Rams' bullpen does the job
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Sunday, Dec. 05 2004

Chris Chandler has seen Marc Bulger go down - and go down hard - on more than
one occasion this season. But this time, Bulger was slumped over, holding his
shoulder.

"And then he started running off the field, waving," Chandler said.

Waving for Chandler to take over. Like clockwork, you can count on Chandler at
quarterback for the Rams once every 10 years. He played in 10 games for the Los
Angeles Rams in 1994. On Sunday he made his St. Louis Rams debut at quarterback
when Bulger went down with a sprained right shoulder late in the first quarter.

The Rams got just enough passing from Chandler, with plenty of runs sprinkled
in from rookie Steven Jackson, to sweep the season series from rival San
Francisco with a grinding 16-6 victory at the Edward Jones Dome.

There weren't many points, or style points, for that matter. The offensive
showing was a far cry from the "Greatest Show on Turf." Sunday's point total
was the lowest for the Rams in a victory since a 15-14 bloodletting over the
New York Giants in 2001.

Nonetheless, a victory it was, something the Rams had accomplished only once
since mid- October.

"There's winning and there's death," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "And
we won today. So come check with me next week."

The Rams have been doing a lot of "dying" lately, losing four of their previous
five games. But Sunday's victory evened their season record at 6-6, gave them a
5-0 mark in the NFC West and kept their sagging division and playoff hopes
alive.

"We needed it," safety Adam Archuleta said. "We needed a win. We needed the
defense to play well. We needed a confidence booster back there.

"We've got to get some momentum. We've got four more games. We're still there.
The season is far from over."

Chandler threw for 216 yards and a touchdown. Jackson, replacing the injured
Marshall Faulk, rushed for 119 yards. Wide receiver Torry Holt had a
season-high 10 receptions for a season-high 160 yards.

Holt scored the only touchdown of the game on a 22-yard reception from Chandler
with 9 minutes 29 seconds to play in the first half. Just two plays earlier,
Holt hauled in a grossly underthrown Chandler lob for 40 yards.

"On that deep ball, Torry's so fast," Chandler said. "You have to release it
and throw it far, early. When I was getting ready to throw it, he was only 15,
18 yards down field."

So Chandler kind of hesitated on his follow-through.

"It's kind of like quitting on a golf swing," said Chandler, an avid golfer.
"You kind of shank it. And that's basically what I did on that first one."

But as a backup quarterback in the Rams offense, Chandler had gotten zero work
throwing to starters since the end of preseason play. In fact, the 40-yard play
to Holt marked the first time Chandler had thrown that particular route.

At least Chandler didn't make the same mistake twice.

"We had a very similar route on the touchdown pass, and I just threw it to the
back corner on 'time,' " Chandler said.

Meaning, Chandler threw the ball blindly to the area where Holt was supposed to
be. Guess what? Holt was there.

"This offense has a lot of (blind throws)," Chandler said. "And that's what
takes a little while. You've just got to trust it."

Martz entrusted Steven Jackson with 26 carries, the most for a Rams running
back this season, and Jackson was up to the challenge. His longest gain was for
a modest 13 yards, but he moved the chains and moved the pile.

"I knew early (in the week) that I was getting the start, and that I was going
to be playing a lot in this game," Jackson said. "I challenged myself to go
over 100 yards, and Coach Martz did a good job sticking with the run."

Martz set the play-calling tone right away, giving Jackson eight carries on the
Rams' opening possession, a 63-yard drive culminating in the first of three
field goals by Jeff Wilkins. The instant workload got the butterflies out early
for Jackson.

"Once you get some carries under your belt and you get hit a couple of times,
it just turns into a game," Jackson said.

It turned into a game in which the Rams never trailed but never could put away
the woebegone ***** (1-11).

As late as the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, San Francisco had the
ball deep in Rams territory with a chance to tie the score with a touchdown.
But on third and 5 from the Rams 19, cornerback Jerametrius Butler stepped in
front of a slant pass intended for Brandon Lloyd.

The lunging interception, Butler's fourth of the season, gave the Rams the ball
on their 7.

"I knew the slant was coming by the formation," Butler said. "I had to stretch
out for it. I wish I would've kept my balance. But I did a good job of holding
on to the ball."

Following the interception, the Rams marched 60 yards for an insurance field
goal by Wilkins, his second 52-yarder of the afternoon. In the process, they
drained nearly 6 minutes off the clock.

Defensively, the Rams allowed a season-low 160 yards, including just one play
longer than 12 yards - albeit a 52-yard pass to Lloyd that set up one of two
San Francisco field goals. The ***** advanced inside the Rams 20 only once all
day - on the play before Butler's interception.

"I'm very happy for the defense, in particular (coordinator) Larry Marmie, who
is the best," Martz said. "I'm very pleased with their effort, and the fact
that there were very few if any mental errors as I watched the game. So the
progress there is significant. The intensity level was pretty obvious."

Like the Rams' season as whole, better late than never.