Battle of the Bulger
QB throws for 453 yards, four TDs in Rams' comeback winPosted: Sunday November 10, 2002 4:54 PM
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Rams' wild season just got a little bit crazier.
The defending NFC champions kept their midseason comeback on track in off-the-wall fashion, overcoming four lost fumbles -- two of them returned for touchdowns -- in a 28-24 victory against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
"Those games are always a lot of fun when they're over with," head coach Mike Martz said. "They're not much fun at the time."
The Rams (4-5) were led by Marc Bulger's team-record 36 completions and 453 yards passing -- the fourth-most in franchise history -- and Isaac Bruce, who lost two of the fumbles but caught three touchdown passes, including the 7-yard game-winner with 1:14 to play.
Bruce, who had 10 receptions for 163 yards, also caught TD passes of 27 and 34 yards, the latter an acrobatic grab that cut the Chargers' lead to 24-21 with 3:06 to go.
"We know where we have to go to make a play," Bulger said. "I have no hesitation going back to him."
Having burned all three timeouts in the third quarter, the Rams were forced to try an onside kick, and Dre' Bly recovered at the St. Louis 46 to set up the winning score.
The Rams staged their frenzied comeback without Marshall Faulk, who left with a sprained left ankle during the fourth quarter. He was held to 72 total yards and had a costly fumble at the Chargers' 3 at the end of the first half.
Faulk, who missed time earlier in the game with a tendon problem in his right foot, is expected to play next Monday against the Bears.
The Chargers (6-3) had more than a minute to work with after Bruce's go-ahead TD, and Ronney Jenkins returned the kickoff 52 yards to the St. Louis 46. The Chargers advanced to the 30, but the threat ended when Drew Brees' pass was intercepted by Dexter McCleon in the end zone with 11 seconds left.
"You hear the expression '60 minutes,' and how true it was today," Brees said. "Obviously, it's just kind of a lesson."
Bulger was outstanding in what could be his final game in relief of the injured Kurt Warner. Bulger was 36 of 48 with four touchdowns, but Warner could soon return from a broken pinkie on his throwing hand.
Warner didn't dress for the game but threw several 40-plus yard passes during warmups. He began throwing on Thursday, three days after four pins were removed from the finger, which was broken in a game Sept. 29.
"Going back to the bench isn't fun," Bulger said. "If this is it, this is it. Our whole team is unselfish."
Bulger played well in Warner's absence, but it was Faulk who carried the team back to respectability following its 0-5 start. Faulk ran for at least 150 yards in each of his three previous games, but Sunday he had 36 yards rushing on 13 carries and caught six passes for another 36 yards.
Ryan McNeil recovered two of the Rams' fumbles and scored on a 5-yard return to tie it at 7 in the first quarter after Troy Edwards caught a short sideline pass. The Rams appeared on the verge of taking the lead when Bruce fumbled a catch in the third quarter, and Donnie Edwards returned it 82 yards to put the Chargers ahead 24-14.
The Chargers' lone offensive touchdown came on a 1-yard run by LaDainian Tomlinson in the second quarter. Tomlinson had 120 yards on 24 carries.
"Obviously, losing a game like this to me is a matter of heart and attitude," Tomlinson said. "I don't know exactly happened to us at the end, but we folded."
The Rams drove 85 yards on their opening possession, capped by Bulger's 17-yard pass to Ernie Conwell. The Chargers tied it when Alex Bolden stripped Edwards after a sideline catch and McNeil returned the fumble 5 yards for a touchdown with 7:36 left in the first.
San Diego added a 41-yard field goal by Steve Christie, and Tomlinson scored on 1-yard run for a 17-7 lead. The Rams missed a chance to narrow the gap when Faulk fumbled the ball away at the Chargers' 3, with McNeil again recovering, with 15 seconds to go in the half.
Notes: Bruce has 59 touchdowns for second place on the Rams' career list. He had been tied with Eric Dickerson. ... Rams S Kim Herring, who had one interception last year, has a pick in each of his last three games. ... Chargers backup LB Carlos Polk was carted off with a sprained ankle in the third quarter. ... The Rams had lost 21 consecutive games when trailing entering the fourth quarter, dating to a 34-33 victory against the Bills on Sept. 20, 1998. ... The Rams set a franchise record with 22 first downs by passing.