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  1. #1
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    Rams' Bulger hits his stride

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Tuesday, Jan. 04 2005

    The decision making has improved noticeably. So has the pocket presence, and
    the hot reads on blitzes. Yes, the red-zone interceptions raise red flags.

    But the end-zone interception against the New York Jets on Sunday was as much a
    case of an imprecise route by Shaun McDonald as an errant throw by Marc Bulger.

    Bulger's progress has been easy to overlook this season, given all of the
    issues, controversies, and soap operas swirling around Rams Park. But the
    overall picture is undeniable: Bulger is maturing into an upper-echelon NFL
    quarterback.

    That was never more apparent than in Sunday's 32-29 overtime victory over the
    Jets. Playing with a bruised throwing shoulder that still isn't 100 percent,
    Bulger ravaged the Jets' sixth-ranked defense for 450 yards passing and three
    touchdowns.

    The yardage total was the fifth-best in Rams franchise history. Bulger's passer
    rating (116.4) and completion percentage (74.4) in that game both were the
    third-highest in his career.

    "I think he's played very well in the past," coach Mike Martz said. "But to
    play like he did when it counted. ... Three for three in the final drive. I
    think, six for eight in overtime. He's the guy you want on your team when it's
    all on the line. I think that's probably as well as he played."

    Whereas predecessor Kurt Warner seemed to pick up the Rams' offensive system
    instantly, it has taken Bulger a couple of seasons to become fully integrated
    into Air Martz. But it looks like he's there.

    "The football knowledge is so much more of the mental situations," Bulger said.
    "Game management, and knowing when to check the ball down. The game management,
    I think I've done a lot better.

    "You have to learn by making mistakes. It's one thing to study the protections.
    Study this, study that. But unless you make mistakes, I think that's when you
    learn more. So there are growing pains, but hopefully, I've stopped with the
    major ones."

    Compared to last season, Bulger's passing yards, completion percentage, and
    passer rating are up. His interception total dropped from 22 in 2003 to 14 this
    season. Even factoring in that Bulger played in only 14 games this season
    compared to 15 a year ago, his interceptions have dropped from 1 1/2 a game in
    2003 to one per game this season.

    "I think right now Marc is intellectually close to where Kurt was," Martz said.
    "I don't know if anybody's like Kurt. Kurt had such a tremendous ability to
    digest and decipher exactly what was going down. It was like you could slow
    time down.

    "And I think Marc is like that right now. But the difference between the two is
    Marc has such a dynamic delivery. The ball gets out of there so fast. And he's
    easily the most accurate guy we've had. Trent Green, I thought, was really
    accurate. I think Marc is there."

    Bulger's completion rate of 66.4 percent this season is the second-best in
    franchise history, trailing only Warner's 67.7 percent in 2000. After missing 2
    3/4 games with the shoulder injury, Bulger completed 74.2 percent of his passes
    in victories over Philadelphia and the Jets.

    Before the Philly game, Bulger put on the bold front, insisting that his
    shoulder was 100 percent. It was only afterwards that he conceded that wasn't
    the case.

    "It's still not there," Bulger said Monday. "But it doesn't really matter. When
    you lose, you're not going to use that as an excuse. When you win, people
    aren't going to say you played through pain. So there's no point in talking
    about it."

    Bulger said the shoulder bothered him a little bit warming up before the Jets
    game Sunday. "But it's more with weight training. I can't do any weight
    training with it right now - bench-pressing or anything. It's sore at times -
    sometimes when I get hit. But it's playable. That's all that's important."

    It's important, all right. In 11 quarters without him against Arizona,
    Carolina, and most of the San Francisco game, the Rams managed just two
    offensive touchdowns. In the two games he has been back, the Rams have scored
    52 points.

    "His development from the beginning of the year to now is just remarkable,"
    Martz said. "His confidence level right now is sky high."

    So is his teammates' confidence in Bulger.

    "If we protect Marc, Marc's going to make plays," wide receiver Isaac Bruce
    said. "He's been making plays all the while he's been a starter. He's a great
    player."

    But great players win playoff games, something Bulger has yet to accomplish. In
    his only postseason appearance, Bulger threw three interceptions in the fourth
    quarter and overtime of the Rams' 29-23 double-overtime loss to Carolina.

    He gets a second crack at the postseason Saturday in Seattle, albeit with a
    Rams team that has more flaws than the 2003 squad.

    So can Bulger ever make fans forget about Warner? Even just a little bit?

    "Not until he wins a Super Bowl," defensive end Leonard Little said. "I think
    it's going to take that, because a lot of people around here remember Kurt from
    winning the Super Bowl. Marc's that caliber of a quarterback. And if he can
    carry a team on his shoulders, he will. So he's going to have his
    opportunities."

    Starting Saturday in Seattle.


  2. #2
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Rams' Bulger hits his stride

    Quote Originally Posted by RamWraith
    But the end-zone interception against the New York Jets on Sunday was as much a
    case of an imprecise route by Shaun McDonald as an errant throw by Marc Bulger.
    Clearly Jim Thomas is dead wrong about this, since we all know that the other ten Ram players on the field are absolutely flawless inside the 20 and it's Marc Bulger who is responsible for the Rams' red zone struggles.

    To even suggest that another player made a mistake that resulted in the Rams not being efficient in that part of the field is dastardly to say the least. Shame on you, Jim. Shame.

    :bored:
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