Faulk's backup finding his stride

Updated: October 14, 2003, 1:47 PM ET
ESPN

ST. LOUIS -- Marshall Faulk might be two weeks away from returning from a broken left hand. Right now, there's no hurry.

Backup running back Lamar Gordon put together his second straight strong game, gaining a career-best 92 yards on 19 carries, in the St. Louis Rams' 36-0 victory over Atlanta on Monday night.

The second-year player, a third-round draft pick from North Dakota State, idolized Faulk growing up and has done a good impression of the former MVP.

"It's great to see him have that success," offensive guard Adam Timmerman said. "I think he's really getting a feel for the blocks and the different plays, and getting more reps in practice."

Timmerman still wants Faulk back, though. The cast on his hand has been trimmed back from his Sept. 21 injury against the Seahawks, giving the team hope Faulk could be back by Oct. 26 at Pittsburgh.

"Marshall is a special human being," Timmerman said. "It's big shoes to fill."

For now Gordon and quarterback Marc Bulger are giving the Rams a very nice set of former backups, with the team totaling 73 points the last two games. The Rams have put up big numbers against admittedly weaker teams, yet it's still 10 more points than they had in the first three games.

Lately, a rebuilt offensive line featuring Orlando Pace, Kyle Turley and Timmerman has dominated. Bulger threw for 352 yards and two touchdowns against the Falcons, and ran for a third. And Torry Holt had his second straight double-digit receiving game, catching 11 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns.

Everyone concerned appreciates having a reliable back like Gordon while they wait for Faulk.

"I think we all know what a talent he is," Bulger said. "He's just getting better. His reads are getting better."

Unlike his rookie season, Gordon has been more patient waiting for holes to open. He's also shown a juking ability previously missing from his game, and a willingness to play hurt.

He gives a big assist to Faulk, a major presence on the sideline while he mends.

"Marshall is like another coach," Gordon said. "He's out there coaching me up in practice and in games.

"I can't really explain how he's helped me because it's football stuff and it's pretty hard for people who have never played to understand."

Gordon's previous career high was two weeks ago, the Rams' last game, when he gained 81 yards on 21 carries in three quarters against the Cardinals.

In each of the last two games, Gordon easily could have topped 100 yards. He had 89 yards after the opening drive of the third quarter against the Falcons and missed most of the fourth against the Cardinals after spraining his left wrist.

That injury bothered him throughout Monday night's game, and especially at the start. Gordon walked off the field gripping the wrist after a 10-yard carry on the Rams' first play of the game, but he missed just a few plays before returning.

Gordon finished with six runs of 10 or more yards, helping the Rams dominate in time of possession for the second straight game. They had 496 yards total offense and held the ball for more than 37 minutes against the Falcons after keeping the ball for 42 minutes against the Cardinals.

"It was just that first shot," Gordon said. "It was the first time I got hit since I've been kind of baby-sitting it a little bit in practice, and it finally wore off."

Not for good. The Rams finally shut down Gordon for the day in the fourth quarter, giving third-string Arlen Harris some playing time in mop-up duty.

"Lamar stepped up and played hurt," coach Mike Martz said. "That hand's banged up. He ran hard, he was physical and his change of speed was outstanding.

"I think he's really developed into an exceptional player."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index