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Bulger hurts finger, returns to lead team to .500

11/19/2002

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Marc Bulger is going back to the bench unbeaten.

The man who began the season as St. Louis' third-string
quarterback carried the Rams to their fifth straight victory Monday
night, 21-16 over Chicago, then prepared to give way to Kurt
Warner.

Bulger threw for 347 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Rams
(5-5) back to .500 after an 0-5 start. He got a lot of help from a
defense led by Adam Archuleta that registered seven sacks.

Nonetheless, Warner is expected to start next week in Washington
for the first time since breaking his pinkie Sept. 29. He made a
cameo appearance Monday.

"I don't want to give it back to him,'' said Bulger, who began
the season as the third-stringer and threw for 1,496 yards and 12
touchdowns in his five wins.

"But Kurt Warner is an NFL MVP and I've known all along. I'm
excited for Kurt to finally get back out there.''

It wasn't easy for Bulger and the Rams on Monday night as they
pulled within two games of San Francisco in the NFC West with six
games left, including a season finale against the 49ers.

The battered Bears (2-8) trailed by a point going into the
fourth quarter and cut it to 21-16 on Paul Edinger's 50-yard field
goal with 3:42 left. But Bulger completed a clutch 10-yard pass on
third-and-9 to Torry Holt with 2:30 remaining that forced the Bears
to use their last timeouts.

"We just feel like we're finally out of a hole and we can make
progress to our goal of getting to the playoffs,'' coach Mike Martz
said. "I'm very proud of the way our team worked to get here. I'm
not happy yet with where we are.''

Isaac Bruce had six receptions for 141 yards and the Rams
constantly pressured the quarterback. Chris Chandler was playing
with a sore neck in place of Jim Miller, who had a sore elbow.

Warner made his first appearance in seven weeks in the second
quarter, when Bulger was taken to the locker room for X-rays on an
injured index finger on his throwing hand.

Warner was sacked by Keith Traylor and was 1-for-2 for 13 yards.
Bulger, now 5-0 as a starter, returned after X-rays were negative.

"I really didn't expect him back,'' Martz said. "But he just
came up to me and said he was ready to go in. I really didn't want
to play Kurt at all tonight.''

With Marshall Faulk out with ankle and foot injuries, the Rams
had almost no running game. Lamar Gordon, Faulk's replacement,
caught a 22-yard touchdown pass late in the first half, but St.
Louis was limited to just 62 yards on the ground by Brian Urlacher
and the Chicago defense.

Still, they managed to inflict the eighth straight loss on the
injury ravaged Bears, who were 13-3 a year ago.

"We weren't able to move the ball, which is a credit to the way
they played defensively,'' Chicago coach Dick Jauron said. "Our
defense had some missed tackles that allowed them to execute some
really long plays.''

The Rams scored on the first and last drives of the first half
to take a 14-6 halftime lead.

The first drive was 65 yards on 10 plays and was capped on a
1-yard run on an inside reverse to tight end Ernie Conwell. It
featured consecutive completions of 21 and 22 yards to Bruce from
Bulger, who completed 21 of 35 passes.

The second covered 81 yards in four plays and just 46 seconds
and the score came on the pass to Gordon.

In between the Bears got field goals of 37 and 48 yards from
Edinger. They also stopped what looked like a scoring drive on the
Rams' second possession when Rosevelt Colvin sacked Bulger, forcing
a fumble that Alex Brown recovered at his own 15.

But the Bears came out with a 64 yard, 11-play drive to start
the second half to cut it to 14-13 on Anthony Thomas' 13-yard
touchdown run.

The Rams opened it back up by going 82 yards in 10 plays capped
by Bulger's TD pass to Proehl with 9:01 left in the game.

The Bears had a final chance when they got the ball at their own
25 with 1:07 left and no timeouts. But Chandler was sacked by
Damione Lewis and Chandler's desperation fourth-down pass was
tipped away by Tommy Polley.

"We just have to make plays,'' Chicago wide receiver Marcus
Robinson said. "Bottom line, we didn't do that tonight and that's
why we lost.''

Game notes
Bulger finished his starting tour with a league-leading
passer rating of 106.0, and his 1,496 yards are an NFL record for a
quarterback's first five starts. ... Chicago left tackle Marc
Colombo, the team's first-round draft pick, dislocated his left
kneecap with 17 seconds left in the first half. ... Bruce now has
592 receptions as a Ram, one behind the team record held by Henry
Ellard, the team's wide receivers coach. ... The Rams are only the
second team in NFL history to win five straight games after losing
five straight to start the year. Washington did it last season.