The Rams rank 31st in rushing defense and have allowed quarterback Marc Bulger to be sacked a ridiculous 41 times. But if there is one thing that they still do very well, it's throw the football. This may not be 'The Greatest Show on Turf' anymore, but Bulger & Company can play pitch-and-catch with the best of them.
When he isn't being peeled off the turf, Bulger has a sparkling passer rating of 90.2 and threw just one interception in the first eight games of the season. But as the losses start to mount and the defensive pressure continued to amplify, the former Mountaineer began to unravel. He's been picked off six times in his last four games, including three in an embarrassing Week 13 loss to Arizona at home.
Bulger is usually a pretty quiet guy, but he boiled over to the media after that game and started to question some of his own teammates.
"I'm not pointing fingers at certain people because I certainly didn't play perfect, and I haven't been playing perfect," Bulger said on Sunday in the St. Louis locker room. "But like I said, I care. What bugs me is that there are some guys who don't care."
Bulger didn't name names, but considering he's currently dealing with bruised ribs after being drilled so much lately, his offensive line is the likely target.
On the other hand, Bulger still has an enviable crop of skill position players. Steven Jackson has emerged form the shadows of Marshall Faulk and established himself as one of the best all-around tailbacks in the league. Torry Holt might be the best route-running receiver the Bears will face this season, and Isaac Bruce is still capable of great things despite being a little long in the tooth.
The Bears may have the No. 2 pass defense in the NFL, but the secondary is a walking M.A.S.H. unit right now. All-Pro safety Mike Brown was lost for the season in Week 6, and his backup, Todd Johnson was inactive last Sunday. Chris Harris played fairly well in Johnson's absence, but now cornerback Nathan Vasher is questionable after tweaking his hamstring against Minnesota.
Vasher was asked how he was feeling on Thursday in the locker room at Halas Hall.
"I'm getting better," Vasher said. "I'm more or less day-to-day right now, so we'll just see how it feels throughout the course of the week."
Although he obviously wants to get back out there and face the likes of Holt and Bruce, Vasher probably won't be the one making the final call.
"I'll be pushing to try to play," he said, "but you know that [head coach Lovie Smith] ultimately has the ultimate decision on that."
If there was ever a time for Vasher to justify missing a football game, it's this week. The Bears are 10-2, just clinched their second consecutive NFC North title, and still hold a two-game lead on the rest of the conference for home-field advantage. Getting everybody healthy for a playoff run should be much more important than rushing some injured players back on the field to face the 5-7 Rams.
Vasher, however, doesn't necessarily see it that way.
"It's still kind of tough because I'm such a competitor and want to get out there and help my team win to try to clinch what we want as far as in the playoff picture and just try to win ballgames," he said. "It will be tough, and I'll try to get back as fast as I can."
Fortunately for Vasher and the Bears, head trainer Tim Bream has seen his fair share of hamstring injuries and has had success treating them.
"I'm really feeling good about our training staff and how they've been able to get other players back from this type of injury and things like that," Vasher said. "I have complete trust in them that Lovie and our training staff will make the right decisions concerning me, but if you have to ask me, I want to get out there as soon as possible and go out there and compete."
If he does get the green light to go, Vasher will be extra pumped up to face one of the league's top passing offenses before a prime time audience.
"I was watching film today just as far as their wide receiving corps and things they like to do," Vasher said, obviously impressed with what he saw. "It's a premier game. It's a Monday night game. Everybody will get a chance to see it, and I want to get back for it."
Vasher missed team drills on Thursday but insisted he could still play even if he doesn't get any reps in practice this week.
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