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Rams win fourth straight in remarkable fashion

11/11/2002

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Rams' wild season just got a
little bit crazier.

The defending NFC champions kept their midseason comeback on
track in off-the-wall fashion, overcoming four lost fumbles -- two
of them returned for touchdowns -- in a 28-24 victory over the San
Diego Chargers on Sunday.

"Those games are always a lot of fun when they're over with,''
coach Mike Martz said. "They're not much fun at the time.''

The Rams (4-5) were led by Marc Bulger's team-record 36
completions and 453 yards passing -- the fourth-most in franchise
history -- and Isaac Bruce, who lost two of the fumbles but caught
three touchdown passes, including the 7-yard game-winner with 1:14
to play.

Question on the Chargers: Are they in the early stages of another meltdown?
The huge home loss last week to the Jets was tough. Coming off that loss, I thought they faced a difficult task in this game against the Rams on the road. They've had a good run this season, but it only gets tougher from here. Still, I see them going at least .500 the rest of the way.

Question on the Rams: What is Martz going to do at quarterback once Kurt Warner returns?
Everyone is anticipating that Martz will make Warner the starter again. If Marshall Faulk's ankle injury isn't serious, Martz would be wise to give the ball to Faulk and not allow the problems that resulted from throwing too much earlier this season. But knowing Martz, he'll probably reinstall Warner and throw often. The Rams are clearly a dangerous team. They're digging themselves out of a deep hole, and they might even dig hard enough for a playoff berth.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Bruce, who had 10 receptions for 163 yards, also caught TD
passes of 27 and 34 yards, the latter an acrobatic grab that cut
the Chargers' lead to 24-21 with 3:06 to go.

"We know where we have to go to make a play,'' Bulger said. "I
have no hesitation going back to him.''

Having burned all three timeouts in the third quarter, the Rams
were forced to try an onside kick, and Dre' Bly recovered at the
St. Louis 46 to set up the winning score.

The Rams staged their frenzied comeback without Marshall Faulk,
who left with a sprained right ankle during the fourth quarter. He
was held to 72 total yards and had a costly fumble at the Chargers
3 at the end of the first half.

Faulk, who missed time earlier in the game with a tendon problem
in his right foot, is expected to play next Monday against the
Bears.

"Marshall should be all right,'' Martz said. "He assured me
he'll be all right, and when Marshall says that, he'll be OK.''

The Chargers (6-3) had more than a minute to work with after
Bruce's go-ahead TD, and Ronney Jenkins returned the kickoff 52
yards to the St. Louis 46. The Chargers advanced to the 30, but the
threat ended when Drew Brees' pass was intercepted by Dexter
McCleon in the end zone with 11 seconds left.

"You hear the expression '60 minutes,' and how true it was
today,'' Brees said. "Obviously, it's just kind of a lesson.''

Bulger was outstanding in what could be his final game in relief
of the injured Kurt Warner. Bulger was 36-of-48 with four
touchdowns, but Warner could soon return from a broken pinkie on
his throwing hand.

Warner didn't dress for the game but threw several 40-plus yard
passes during warmups. He began throwing on Thursday, three days
after four pins were removed from the finger, which was broken in a
game Sept. 29.

"Going back to the bench isn't fun,'' Bulger said. "If this is
it, this is it. Our whole team is unselfish.''

Bulger played well in Warner's absence, but it was Faulk who
carried the team back to respectability following its 0-5 start.
Faulk ran for at least 150 yards in each of his three previous
games, but Sunday he had 36 yards rushing on 13 carries and caught
six passes for another 36 yards.

Ryan McNeil recovered two of the Rams' fumbles and scored on a
5-yard return to tie it at 7 in the first quarter after Troy
Edwards caught a short sideline pass. The Rams appeared on the
verge of taking the lead when Bruce fumbled a catch in the third
quarter, and Donnie Edwards returned it 82 yards to put the
Chargers ahead 24-14.

The Chargers' lone offensive touchdown came on a 1-yard run by
LaDainian Tomlinson in the second quarter. Tomlinson had 120 yards
on 24 carries.

"Obviously, losing a game like this to me is a matter of heart
and attitude,'' Tomlinson said. "I don't know exactly happened to
us at the end, but we folded.''

The Rams drove 85 yards on their opening possession, capped by
Bulger's 17-yard pass to Ernie Conwell. The Chargers tied it when
Alex Molden stripped Edwards after a sideline catch and McNeil
returned the fumble 5 yards for a touchdown with 7:36 left in the
first.

San Diego added a 41-yard field goal by Steve Christie, and
Tomlinson scored on 1-yard run for a 17-7 lead. The Rams missed a
chance to narrow the gap when Faulk fumbled the ball away at the
Chargers 3, with McNeil again recovering, with 15 seconds to go in
the half.

Game notes
Bruce has 59 touchdowns for second place on the Rams'
career list. He had been tied with Eric Dickerson. ... Rams S Kim
Herring, who had one interception last year, has a pick in each of
his last three games. ... Chargers backup LB Carlos Polk was carted
off with a sprained ankle in the third quarter. ... The Rams had
lost 21 straight games when trailing entering the fourth quarter,
dating to a 34-33 victory over the Bills on Sept. 20, 1998. ... The
Rams set a franchise record with 22 first downs by passing.