Bulger Tries to Meet the Expectations

The St. Louis Rams QB feels the pressure, but is getting used to it.

The questions have dogged him all season, and they won't go away. Mostly because a two-time league MVP is behind him on the depth chart and expectations are so high for an offense known for so long as "The Greatest Show on Turf."

Those same questions aren't asked about his opposite number Saturday - quarterback Jake Delhomme - but Rams quarterback Marc Bulger understands why. He also realizes it's what comes with the territory of being an NFL quarterback.

The pressure is always there. Asked about whether that pressure is any stronger with the playoffs starting, Bulger said, "No, because it is every week. Whether it is the playoffs or not, as a quarterback you have to keep proving yourself. If we win this week, then it will be that I have never been in an NFC championship game, it will never end.

"As long as I understand that playing quarterback there will always be expectation regardless of the situation. I know that we need to win this game; at the same time I know it is not just me. We have a lot of capable guys on this team that can do it too. If I put too much pressure on myself, I don't think I play well when I do that."

However, he also realizes that the playoff stage can advance a player's career.

"This is the time of year where you can prove yourself," he said. "This is why we practice from March on, to get to this situation. It is a lot easier to motivate yourself because it is a one-game season. To know that we are two games away from the Super Bowl is huge. That is why it is not tough to focus on this week. You cannot look past any game from now on because there is too much at stake."

While some quarterbacks wouldn't be able to handle having a quarterback of Warner's stature behind them, Bulger leans on Warner for advice and had the experience of watching him prepare for the playoffs two years ago. In addition, Warner has dealt with the situation professionally, and has been there for Bulger every step of the way.

Asked about Warner's help at this stage, Bulger said, "I think we are going to keep doing what we've been doing. I don't think there is one specific thing that he could whisper in my ear. I think watching him prepare throughout his career and how he did for that Super Bowl run is going to help. You focus in a little more, if that is possible, and I am sure he will focus in more to help me, he has been like that all year.

"He is not some guy who has not played the game, he has been to many playoff games and won a Super Bowl. He has been there, whether it is during the game to calm me down, or to help me prepare."

As for what he might have saw specifically from Warner, Bulger said, "I just noticed that everyone made a big deal about how the play goes up and how different the playoffs are and that Kurt just stayed the same and the team stayed the same. There is more preparation and you focus in, but they didn't make it any different.

"Coach (Martz) didn't make the routine different. Kurt stayed calm and prepared like he did all year. He didn't all of a sudden have to start preparing extra because that is the way Kurt prepared, and that is what I try to learn from him, to prepare the same every week. And when the situation arises, you don't have to change. He stayed the same which is pretty remarkable."

Because of that, Bulger feels calm heading to his first playoff game as a starter. "I do, just because I don't feel like I need to panic and stay up until midnight studying film and do something I haven't been doing," he said. "You have to play and not get too worried and not too tense or nervous and just let your ability take over. I want to stress this: We are preparing a little more, but you don't want to alter what you have been doing all year."

SERIES HISTORY: 15th meeting. Series tied, 7-7, and the teams have never played in the post-season. The two teams were in the same division from 1995-2001, and in six of those seven years, one team swept the season series. The last season series was won by the Rams in 2001, when they scored 86 points in the two games against 46 by the Panthers.

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