October 14, 2002
ST. LOUIS -- One quick possession was all Marc Bulger needed to calm his frayed nerves and give the Rams a lead they never relinquished.
The third-string quarterback, a sixth-round draft choice two years ago, threw three touchdowns and ran for another Sunday in his first game as the previously winless Rams won 28-13 over Oakland, which had been the league's last unbeaten team.
"If you know you can play, you don't have to worry about it," Bulger said. "You'll get your chance."
Marshall Faulk, 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 NFC champions a 28-6 lead. The touchdown triggered cheers from a crowd that hadn't seen its team win at home since Jan. 6.
Kurt Warner, the league MVP in 1999 and 2001 who is out with a broken finger, 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 game."
Bulger was 14 of 21 for 186 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Raiders, who entered leading the league at 40.5 points and 461.5 yards a game, had two field goals and 229 yards through 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," Rams cornerback Dre' Bly said. "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 first play, but that was followed on the same drive by a momentum-turning defensive stop. On fourth and 1 from the St. Louis 3, Zack Crockett was stopped for no gain by linebacker Tommy Polley, who had missed two games with an injury.
Bulger then guided the Rams 97 yards in nine plays. He hit Isaac Bruce for 17 yards with his first pass in the league, then connected with Torry Holt for 50 yards on his second. On his third pass Bulger threw a 7-yard touchdown to Bruce in the corner of the end zone.
Bulger, a star at West Virginia 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 player to have at least 350 in four straight games. He connected with Terry Kirby for a 2-yard score 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.