ST. LOUIS — Marc Bulger had every reason to be jittery.
The St. Louis Rams quarterback was making his first NFL start because of injuries to two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner and backup Jamie Martin. What’s more, he was facing the NFL’s lone unbeaten team in the Oakland Raiders.
Well, the Raiders are unbeaten no longer. They lost 28-13 to St. Louis, which won for the first time this season after five straight defeats.
Bulger threw for 186 yards and three touchdowns, ran for another score and made no turnovers. His play complemented that of Marshall Faulk, who rushed for a season-high 158 yards against the defending NFC champions.
“I want to keep things in perspective — we are still 1-5,” Bulger said.
Bulger, a sixth-round draft choice out of West Virginia in 2000, completed 14 of 21 passes in his NFL debut.
“I may not be the strongest arm in the world, but I have enough juice to get it there,” Bulger said.
His first passes on the Rams’ opening series went 17 yards to Isaac Bruce and 50 to Torry Holt before his 7-yard TD toss to Bruce for a lead St. Louis never relinquished.
“The guy is an amazing player,” said Warner, who is out with a broken finger. “I said it Day One, the guy has as much physical ability as anyone I’ve ever seen at the position.
It was a great statement for him today, a big confidence boost for him and the team.
“You can’t say enough about a guy who comes in in such a big game and plays with such poise.”
The Raiders (4-1) entered averaging 40.5 points and 461.5 yards, tops in the league.
“We felt coming in here that we had to answer their surge of energy,” Raiders coach Bill Callahan said. “We felt that they were a team that was desperate, that was on the ropes.”
What Oakland got was a Rams team that played as many thought it would before staggering out of the gate.
The Raiders pounced quickly, with Jerry Rice on his 40th birthday catching a 53-yard pass from Rich Gannon on the first play. That drive died at the St. Louis 3, when linebacker Tommy Polley stuffed Zack Crockett on fourth-and-1.
“We wanted to jump on them very quickly to put doubt back in their game,” Callahan said, refusing to second-guess himself on that failed play.
“It just didn’t work out that way.”
Bulger immediately went to work, orchestrating a nine-play, 97-yard drive capped by his TD toss to Bruce.
Rice finished with 133 yards on seven catches.
Gannon threw for 332 yards on 30-of-45 efficiency, falling short of becoming the first NFL player to have at least 350 in four straight games. He connected with Terry Kirby for a 2-yard TD to get the Raiders to 28-13 with 8:05 left.
Callahan said he wasn’t all that surprised by Bulger given that he got the bulk of playing time during preseason and understands the system.
“We thought that with Bulger, they were going to have to lean on Marshall,” Callahan said. “I thought single-handedly, (Faulk) gave them hope and kept them alive.”
Two special-teams mistakes by Oakland led to Bulger’s second TD pass.