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Fate rests with Bulger, ready or not

Rams are confident they can win behind their QB, in his first postseason as starter.

By Associated Press
Published January 7, 2004

ST. LOUIS - Marc Bulger isn't wasting time worrying about his first playoff start for the Rams.

"It's definitely a new experience and I know the level of play is going to go up," Bulger said Tuesday. "But it's still football."

And Bulger, despite his lack of playoff experience, is 18-4 as the starter the past season and a half.

So though he's about to enter new territory, Mike Martz's choice to lead the Rams into the playoffs Saturday against the Panthers already has established quite a bottom-line track record.

Bulger has a two-time NFL MVP looking over his shoulder, Kurt Warner. And Bulger plays for a team accustomed to success following Super Bowl appearances after the 1999 and 2001 seasons.

So he's ready for whatever extra pressure the playoffs bring.

"It's every week, whether it's the playoffs or not, at quarterback," Bulger said. "If we win this next week, then next week I've never been in an NFC Championship Game. It'll never end."

Bulger had his ups and downs in his first full season as starter, throwing 22 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. In a four-game stretch that threatened to revive a quarterback controversy, he had four TDs and 10 interceptions.

Martz never wavered in his support. Warner, who fumbled six times and sustained a concussion in the season-opening loss to the Giants, didn't get in a game again until filling a mopup role in the regular-season finale at Detroit.

Now it's clear the Rams will go as far as the former sixth-round pick can take them.

"We're going to find out, come Saturday," running back Marshall Faulk said.

Bulger won over his teammates when he went 6-1 last season after Warner was sidelined with injuries. This season, he has built on that comfort level.

"For a young guy with not much game experience, he handles the things he doesn't do well great," Faulk said. "Whenever he makes mistakes, if you look at the expression on his face you can tell that it bothers him for that play right then and there, and then it's gone."

Martz has no worries about Bulger's first playoff appearance, saying every player should approach the game as if it were his postseason debut.

"You have to approach it just like it's your first time and have the same pizzazz and enthusiasm," Martz said. "He'll be fine. He's been in big games before and I think he understands how to deal with that."

Bulger believes his best will be good enough for the postseason. He mostly rested his arm during the bye week, and he's not the type to stay up until midnight poring over the playbook and reviewing game tape.

He also knows he's not in this alone. The offense has six starters left from the 2001 team that went 14-2 in the regular season before getting upset by the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Bulger was the third-string quarterback that season.

"We have a lot of guys on this team who have been there," Bulger said. "That experience of just going all the way to the Super Bowl and watching how guys prepare, I think will help me."

[Last modified January 7, 2004, 01:33:45]


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