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Bulger throws last-minute TD to end Rams' struggles

Nov 26, 2006 - 9:48 PM ST. LOUIS (Ticker) -- Marc Bulger showed that the St. Louis Rams can be a dangerous team when everything falls into place.

Bulger capped a near-perfect drive with a five-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Curtis with 29 seconds remaining as the Rams snapped a five-game losing streak with a 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Improving upon a dismal effort on both sides of the ball in a 15-0 loss to Carolina last week, St. Louis (5-6) went 80 yards in the final four minutes to capture its first win in the last four meetings with its NFC West rival.

Holding the 49ers on a 3rd-and-1 at their own 7 to trail only 17-13 after a 24-yard field goal by Joe Nedney, the Rams built off that defensive stand behind Bulger, who completed all nine pass attempts on the decisive drive.

"It's big," St. Louis coach Scott Linehan said about the defensive stop. "Defensively, things didn't look good on that last drive but we got the stop when we needed to.

"Offensively, we had to go down and answer with the touchdown. We played our best football from that third-down stop on. It was big and a huge boost for our defense knowing they were able to stop the run when they needed to."

Bulger was able to be perfect when it mattered most thanks to the offensive line, which was without perennial Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace.

"The line was doing their thing, so I was able to get with the receivers and running backs and say 'let's go,'" Bulger said. "We knew it was our last opportunity so, like I said, we have been there before. We sometimes score too quick, but we knew we could go down and finish it off."

Steven Jackson, who finished with 121 yards on 23 carries, also converted a pair of 4th-and-1 situations on the drive.

"We felt like on short yardage we would spread them out and allow for the running game to open up," Jackson said. "We felt like they were going to match up well with our receivers which allowed natural holes for us to run through. They gave us exactly what we wanted."

Bulger capped the drive when he found Curtis at the front right of the end zone.

"It was an out on the sideline," Curtis said. "I was just trying to get inside of the cornerback and Marc (Bulger) kept it low and away in a place where the (cornerback) couldn't make a play."

The play was reviewed to determine if Curtis had possession when he crossed the end zone line, with officials upholding the call after a short delay.

"When they challenged it, I got a little bit worried," Curtis said. "I knew I had it and then I was getting ready to celebrate. I was going to spike it when it got knocked out of my hands. I hoped it didn't get overturned."

The 49ers had a final chance to answer, but Alex Smith was intercepted for the second time in the contest by safety O.J. Atogwe near midfield with 12 seconds remaining.

"Time is running out and I'm trying to get to field-goal range," Smith said. "We only have a couple of plays left and one timeout. I'm just trying to make something happen. I kind of lost vision and in those times you try to make a play and try to force something."

Bulger, who managed just 142 yards in the loss at Carolina, completed 23-of-34 attempts for 201 yards.

Jackson had nine catches for 71 yards and Isaac Bruce added six for 63 for St. Louis, which had 349 total yards compared to 319 for San Francisco.

Leading 3-0 late in the second quarter, the Rams received favorable field position when they recovered a fumbled punt by Arnaz Battle at 49ers 36. Jackson made San Francisco pay for the turnover right away, going virtually untouched on a touchdown run on the next play.

Frank Gore, the NFC's rushing leader coming in, answered back with a 12-yard touchdown run on the 49ers' next drive.

San Francisco (5-6) took the lead at 14-13 in the third quarter when Smith connected with tight end Eric Johnson on a one-yard scoring pass with 2:25 remaining. Smith finished 13-of-25 for 148 yards.

Gore had 134 yards on 21 carries for the 49ers, who had a three-game winning streak stopped.

"We feel that we're about winning and obviously we didn't win the game so we're disappointed," San Francisco coach Mike Nolan said. "We felt that the three-game winning streak that we had going into the ballgame had given us a lot of confidence.

"It certainly raised our level of expectation for ourselves. I know we're on the road and in somebody else's place, but we feel that we had every right to win that game."

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