Rams blow big lead, rally for victory
Monday, December 16, 2002
ST. LOUIS -- Marc Bulger stayed unbeaten, even if he didn't exactly stake his claim to the St. Louis Rams' quarterback job.
The former third-stringer returned from a sprained index finger that sidelined him for three games and threw two touchdown passes in a 30-28 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night.
Thanks to Jeff Wilkins' game-winning 26-yard field goal with 20 seconds to go, Bulger is 6-0 as the starter for the Rams, who are 0-6 with MVP quarterback Kurt Warner.
But Bulger also threw two interceptions and struggled in the second half as the Rams (6-8) barely snapped a three-game losing streak that knocked the defending NFC champions out of playoff contention. They need to win their last two games just to finish the season with a .500 record.
Marcel Shipp scored three touchdowns and Jake Plummer's 1-yard touchdown pass to Steve Bush gave the Cardinals, down by 17 points at halftime, a 28-27 lead with 7:56 to go.
Plummer came close to his 22nd come-from-behind victory in six seasons, including all five victories this year for the Cardinals (5-9).
Plummer produced two first downs, one with a sneak and another with a 7-yard draw, before giving the Rams back the ball with 1:51 to go and no timeouts remaining. Bulger made good on the Rams' final chance, moving the team 72 yards in five plays over 1:31, the big play a 58-yarder to Torry Holt on the first snap.
Wilkins finally comes through
Wilkins, criticized last week by coach Mike Martz for scuffing the ground on field goal attempts, hit his third without a miss despite a high snap to holder Ricky Proehl. Travis Fisher sealed the victory when he intercepted Plummer's throw with 3 seconds to go.
The Cardinals have lost seven of eight.
Bulger was 24-for-40 for 319 yards. Holt, his best target, caught seven passes for 141 yards.
Plummer was 17-for-27 for 258 yards for the Cardinals with two touchdowns and an interception.
Shipp scored on consecutive drives as the Cardinals narrowed the gap to 24-21 in the third quarter. He eluded a few tacklers at the start of an 80-yard screen pass, then scored on a 1-yard run with 5:08 to go.
Bush was wide open for the go-ahead score, with Plummer rolling out after a play-action fake.
Bly gets Rams going
Replacement punt returner Dre' Bly got the Rams started with a 78-yard punt return in the second quarter. It was the first scoring return by the team all season, compared with 12 touchdowns for opponents.
Bly replaced Terrence Wilkins, a game-day inactive who has confounded the team with his inability to grasp the offense.
Bulger got his two touchdown passes at the end of the half for a 24-7 lead, the most points scored in the first half all season by the Rams. He hit Troy Edwards on a 4-yard score with 1:03 left, then Leonard Little stripped Plummer and recovered the fumble at the Arizona 32 with 39 seconds left. That set up Bulger's 3-yard toss to Holt with :03 remaining before the break.
The Rams will be back in action next Sunday as they visit the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle improved its record to 5-9 by upsetting the Atlanta Falcons in overtime Sunday.