for this game

Rams win slugfest to spoil return of Martz

Oct 2, 2006 - 12:06 AM ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- Mike Martz's homecoming was much like his departure. Points aplenty, defenses nowhere to be found and a loss.

Marc Bulger hit Isaac Bruce with a five-yard touchdown pass with 1:56 left to play and the St. Louis Rams survived a frenetic finish to post a wild 41-34 victory over the Detroit Lions.

Martz, who was fired as coach of the Rams in January and named offensive coordinator of the Lions in February, watched Detroit drop to 0-4 despite his offense putting up just three fewer points it had scored in the previous three games combined.

"We haven't learned how to win a close game yet," Lions coach Rod Marinelli said. "We haven't learned that. We've lost three of them now."

The Rams (3-1), meanwhile, had managed just 44 points in their opening three games, but needed a performance worthy of "The Greatest Show on Turf" days to spoil the return of their former coach.

"Every week is a new week in this league," Rams rookie coach Scott Linehan said. "One game you're kicking six field goals and with another game you are scoring points. The bottom line is you have to feel good when you can win in this league."

Marc Bulger completed 26-of-42 passes for a season-high 328 yards and three touchdowns for St. Louis.

"We knew it was going to be one of those marathon games that's going to take forever," Bulger said. "We hoped they didn't score points but we knew we were going to have to score 25 to 30 points."

The Rams had the Lions (0-4) on the ropes early, racing to a 13-3 first-quarter lead on a pair field goals by Wilkins and a 16-yard TD pass from Bulger to rookie tight end Joe Klopfenstein.

But the Lions stormed back and went ahead, 17-13, as quarterback Jon Kitna connected on touchdown passes of one and 10 yards to Mike Furrey, a former Ram who had eight catches for 82 yards.

"I just wanted to come back and have fun," Furrey said. "It was fun playing against those guys but the only thing that matters in the end is who's in the win column and who's in the loss column."

Wilkins pulled the Rams within a point at halftime, 17-16, with his third field goal, a 46-yarder with four seconds left in the half.

The torrid scoring pace continued in the second half as Bulger his Torry Holt with a 16-yard touchdown pass for a 23-17 advantage. Holt had six catches for 102 yards, his 41st career 100-yard day.

"I think Mark was finding his rhythm and finding the open man," Holt said. "It's like pick your poison. If you want to double me, then (Bruce's) going to get it. You double him and I'll have an opportunity to get open."

The Lions responded with Jason Hanson's 20-yard field goal and the first of Kevin Jones' two touchdowns, a 35-yard burst that regained the lead, 27-23.

Rams running back Steven Jackson, who rushed 22 times for 81 yards, capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive on the ensuing possession with a one-yard plunge to make it 30-27 heading into the fourth quarter.

Jones gave the Lions their final lead, 34-30, with a seven-yard run with 11:11 left to play. But Detroit couldn't hold it as Wilkins booted a 47-yard field goal with 4:55 to go before Bulger and Bruce connected on the go-ahead touchdown and subsequent two-point conversion.

"I felt like he came out and put on a show today," Bruce of Bulger. "The more consistent he is, the more consistent we will be.

Kitna, who was 29-of-43 for 280 yards, was frustrated at his team's inability to hold the lead.

"Three of the four games we've played, we've had a chance to put people away," Kitna said. "Michael Jordan said, 'Anyone can make shots in the first three quarters, but the fourth quarter is when the money players step up.' We haven't done that yet."

It appeared as if Kitna might pull the game out in the waning seconds when a pass-interference call was whistled on rookie cornerback Tye Hill on a pass intended for former Ram Az-Zahir Hakim. But linebacker Will Witherspoon had deflected the pass before Hill leveled Hakim and officials overruled the call on replay.

"Luckily I did tip it," Witherspoon said. "It was clear and concise. I don't know how they couldn't see the ball change directions."

"I knew it was tipped," Hill said. "I was just hoping they didn't call it (pass interference). I didn't want the game to end like that."

With Martz declining to speak to reporters after the game, Jones said he knew how much the game meant to the coach.

"We came out and tried to play hard for him (Martz)," Jones said. "I know that he wanted this one. He didn't say it to us, but I wanted it for him. He's our coach now. As an offense, we wanted to win it for him but didn't get it done."

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