance considering the ups and downs of the season hasn't been lost on Martz.
"It's thrilling," Martz said. "After all the drama that we've been through this year, being in position to potentially be in the playoffs — how awesome is that? I'm excited. Hopefully we'll be sharp (on Sunday) and lay it all out there."
SERIES HISTORY: 11th meeting. The Rams lead the series, 8-2 and have won six straight games, the last meeting being a 34-14 win in 2001. The only game played in St. Louis between the teams was a 30-10 Rams victory in 1998.
—The Rams' offensive line has had its share of struggles this season, but coach Mike Martz gave high praise to the linemen for their performance in the win over the Eagles.
Said Martz, "In particular, (left tackle) Orlando Pace played his best game of the season. Very physical, finished things, drove them off the ball, by far his best game, maybe in two years here. He was dominant. He always plays good, but his normal play is exceptional for anybody else. But when he is really dominant, you can't stop him.
"Tight end Brandon (Manumaleuna), those balls in the running game that go outside, he basically blocks that defensive end by himself. We couldn't have those runs without his effort."
With the game being played Monday night, Martz gave his team last Wednesday off as well as Christmas Day. The Rams had more than the usual walk-through the day before the game. He felt the extra time off helped the recovery of some injured players, especially left guard Tom Nutten and right guard Adam Timmerman.
Nutten played after missing the previous game because of a knee injury, while Timmerman has been playing with two injured shoulders that will probably need surgery in the offseason.
"I think the rest that we had really helped, I really do," Martz said. "Having a Monday night game, getting Christmas day off ... we didn't practice last week until Thursday. I think that allowed them physically to recover."
As for Nutten, Martz said, "Having Tommy back and having him back healthy — he hasn't been healthy all year. This was the best he felt all year long. He really was very physical. He was terrific in this game. It showed up in our runs. He finished things very well, created some nice seams in there."
—DE Bryce Fisher got a game ball for his play against the Eagles despite being replaced as the starter by rookie Anthony Hargrove. Philadelphia had just 47 plays and Fisher was in the game for only 17, but he had two tackles, five assists, a sack/fumble, two quarterback hits and a pressure.
Said Martz, "To be in 17 plays and have that sort of production is pretty remarkable."
—The Rams did not practice Wednesday, so there was no update on RB Steven Jackson, who suffered a bruised knee late in Monday night's game against the Eagles.
"He probably will be (OK)," Martz said. "But, you know, it's probably better for all of us not to talk about these injuries now, until another day or two. This stuff changes over the course of a couple of days."
—Through his agent, Frank Bauer, Rams coach Mike Martz denied reports of an alleged confrontation he recently had with injured OT Kyle Turley. It's strange Martz would deny the story, considering it's known he called NFL security when a meeting between the two became contentious. Martz told security Turley threatened him, a charge Turley has denied.
The statement, reported on ESPN.com, said, "This story is absurd. It is offensive to Kyle Turley and Mike Martz. There is no truth to this story."
However, Martz told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the meeting too place and tried to downplay it, saying, "He was agitated. I wasn't shouting at him. But he was animated. Players get like that. Kyle's a very emotional guy. He wears his emotions on his sleeves. But by the end of the discussion, it was resolved. It was resolved and we move on."
BY THE NUMBERS: 25 — The total number of points the Rams have allowed in their last three home games. The Rams beat Seattle 23-12, San Francisco 16-6 and Philadelphia 20-7.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's like cement. The surface really needs to be changed. To make players making the money they do play on a surface like that is horrible, just awful. It's disgraceful really. That's my pitch." — Coach Mike Martz on the artificial surface at the Edward Jones Dome.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Rams were assigned C/G Matt Lehr on waivers from the Cowboys on Wednesday to bring their roster to 52 players. The openings were created when OG Chris Dishman (knee) and FS Aeneas Williams (neck) were placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
—OG Adam Timmerman, who has been playing with two injured shoulders that will probably need surgery in the offseason, is listed as questionable on the injury report. However, Timmerman is expected to play against the Jets.
—RB Steven Jackson, who suffered a bruised knee Monday night against the Eagles, has been cleared to play this week and is listed as probable on the injury report.
—LB Drew Wahlroos, who has helped the special teams coverage units since being added to the roster on Nov. 16, injured his knee against the Eagles and is questionable for the game against the Jets.
—DE Bryce Fisher has a minor ankle injury and is expected to play this week and continue backing up rookie Anthony Hargrove at right end.
—FB Joey Goodspeed has a shoulder injury that isn't considered serious, and he likely will play Sunday against the Jets.
GAME PLAN: Stop Curtis Martin. That's about as simple as it gets for the Rams. Add LaMont Jordan in there, too. The Rams have struggled against the run this season, allowing 4.5 yards per attempt and 133.3 yards per game. For the Rams to beat the Jets and have a chance at the playoffs, they will have to keep Martin and Jordan from hitting big plays.
Offensively, keeping mistakes to the minimum is most important. The Rams have a minus-21 turnover differential, worst in the NFL, but minus-16 of that total has been on the road.
MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Rams WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce vs. Jets CBs Donnie Abraham and David Barrett — Provided the offensive line can protect QB Marc Bulger, these are matchups the Rams believe they can win. Bruce and Holt are ranked near the top of the league in receptions and yards. The key for the Jets will be their pass rush. They have been without DE John Abraham for several weeks, but they hope to possibly have him for this game. Whether Abraham plays or not, Rams RT Blaine Saipaia will have to be able to control DLE Shaun Ellis.
INJURY IMPACT: The Rams were pleased when the right knee of RB Steven Jackson didn't have swelling after he bruised it Monday night against the Eagles. Jackson had considerable swelling when he injured the knee Dec. 5 against San Francisco, and he did not play the next two weeks. ... OG Chris Dishman will have reconstructive surgery on his knee after tearing the MCL and PCL in practice Dec. 24
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