Rams QB Bulger expected to return vs. Jags; Boller has concussion

ST. LOUIS -- Marc Bulger is expected to start this week for the Rams, regardless of whether backup Kyle Boller is cleared from a mild concussion.

Whoever's taking the snaps Sunday at Jacksonville, the larger problem is cutting down on the epidemic of mistakes that are dragging down a winless, rebuilding team that has little margin for error. The Rams (0-5) committed four turnovers in Sunday's 38-10 loss to the Vikings, three of them inside the Minnesota 10, and have totaled 10 giveaways the last three weeks.

"Right now I think that's the only thing that's separating us from winning games," Rams defensive end Leonard Little said Monday. "The mistakes we've been making, it's something we've got to correct.

"We always correct them in practice, but in the games, it seems like everything falls apart for us."

Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said at his weekly day-after news conference that it was "correction day." Every Monday, it seems.

"The ball slips out of your hand, you miss a routine handoff, those are tough things to explain," Spagnuolo said. "We'll hone in on them, get better at them and move on."

The Rams (0-5) had a 400-377 edge in total yards over the unbeaten Vikings (5-0) and rolled up 27 first downs. Boller and Bulger were a combined 27-of-38 passing for 297 yards with one touchdown and one interception, and the offensive line limited the dangerous Vikings pass rush to two sacks.

The giveaways negated those numbers, in a big way.

Jared Allen had a 52-yard fumble return for a touchdown after the ball somehow slipped out of Boller's hand as he dropped back for a screen pass. Boller and Steven Jackson didn't connect on a handoff from the Vikings' 1. Tight end Daniel Fells tried to back into the end zone after a catch and was stripped of the ball. Boller threw an interception in the end zone.

That was more than enough to ensure the Rams' 15th consecutive loss, the longest slump in the NFL. They've been outscored by a whopping 146-34 this season.

Jackson took the hit for the fumble, although it officially went to Boller.

"It really hurt the team and our momentum, and I think after that we just snowballed downwards," Jackson said. "We just have to get over this spell of turnovers."

Boller, starting for the second consecutive game in place of Bulger (shoulder), was injured early in the fourth quarter and will undergo testing Tuesday to determine his availability. Though Boller moved the offense, Spagnuolo said there's no competition for the job, and if Bulger's OK, he'll be back as the Rams' starter.

Spagnuolo was comfortable with Bulger as the backup against the Vikings after watching him progress during the practice week. He said Boller started because he had taken snaps with the first-string offense all week.

"I love both of them," wide receiver Keenan Burton said. "Whoever's out there I'm definitely going to try to make plays."

Defensive tackle Gary Gibson will miss the rest of the season with a broken left ankle sustained when he got his leg caught under his body after he tumbled to the turf after a late block in the third quarter. Gibson, who's due to undergo surgery Tuesday, is the second defensive tackle to land on injured reserve after Adam Carriker was hurt during the preseason.

Spagnuolo was hopeful that rookie offensive tackle Jason Smith (bruised left knee) and safety James Butler (sprained left knee) could return to the lineup this week. Smith, the Rams' first-round draft pick, was active Sunday but didn't play.

Spagnuolo said defensive end Chris Long (chest) would undergo a CT scan, but Long said he felt fine. Defensive back Justin King (knee bone bruise) likely is out.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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