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Bulger leads Rams back from brink

He has one more start tonight before likely returning to the bench.

©Associated Press

November 18, 2002

He has one more start tonight before likely returning to the bench.

ST. LOUIS -- There is more to the Rams' turnaround than the startling rise of Marc Bulger from third-string quarterback. Quietly, the defense has salvaged what once seemed a lost season.

Bulger has been extraordinary while filling in for injured Kurt Warner, holding the NFL's best passer rating. Bulger has 10 touchdown passes and three interceptions and will go for his fifth straight win.

Still, he might be headed to the bench soon, with Warner expected to reclaim the starting job.

Warner is recovering from a broken pinkie and will be the backup tonight, though team doctors prefer he not play to avoid risking injury.

Another concern is the health of Marshall Faulk. The star running back left last week's game against San Diego with ankle and foot injuries and missed three practices.

"He's made remarkable progress each day so I wouldn't rule him out," coach Mike Martz said. "But I'm very pessimistic about it."

The Bears must try to find a way to stop the Rams' top-rated offense. Chicago's defense struggled in the second half last week against the Patriots, giving up 230 yards and allowing New England to score on its final five possessions.

Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said he hopes Faulk plays so he can face him for the first time.

"He's so fast and there is always a hole there for him," Urlacher said. "I am looking forward to playing against him."

The Rams rallied without Faulk against the Chargers. Bulger had 453 yards passing, fourth most in franchise history, and a team-record 36 completions in 48 attempts.

"Even games they lose, they're going to hit some plays," Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. "And you can't get discombobulated when they hit a play, because they're going to hit some plays. We just have to be able to handle the storm and ride the tide, and when we get our opportunity, drop the handle on them."

Chris Chandler, who left in the second quarter last week with a neck injury, will start at quarterback for the Bears. Jim Miller has tendinitis in his shoulder and elbow. The Bears hope center Olin Kruetz, who had an appendectomy last week, can play.

Bears (2-7) at Rams (4-5)

OF NOTE: This is a total mismatch. The Rams have regained their groove and are playing as well as any team in the league. They have won four straight, including victories over the Raiders and Chargers. Meanwhile, the Bears couldn't be playing any worse. They've lost seven in a row, though last week they almost won (33-30 to New England). There won't be any doubt about this one. Even with Marshall Faulk banged up, the Rams will win easily, especially against struggling QB Chris Chandler.

FRY'S PROMISE: Rams 28, Bears 13. -- DARRELL FRY

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