The third-string quarterback, who came into the league two years ago as an obscure sixth-round draft choice, threw three touchdown passes and ran for another in his first NFL action Sunday as the Rams won their first game 28-13 over previously unbeaten Oakland.
|Marc Bulger is a savior for the Rams in his first NFL start. (AP)|
Marshall Faulk, who was slowed by back spasms against the 49ers last week, showed his familiar form by running for a season-high 158 yards. His darting 32-yard run, which followed Damione Lewis ' interception of Rich Gannon's pass, put the ball at the Oakland 1 with 11:20 left.
Bulger, who started in place of injured second-stringer Jamie Martin, scored on the next play to give the defending NFC champions (1-5) a 28-6 lead. The touchdown triggered thunderous cheers from a crowd that hadn't seen its team win a home game since last Jan. 6.
Kurt Warner, the NFL MVP in 1999 and 2001, is out with a broken finger, but he was the first person to hug Bulger as he trotted off the field.
"You can't say enough about a guy who comes in in such a big game and plays with such poise," Warner said. "He played the way he had to play to win this football game."
Bulger finished 14-of-21 for 186 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions.
The Raiders (4-1), who entered the game leading the NFL at 40.5 points and 461.5 yards a game, had only two field goals and 229 yards through the first three quarters.
The dismal performance didn't stop Jerry Rice, who caught seven passes for 133 yards on his 40th birthday.
"That is amazing for a guy who has done it as long as he has," said Rams cornerback Dre' Bly. "For him to be 40 years old and still be out there playing every snap and not coming out of the game and just doing what's done since he's 23 is just unbelievable."
Rice's caught a 53-yard pass on the game's first play, which actually led to a momentum-turning defensive stop by St. Louis.
On fourth-and-1 from the St. Louis 3, Zack Crockett was stopped for no gain by linebacker Tommy Polley, who had missed the two previous games with an injury.
Bulger then guided the Rams 97 yards in just nine plays. He hit Isaac Bruce for 17 yards with his first NFL pass, then connected with Torry Holt for 50 yards on his second. On his third pass Bulger found Bruce in the corner of the end zone for a 7-yard TD.
Bulger, a star at West Virginia who was originally drafted by the Saints, said the deep pass to Holt did wonders for his confidence.
"Torry's so fast, I think he outran my arm," he said. "Just being able to let all that energy out and complete it, I think guys could sense we can get on a roll here."
Gannon threw for 332 yards, falling short of becoming the first NFL player to have at least 350 in four straight games. He connected with Terry Kirby for a 2-yard TD to get the Raiders to 28-13 with 8:05 to go.
Oakland coach Bill Callahan denied that the Raiders overlooked the Rams, or Bulger.
"He did get significant playing time in the preseason, and he understands the system," Callahan said. "I think they were intelligent with their approach. We were very diligent about how we prepared for this team. My hat's off to them."
Two special-teams mistakes by Oakland led to Bulger's second TD pass. First, the Raiders were flagged for having an ineligible man downfield on a punt. On the second kick, they let Terrence Wilkins break free for a 56-yard return, setting up the Rams on the 13.
On the next play, Holt got free from Tory James and caught Bulger's pass in the end zone.
Less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, Faulk broke a 40-yard run. From the 10, Bulger tossed a dump-off pass to Faulk, who slid past two tacklers into the end zone for a 21-6 lead.
The Rams' offensive line, already thinned by the loss of tackle Orlando Pace, was further weakened when left tackle Grant Williams was carted away in the first half after breaking his lower right leg and dislocating his right ankle.
- Isaac Bruce's first-quarter touchdown catch was his 58th, tying him with Eric Dickerson on the franchise's career TD list.
- Faulk's 158 yards rushing gave him 9,861 for his career, surpassing Hall of Famer Joe Perry (9,723) for 15th on the NFL career list.
- Faulk needs one touchdown to tie for seventh on the all-time list and match John Riggins (116).
The Associated Press News Service
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