Special Teams Lets One Slip Away

The Rams scored on their first drive of the game, getting four big plays on one drive to quickly go up by 7. The quick score conjured up images of last week when the Chargers lost 44-13 against the Jets. The Bolts would settle down, but still lost 28-24 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

The real story of the game was penalties, special teams, fumbles and redemption. The Chargers Ed Ellis was penalized four times for various infractions and the rest of the Chargers offensive line was penalized numerous times to thwart drives. The Chargers also allowed an onsides kick to be recovered by the Rams which turned out to be the key play of the game. The Rams fumbled the ball four times, Isaac Bruce having two of those fumbles. Bruce would storm back with three touchdown receptions from Marc Bulger who threw for 453 yards on 36 of 48 passing with 4 touchdowns.

Bulger went three for three on the first drive hitting a streaking Ernie Cromwell for a 17-yard touchdown. Bulger also hit Torry Holt and Bruce for consecutive 19 yard gains and wide receiver Troy Edwards gained 27 yards on a double reversed which he originally fumbled in the backfield and the ball jumped right back into his hands. The Bolts came back with a lackluster offensive drive with 3 penalties on third down consecutively. It started out with a simple third and one but ended as a third and sixteen. After beautiful punt coverage by the Chargers (definitely newsworthy), which netted a 7 yard loss, Alex Molden ripped the ball from Troy Edwards after a wide receiver screen reception and Chargers swarmed to the ball. Ryan McNeil ended up with it and rumbled to the end zone to tie the score at 7. After a quick three and out by the Rams, the Bolts drove the length of the field setting up a Steve Christie field goal. The drive was thwarted by yet another penalty on third down. This time a delay of game penalty made a third and about two, third and seven. Dre' Bly came up with a nice play in the end zone to deflect a ball intended for Curtis Conway.

On the next Chargers possession a helmet hit against Drew Brees was called on Grant Wistrom placing the ball in St territory. A nice throw from Brees to Dwight who held onto the ball despite being hit by Kim Herring as he caught it setup a 1 yard touchdown run by LaDainian Tomlinson putting the Bolts up 17-7. Curtis Conway caught his 500th reception on the drive setting up 1st and goal.

The Rams would derive the length of the field on some nice runs by Marshall Faulk and nice throws by Marc Bulger. The Chargers defense came up big after the Rams had first and goal at the 5. On third and goal from the 6, the Rams ran a middle screen to Faulk who looked like he might go in for a touchdown. Defensive end Marcellus Wiley was able to strip Faulk of the ball and after a bobble of it by Vernon Fox; McNeil would come up with his second fumble recovery of the day.

The Chargers then kneeled on the ball, happy to enter halftime with a 17-7 lead and knowing they would get the ball first in the third quarter.

The Rams took two timeouts on their first drive in the third quarter leaving them with just one timeout for the rest of the game. A key should they need the timeouts late in the fourth. Coming out of the second timeout Marc Bulger hit Holt for a 39 yard grab on a beautiful catch by Holt. Bulger pump faked on the play causing safety Rogers Beckett to hold his position and allowing Holt to get open. On the very next play the Rams went deep again, this time to the end zone where Bruce hauled in the catch despite Rodney Harrison being called for pass interference. That quickly the Rams got back into the game trailing by three, 17-14.

Drew Brees tried to force a throw into Stephen Alexander and paid for it after it was tipped by Alexander into the hands of Kim Herring who came down with the interception. The Rams had turned the tide of the game and seemed in control.

The Rams drove down on the arm of Bulger who connected with Brandon Manumaleuna for 27 yards and hit Holt for 11. Bulger then hit Bruce who promptly fumbled the ball after being hit by Ben Leber. The ball bounced right into the hands of Donnie Edwards who was sprung by a nice block by Quentin Jammer going 89 yards for a touchdown and bringing the Charger lead back to 10, 24-14.

Junior Seau caused a fumble on Bruce later in the game but it did not translate into Chargers points as they could not convert due to a pass from Brees to Dwight, where Dwight took his eyes off the ball with thoughts of a touchdown on his mind. Instead the ball went incomplete and ended the drive.

With less than five minutes to go the Rams got the ball back with no timeouts and covered 94 yards in 1:52 seconds to close the score to 24-21. The drive was capped by a beautiful grab by Bruce. Bruce was able to tip a Bulger pass that was close to going out of bounds to himself for a score.

The Rams Dre' Bly recovered the onside kick as Jeff Wilkins kicked the ball perfectly giving his guys a chance to snare the ball. Just another sad affair for the Chargers special teams that would cost them the game.

The Rams stormed down the field scoring on yet another Bruce reception from 7 yards out and putting themselves in the lead, 28-24.

The Chargers had one last opportunity to win the game with 1:05 left in the game. Ronney Jenkins brought the kickoff back 52 yards putting the Chargers in prime position to score the winning touchdown. Brees threw a clutch pass on a 4th and 12 to Reche Caldwell for a first down but it would not be enough. Two plays later, Brees threw his last pass of the game, an interception in the end zone by Dexter McCleon on a pass intended for Caldwell to end the game.

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