By Bill Coats

As quarterback Marc Bulger headed off the RCA Dome turf to the locker room early in the second quarter Monday night, he took with him 174 yards of offense and a 17-point Rams lead.

Bulger, who suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder, never got back into the game, and the Rams never were the same. The Indianapolis Colts rolled up 45 of the game's next 48 points and glided to a 45-28 triumph that boosted their record to 6-0.

Results of an MRI weren't available Tuesday, and interim head coach Joe Vitt said he didn't "want to assume anything yet. But I will say this: Jamie Martin was born and raised in this system. He knows it as good as anybody."

Martin, 35, has made just three starts during his 12 NFL seasons. Unless Bulger makes a stunning recovery, No. 4 will come Sunday, when the Rams (2-4) meet the New Orleans Saints (2-4) at the Edward Jones Dome.

"Jamie's a professional . . . a character individual and a good football player," Vitt said. "We're going to do everything we can to get him ready."

Martin's success in Bulger's stead Monday night was mixed. He hit on 17 of 21 passes, including 11 in a row during one stretch. But he guided the offense to only 172 yards and a mere 11 points - eight coming on a late 9-yard pass to tight end Cam Cleeland, plus a two-point conversion, long after the deal had been sealed.

The Rams' 17-0 lead evaporated quickly; still, they trailed by just four points late in the third quarter. But Martin threw two interceptions in Rams territory that resulted in two Colts touchdowns and put the game out of reach.

"I made a couple of stupid plays, and you can't do that against a good defense," said Martin, who threw for 134 yards and had a passer rating of 69.5.

He said offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild, who called the plays in the absence of head coach Mike Martz, didn't try to simplify the attack with Bulger sidelined.

"We did the same things," Martin said. "We got some stuff early on them, and they adjusted. They run one or two defenses and do a good job with it. And we had the turnovers. That kills you."

Martin, who last started a game in 2002, said he realized that he could be the No. 1 quarterback this week - and perhaps for several more afterward. "Yeah, who knows?" he said. "I prepare like it anyway, so I'll come to work and get ready."

Fitzpatrick is No. 2

Rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick presumably would move up to the No. 2 spot behind Martin. Vitt declared the seventh-round draft choice from Harvard ready for the assignment.

Vitt indicated that the offensive coaches probably would put together a limited plan for Fitzpatrick in case Martin goes down. "Maybe a little boot package, move the pocket, a couple of drop-backs, maybe some misdirection runs because of his athleticism, shave it down for him," Vitt said. "Those are options."

Vitt talks with Martz

Vitt said he talked to Martz after the game. "He's bleeding for us right now. He feels for us," Vitt said.

Responding to a question, Vitt said he didn't ask Martz how hard it was hard to watch his team on television, rather than from the sideline. "But I could tell by his voice it wasn't easy," Vitt added.

As for Martz's continuing recovery from a bacterial infection of a heart valve, Vitt said: "He's doing good. ... I think he's feeling a little bit better."