St. Louis 28, Oakland 13

Oct. 14, 2002 at 12:19 AM
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ST. LOUIS, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Marc Bulger, in his first NFL start, threw for three touchdowns Sunday and ran for another score to lead the previously winless St. Louis Rams to a 28-13 upset of the Oakland Raiders, who had been the NFL's last remaining unbeaten team.

The outcome spoiled the 40th birthday of Oakland superstar receiver Jerry Rice, who had a typically sensational day only to find it was not enough.

Billed as a Super Bowl preview before the season, the game lost much of its luster due to the absence of reigning Most Valuable Player Kurt Warner and the fact the Rams had lost their first five games of the season.

No 0-5 team has ever made the playoffs, much less the Super Bowl.

Bulger, who was called on to start when backup Jamie Martin was held out with a bruised right knee, could not have dreamed of a better performance. With little expected of him, Bulger completed 11 of 15 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.

"There was really no pressure on me," said Bulger, a sixth-round pick of New Orleans in 2000 who signed with the Rams in January of 2001. "I could just go out there and play today and wing it."

"That's the way we expected him to play, to be honest with you," Rams coach Mike Martz said. "That's the way he practiced. I'd be very disappointed if he didn't play at such a level because that's the way he's practiced. That's why we went with him."

Bulger hit Isaac Bruce with a seven-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and connected with Torry Holt on a 13-yard scoring play in the second quarter, giving the Rams a 14-0 lead.

After the Raiders pulled within 14-6 on a pair of field goals by Sebastian Janikowski, Bulger threw a 10-yard touchdown to running back Marshall Faulk 1:20 into the fourth quarter.

"I may not have the strongest arm in the world but I have enough juice to get it there," said Bulger, the all-time leading passer at West Virginia with 8,153 passing yards. "Coach Martz put me in a position that my guys are going to be open and if you miss by a little, we were still going to get the completion.

"Our game plan was good and I was able to execute today."

"You can't say enough about a guy who comes in in such a big game and plays with poise," Warner said of Bulger. "He played the way he had to play to win this football game."

Faulk rushed for a season-high 158 yards on 26 carries, including a 32-yard run to the Oakland one. On the next play, Bulger sealed the win with a one-yard plunge into the end zone, opening a 28-6 lead with 11:15 left.

"The offensive line did a good job and you have to commend those guys out there and finding time for Marc to throw the ball and having the success he did," Faulk said. "I say this all the time. I'm only as good as the guys in front of me. Those guys did a great job in front of me today."

The Raiders (4-1) entered with the NFL's most explosive offense, averaging 40.5 points in their first four games, but reached the end zone just once on a two-yard pass from Rich Gannon to running back Terry Kirby with 8:05 remaining.

"I think it was obviously apparent today that we didn't play our best football," Raiders rookie coach Bill Callahan said. "We didn't play up to our potentional. You've got to credit the Rams, they came out strong."

Rice, the NFL career leader in receptions, touchdowns and receiving yards, caught a 53-yard pass on Oakland's first play from scrimmage and finished with seven catches for 133 yards.

"Not taking anything away from the Rams, but we really didn't execute the way we wanted to today," Rice said. "We were down in the red zone and once you're down in the red zone, you've got to put points on the board. The Rams came out and fought hard and they deserved the win."

"It is amazing for a guy who has done it as long as he has," Rams cornerback Dre' Bly said of Rice, who has 1,395 career receptions, 20,859 yards and 198 touchdowns. "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 he's done since he's 23 is just unbelievable."

Gannon completed 30 of 45 passes for 332 yards, but was intercepted twice and sacked four times.

"It wasn't like we couldn't move the ball. We just shot ourselves in the foot," Gannon said. "Penalties hurt us, just too many mistakes against a good team. You can't turn the ball over and make mistakes and we did.

The Raiders were penalized 14 times for 107 yards. Damione Lewis had two of St. Louis's four sacks.

"In the papers all week, we heard they were going to score 50 points," said Rams defensive end Leonard Little, who also had a sack. "We knew if we came out and played our defense, they were not going to score 50 points. They got two field goals and a touchdown on us."

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