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Battered Bulger needs Martz to revise game plan

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  • Battered Bulger needs Martz to revise game plan

    Battered Bulger needs Martz to revise game plan
    By Bernie Miklasz
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    After answering questions in the Rams' locker room, quarterback Marc Bulger grimaced as he took his first step toward the door. Bulger had an ice pack taped to his right elbow, and the post-game soreness was already spreading to other parts of his body.

    "Ouch," Bulger said to no one in particular, after getting zinged again by a little jolt of pain. Bulger was on the way home, presumably to devour an extra-large bottle of Tylenol for dinner.

    The Rams reached a new low Sunday in losing 28-25 to the New Orleans Saints in overtime. The defense was soft. The special teams were incompetent. The coaching was incoherent. And the running game was virtually nonexistent.

    All the Rams had going for them on this day was Bulger setting up to pass with a target on his chest. With Rams coach Mike Martz stubbornly refusing to run the football against the NFL's 31st-ranked rushing defense, Bulger was turned into a sparring partner for Saints pass rushers who punished him with body blows.

    Bulger is a tough guy from Pittsburgh, so he'll take the abuse and keep firing away, knowing that he'll be smacked after choosing to steal the extra second he needs to locate Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt downfield. And against the Saints, Bulger won many of the skirmishes, completing 65 percent of his 49 passing attempts for 358 yards. He engineered a thrilling go-ahead touchdown drive in the final minute of the fourth quarter, scoring himself on a 19-yard dash.

    But at the end of the afternoon, all Bulger had was the gaudy statistics to go with the bumps and the welts. He had no win to show for his bruises. The baffling coaching decisions (a squib kick???) and a mush defense gave New Orleans this victory. Bulger and the offense, pushed off-stride by two penalties, failed to score in their only OT chance.

    Martz is in the process of damaging another quarterback's career. After getting hit repeatedly in Martz's wide-open offense, Kurt Warner turned into a panicky, burned-out, beaten-down quarterback in his final two years in St. Louis. The New York Giants have put Warner in a safer, more quarterback-friendly offense. And with the added protection, No. 13 seems to be reviving his confidence, having performed impressively in consecutive wins over Washington and Cleveland.

    And Bulger? With a QB rating in the mid-90s, Bulger clearly has played better in his losses than Warner did during his long losing streak at the end of his run here. But more on point, Bulger will be the next victim to suffer from the Battered Quarterback Syndrome. In the last two games, both losses, Bulger has dropped back to throw the ball 90 times. That figure is actually closer to 100 if you cite the plays that didn't officially count because of penalties. Bulger has been sacked 10 times and rocked by many other direct hits. Bulger's been on the turf so much, they ought to put a police chalk outline around his body.

    And Martz's reaction to all of this is to keep dialing up passes. The passing-running ratio over the last two games has reached stunning, loony-tunes proportions: 90 passes, only 30 runs. This is a high-risk, high-reward offense. Sure, we're treated to wonderful entertainment when Bulger hooks up with Bruce and Holt. But more things can go wrong when you pass the ball instead of running it. Sacks. Tipped balls. Interceptions. Fumbles. Dropped passes. Bad throws. Holding penalties.

    Moreover, your quarterback gets rag-dolled. When your offense is so one-dimensional, the defense can attack the QB without fearing or respecting the run. For much of the second half, and especially late in the game and overtime, the Saints' linebackers were retreating into pass coverage, all but issuing an engraved invitation for the Rams to run the ball.

    And again, Martz refused. He's apparently on some berserk mission to prove that he's right and everyone else is wrong in emphasizing the need for a more balanced offense. Understand, I don't want Martz to become a boring, overly conservative coach. But he must plug in the running game for three primary reasons: (1) to make the offense less predictable and keep the wolves away from Bulger's throat; (2) to give the laboring offensive line a chance to power off the ball and develop confidence; (3) build time of possession to keep the overwhelmed defense off the field.

    And when New Orleans brings a demonstrably poor rushing defense to your home turf, you've got to hit the Saints in the mouth and make them respect your ability to play physical football. Martz declined. For the last two weeks, Martz has reduced Marshall Faulk's role, and promising rookie Steven Jackson has all but disappeared despite averaging 6.2 yards on 12 carries.

    If this latest outbreak of Martz madness continues, we'll see Bulger vanish, too. He'll stagger out of here with brains scrambled, headed to another team, or to a hospital room.

    It makes sense to ask a Warner or a Bulger to pay a physical price as long as the team is winning games, going to Super Bowls and setting records for points. But those days are long gone.

  • #2
    Re: Battered Bulger needs Martz to revise game plan

    Sometimes Bernie's writings seem to be coming straight from his hind-quarters, however with these thoughts....
    Originally posted by Bernie
    He's apparently on some berserk mission to prove that he's right and everyone else is wrong in emphasizing the need for a more balanced offense. Understand, I don't want Martz to become a boring, overly conservative coach. But he must plug in the running game for three primary reasons: (1) to make the offense less predictable and keep the wolves away from Bulger's throat; (2) to give the laboring offensive line a chance to power off the ball and develop confidence; (3) build time of possession to keep the overwhelmed defense off the field.
    ..he nailed it. I'm living with the hope that Martz will eventually open his eyes, but if he doesn't we are going to lose YET ANOTHER pro bowl QB.
    The more things change, the more they stay the same.


    • #3
      Re: Battered Bulger needs Martz to revise game plan

      Gee, is this a trend developing before our eyes??? Sounds like Bernie stopped drinking the koolaide and is coming around. Amazing...


      Related Topics


      • RamWraith
        This season, Martz keeps ball in Bulger's hot hand
        by RamWraith
        By Bernie Miklasz
        Of the Post-Dispatch
        Saturday, Jan. 08 2005

        SEATTLE - In last year's NFL playoffs, Marc Bulger threw three interceptions in
        a bitterly disappointing, and shocking, home loss to Carolina. Bulger was so
        unreliable, the shakiness caused a radical transformation in Mike Martz,
        turning him into an arch-conservative for the first time in his coaching

        With a chance to win at the end of the fourth quarter by going for a touchdown,
        Martz removed the ball, and the trust, and the game, from Bulger's grip. Martz
        uncharacteristically settled for a field goal. But after Bulger's final
        interception, the Rams lost in overtime.

        Fast forward to Saturday.

        The day Marc Bulger made up for all that went wrong in his initial venture into
        the NFL playoffs, one year ago. The day that Bulger made the bad memories, the
        doubts, and the ghost of a departed QB superstar all disappear in the course of
        two late drives that enhanced his reputation.

        On this day, with the Rams trailing by three in the fourth quarter, Bulger
        picked this precise time and situation to take a firm step in his development
        as an NFL quarterback. Bulger air-lifted the Rams out of trouble, pulled them
        out of a crisis, and calmly directed a stirring 27-20 comeback victory over the
        Seattle Seahawks.

        On this day, there would be no fear, no worry, no pulling in the horns to
        settle for field goals. On the final two possessions, Bulger got the Rams the
        field goal to tie and the touchdown they needed to escape Seattle and move
        forward in the NFC playoffs. To get those 10 points that kept the Rams going,
        Bulger completed five of seven passes for 80 yards including the game-winning
        17-yard touchdown on a beautiful play-action pass to tight end Cam Cleeland.
        Bulger had to make the perfect throw, drilling it into a narrow opening just
        before the arrival of a Seattle safety. Bulger was ice. He got the ball in
        there, right into Cleeland's mitt, just a nano-second ahead of the defender's

        On those final two drives, Bulger was money.

        "Marc was throwing DIMES to people," wideout Kevin Curtis said.

        Yes, 313 yards worth of dimes.

        Let it be known that Rams are Bulger's team now. He's grown so much in the last
        year. There would be no repeat of the Carolina caution and conservatism. On
        this occasion, the football, and fate, were placed squarely in Bulger's hands
        on a brisk Saturday afternoon in the Pacific Northwest.

        And Bulger responded the way winners do. With his helmet transmitter on the
        fritz, with his pass protection breaking down, with his offense in a rut, with
        -01-09-2005, 05:09 AM
      • RamWraith
        Bulger finding ways to hit his mark
        by RamWraith
        Posted on Fri, Oct. 22, 2004

        [email protected]

        ST. LOUIS - The bomb is back in the St. Louis Rams' offense.

        Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, often criticized over the past year for his inability to connect with his receivers on the long pass, has thrown eight passes of 30 or more yards in six games this season.

        He threw only two passes of 30 or more yards in the final five games of the 2003 season, including the Rams' overtime playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers.

        "For a while, he wasn't throwing it as well," Rams coach Mike Martz said of Bulger being able to go deep. "I think he is very confident right now about throwing the deep ball, very confident. He started out that way, and then he got to the point where -- and this is Coach Martz's interpretation of what had happened, I'm sure not Marc's -- he was a little tentative with the deep ball.

        "You get a guy running down the field, and he didn't want to miss him. He's very confident right now, and he's putting that ball right where he wants to."

        Bulger has thrown three passes of 40 or more yards over the last two games after throwing only six passes of 40 or more yards all of last season. He had a 52-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Shaun McDonald in overtime in a 33-27 win over the Seattle Seahawks two weeks ago and a 52-yard touchdown pass to Torry Holt in a 28-21 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.

        "I haven't done anything different, but we're hitting them, and that's all that matters," Bulger said. "So I'll keep winging it."

        Bulger said that completing a deep pass is actually much more difficult than just winging it.

        "People think throwing the deep ball is just taking five steps and throwing it 50 yards down the field, but it's not that easy," Bulger said. "I'm throwing it way before they cut, and it's all depending on the coverage. It's a different landing point every time."

        Bulger said the Rams also have several different kinds of deep balls in their playbook that call for him to throw the ball at different trajectories.

        Martz said Bulger was one of the most accurate deep passers he'd seen when the former West Virginia standout first stepped into a starting role during the 2002 season.

        "Initially, his first year in '02, he was very good on the deep ball," Martz said. "He was like Trent Green in that respect, and I thought Trent was as good as there was throwing the deep ball. He was like that."

        Martz said Bulger's struggles with the deep pass last season prompted extra attention on that aspect of his game during training camp.

        "Throughout camp and the preseason there were days where that is what we did," Martz said. "We took part of our...
        -10-22-2004, 02:05 PM
      • RamWraith
        Playoffs will be the ultimate test of Bulger's ability
        by RamWraith
        By Bernie Miklasz
        Of the Post-Dispatch
        Thursday, Jan. 06 2005

        The best thing that ever happened to Marc Bulger was getting injured. When
        Bulger went down with a shoulder injury, and Chris Chandler took over for two
        starts, we saw what life without Bulger was really like.

        And it was quite ugly. The offense crashed. The Rams were stranded. The team
        was in a crisis. Quick, sound the bugle call ... or the Bulger call.

        Bulger returned, with the Rams needing to sweep their final two regular-season
        games to inch their way into the NFC playoffs. In victories over the Eagles and
        Jets, Bulger completed 74.2 percent of his passes for 675 yards and four
        touchdowns. Save for one poor red-zone interception against the Jets, Bulger
        performed brilliantly.

        "He's played marvelously this year," wide receiver Isaac Bruce said.

        Still, as the Rams prepare to barrel into Seattle for Saturday's first-round
        playoff game, Bulger is in a tough spot. Critics will always hold it against
        him because he replaced Kurt Warner. Others will insist that Warner is still
        better than Bulger. (He isn't.) And though skeptics will concede that Bulger is
        the right man for now, they won't fully be converted until Bulger books the
        Rams into a Super Bowl.

        That's what Warner did. Fair or not, it's the standard for quarterbacks in St.
        Louis. Bulger is the first to be held to it. And it didn't help that Bulger
        flunked his first test, last January, getting intercepted three times (with no
        touchdowns) in the overtime playoff loss at home to Carolina. With a chance to
        go for a winning touchdown in the final minute of the fourth quarter, coach
        Mike Martz feared another interception and settled for a tying field goal.

        In the aftermath, Martz thought about going back to Warner as the starter. He
        thought about trading for prospect Drew Henson, who ended up in Dallas. But
        after reviewing the 2003 season, Martz came to the conclusion that Bulger was
        close to being the QB that Martz needed for this offense. Martz invested a new
        contract in Bulger and released Warner.

        So far, it's paying off. Bulger improved this season in completion percentage,
        yards per passing attempt, touchdown-interception ratio and passer efficiency
        rating. He connected on more deep throws. Teammates voted him the Rams MVP.

        "I've been a lot more consistent this year," Bulger said Wednesday at Rams
        Park. "I've learned a lot from last year ... as long as I didn't repeat the
        same mistakes this year I thought that I would be better, and fortunately I

        Ah, but questions remain ...

        Can Bulger play QB outside...
        -01-07-2005, 04:40 AM
      • Nick
        Rams aren't flying high behind Bulger
        by Nick
        Rams aren't flying high behind Bulger
        By Roger Phillips, STAFF WRITER

        In recent years, the high-flying St. Louis Rams came to be known as the "Greatest Show on Turf," powered by a flashy offensive arsenal that included quarterback Kurt Warner, running back Marshall Faulk and star receiver Isaac Bruce.
        The Rams won the Super Bowl following the 1999 season, and have been an offensive force most of the time since then.

        But Warner now is the New York Giants' backup quarterback, Faulk and Bruce are still productive but reaching the latter stages of their careers, and the Rams are a disappointing 5-6 entering Sunday's home game against the San Francisco ***** (1-10). In fact, Faulk may not play against the ***** because of a bruised left knee.

        Still, despite the Rams' explosive past and the team's sub-.500 record this season, coach Mike Martz is bullish about his offense. In fact, this week, he had remarkably high praise for his starting quarterback, Marc Bulger.

        "The quarterback," Martz said, "right now is playing as well as anybody we have ever had here."

        The statistics do not quite bear out Martz's praise of Bulger.

        In 1999, Warner had a 109.2 passer rating, among the highest in NFL history. He passed for

        4,353 yards, threw 41 touchdown passes, and was intercepted only 13 times. Warner also had a passer rating of 101.4 in 2001, and 98.3 in 2000.

        By contrast, this season Bulger has a passer rating of 90.5, with only 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

        Passing yardage is the only area in which Bulger's statistics compare to those of Warner in his best season. Bulger has thrown for 3,267 yards, including an eye-popping 448 in a 45-17 loss at Green Bay five nights ago.

        At his current pace, Bulger will throw for 4,752 yards this season -- and there is no telling what sort of numbers he might put up Sunday against the *****' battered secondary.

        Bulger, in his second full season as a starter, said his improved understanding of the Rams' offense has made him a better quarterback this year.

        "It is just knowing the difference between being real aggressive and being stupid," said Bulger, who threw an equal number of touchdowns and interceptions last season and had an 81.4 rating.

        "Last year, I would ... try to hit the home runs. This year, it's more of a game management style. If it is not going to be there, I'm willing to take a 3-yard check-down rather than going for the home run every time."

        Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Bulger's performance this season is that it has come with little help from his offensive line. Bulger has been sacked 35 times; only four teams -- including the ***** -- have allowed more sacks. In 1999, Warner was sacked only 29 times the entire...
        -12-04-2004, 12:01 PM
      • r8rh8rmike
        Bernie: Time Right To Let Beat-Up Bulger Go?
        by r8rh8rmike
        Time right to let beat-up Bulger go?

        Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz

        When Marc Bulger took over as starting quarterback for the Rams, life was good. Bulger was able to carry on a winning tradition for a while. He led the remnants of the "Greatest Show on Turf" to a 12-4 record in 2003, and appeared to be a legitimate successor to a beaten-down Kurt Warner.

        In perhaps his finest singular highlight, Bulger threw a beautiful, precise pass to tight end Cam Cleeland for the winning touchdown to lead the Rams to a thrilling victory at Seattle in the 2004 NFC wild-card game. Bulger played well in 2006 and signed a six-year, $65 million contract extension in the summer of '07. The job had its rewards, that's for sure.

        But all along, Bulger was in a precarious situation. The franchise was about to blow up, and Bulger happened to be the quarterback standing near the tripwire. He wasn't going to be able to survive the carnage, not without paying a severe price.

        When Bulger slowly limped off the field at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday, he carried the weight of another Rams loss. The comeback stalled; Arizona knocked out Bulger and the Rams 21-13. Bulger was in pain ... again. The most serious of the injuries, a broken shin bone, was discovered Monday in an MRI exam.

        We may have seen the last of Bulger in a Rams uniform. He'll be sidelined for three to six weeks. The Rams (1-9) have only six games remaining, and it would be crazy to play him and expose him to more punishment.

        I've been critical of Bulger the last two-plus seasons. The quality of his performance declined rapidly since the end of the 2006 season. But I'm not without empathy. Much of Bulger's downfall can be explained by the circumstances surrounding him.

        I think I came up with the term "Battered Quarterback Syndrome" and applied it to Bulger. A quarterback can absorb only so many body slams, cracks to the ribs and blows to the head before he loses effectiveness.

        Bulger became the favorite rag doll of NFL pass rushers. He's been sacked 242 times since the start of the 2003 season, the most among NFL quarterbacks. And that doesn't include the hundreds of times he got drilled while releasing throws.

        If this is it for Bulger, then what is his legacy?

        A sad one.

        With excessive amounts of pain, frustration and losing.

        Bulger had to replace the eternally popular Warner a thankless task for obvious reasons. The Rams were 40-17 with Warner as a starter, advanced to two Super Bowls and won Super Bowl XXXIV. Moreover, Warner was a two-time league MVP and a Super Bowl MVP.

        Best of luck living up to that standard. Any quarterback who followed Warner would have to deal with baggage, comparisons and resentment. It's always...
        -11-25-2009, 10:55 PM