Bulger's timing helps Rams end road worries

Updated: October 27, 2003, 6:41 PM ET
ESPN

ST. LOUIS -- Long passes and road games used to be a problem for the St. Louis Rams. Not anymore.

Not after winning convincingly at Pittsburgh. The Rams (5-2) had lost nine of 10 on the road before Sunday's 33-21 victory, which was all the more impressive because of the pomp surrounding the Steelers' 1,000th game.

Bulger struggled with his timing on long balls early in the season, perhaps because of anxiety. Against the Steelers' second-ranked defense he was right on the money as the Rams racked up 11 plays that went 20 or more yards.

In the first six games of the season, the Rams totaled 20 plays of 20 or more yards.

"That was just a question of time for Marc," coach Mike Martz said. "He's been missing those by a yard or two. He's been practicing those throws for several weeks and he's so much more confident about making those throws now."

Bulger was confident from the start Sunday, with completions of 48 and 36 yards to Torry Holt on the Rams' second drive of the game. Holt ended up with seven receptions for 174 yards and a touchdown, a 24.9-yard average, but Bulger, who was 22-for-37 for 375 yards, hit others for big gains, too.

Tight ends Brandon Manumaleuna and Cameron Cleeland had gains of 30 and 28 yards. Isaac Bruce caught a 29-yarder and Dane Looker had a 22-yard reception.

Bulger was able to relax, even though it was only his 13th career start and he was playing in his hometown. He handled the situation about as well as he did taking over for struggling two-time MVP Kurt Warner, and now is 11-2 as the starter.

"It's not about me and where I'm from, it's about the team and being on the road," Bulger said. "We beat a pretty good team in a tough environment."

Bulger said it didn't take him long to deal with any anxiety.

"The worst part is the bus ride and the pregame," he said. "You get all worked up, and then the game starts and it's all gone."

The Rams had been 0-2 on the road this year before their convincing victory over the Steelers, losing by 10 points to the Giants in the opener and by a point in Game 3 to the Seahawks after squandering a 13-point lead. That start, combined with last year's 1-7 showing away from the Edward Jones Dome where they have won 10 straight, created plenty of doubt.

Martz said it's unfair to combine years, noting the Rams' 8-0 road showing in 2001 might also be mentioned in that case.

"It all has to do with this year and a young team that needs to win on the road and take charge of the situation instead of letting it dictate to them, or be overwhelmed by it," Martz said. "We talked to our players a great deal about that and I think they handled it very well."

The Rams beat the Steelers despite being without five defensive starters by the end of the game. End Leonard Little (chest muscle) and tackle Damione Lewis (high ankle sprain) joined safety Adam Archuleta (ankle), linebacker Tommy Polley (dislocated elbow) and cornerback Travis Fisher (groin) on the sidelines.

Little and Lewis likely will miss Sunday's game at San Francisco, although Archuleta and Fisher are expected back. Polley will miss at least three more games.

On offense, rookie Arlen Harris ran for three touchdowns to allow Marshall Faulk another week to recuperate from a broken hand and knee surgery. Faulk will get heavy reps in practice this week before Martz decides whether to start him against the 49ers.

"He'll take more of a load to see if there's swelling and pain and whatnot," Martz said. "He feels good at this point, but we've got to make sure that leg is as strong as the other one.

"It's our biggest concern."

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