Martz stands by his man

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- There's no need for Marc Bulger to look over his shoulder.

St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz said Monday that Bulger is his quarterback, even though he committed five turnovers in Sunday's 30 to 27 overtime victory against the Cardinals. And even though Bulger has thrown 10 interceptions and only four touchdown passes the last four weeks.

The previous two weeks, Martz considered going to his backup, two-time MVP Kurt Warner. Warner warmed up last week.

Not on Sunday.

"Marc Bulger is our quarterback," Martz said. "Yeah, but, yeah, but, yeah, but -- Marc Bulger is our quarterback."

Bulger's frequent misfires have transformed what used to be the greatest show on turf into a weekly high-wire act. The Rams (8-3) lead the NFL in both takeaways (33) and giveaways (32).

"We're leading the league in something, I guess," Martz said.

Despite the problems, the Rams have a 3-1 record during the last month. The defense came to the rescue two weeks ago, forcing seven turnovers in a victory over the Ravens. Last week, Martz jump-started a stagnant offense by successfully going for it on fourth down twice, and also ordering up an onside kick that was recovered by the Rams in a two-point victory over the Bears.

But Martz doesn't feel fortunate that the Rams have a one-game lead over the Seahawks in the NFC West with five games to play. He pointed out the Bears' upset at Denver on Sunday as proof anything can happen on game day.

"Fortunate is not a good term to me," Martz said. "Maybe to some of you out there they were supposed to be a cakewalk and all that stuff, but go ask the Broncos how good the Bears are today. Ask them."

Bulger won over his coach when he rallied from a shaky performance last week at Chicago, directing the winning drive. Martz stuck with Bulger again after four interceptions and a fumble on a sack.

The fumble came with 7:41 to go and led to the Cardinals' go-ahead field goal. Bulger was intercepted on the Rams' next series for turnover No. 5.

The bottom line with Bulger sticks with Martz: He's 14-3 as the starter. Martz reiterated that once he's made his choice it's very tough for him to change quarterbacks.

"If I vacillate with that quarterback, which I did recently, it's the wrong thing to do," Martz said. "What happens is, the trust I have in that quarterback, the rest of the players are looking at this, too.

"We like to think that what we have going here is built on trust, and I trust that he's going to fight his way out of it, and I just don't bail and throw the other guy in there."

Martz also pointed out that except for the turnovers, Bulger had a very good game.

"The first quarter he was just lights out," Martz said. "You can't find a guy in the last few drives that is going to play better than what he did, I don't think. I guess that's probably what I hang on to."

Bulger was 28-for-44 for 329 yards Sunday. On the year he has more interceptions (17) than touchdown passes (15), and he has lost four fumbles.

Only Joey Harrington of the Lions (19) has more interceptions.

And yet, Warner, the player the Rams paid a $6 million roster bonus in February, becomes less of an option on a weekly basis. Warner fumbled six times while suffering from a concussion in his lone start, a 10-point loss to the Giants in the opener.

Bulger got the job the next week because Martz was worried about the aftereffects of the concussion. Since then, Warner has become a forgotten hero.

"What's happened to who?" Martz said. "Nothing. He's still here; he's fine."

Martz absolved Bulger of blame on one of the interceptions, a long ball into the end zone in the second quarter. On a fourth-quarter pickoff by Corey Rinehart, Martz said holding or pass interference should have been called.

"He had him wrapped up and wouldn't let him come out of the cut," Martz said. "It happened in Chicago, too. It's hard to blame him for that."

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