Tests results Monday afternoon on quarterback Marc Bulger's injured throwing shoulder showed more damage than a similar injury suffered last month. As a result, Bulger will be sidelined longer than he was in October, when he missed two games but also had the benefit of the Rams' bye week to recover.
"The MRI results were negative," a team official said Monday night. "But there's a lot more swelling in there. He's going to be out for quite a while."
Before the MRI results, the most optimistic assessment at Rams Park had Bulger returning for the team's Dec. 11 game at Minnesota. However, with the finding of increased swelling in the shoulder area, it's uncertain whether Bulger can even return this season.
Earlier in the day, at his regular Monday afternoon news conference, interim head coach Joe Vitt said this of Bulger: "Sore. Very, very sore. He also sustained a concussion. He's banged up."
This Sunday in Houston, the Rams also will be without the services of starting strong safety Adam Archuleta and offensive lineman Blaine Saipaia. Archuleta suffered a concussion in the first quarter on a collision with teammate DeJuan Groce on pass defense. Saipaia suffered a concussion blocking on the wedge on a fourth-quarter kickoff return.
Archuleta and Saipaia were hospitalized Sunday night for observation and were released Monday.
"I think (Archuleta) actually went in and played two series after the concussion," Vitt said. "To his credit, he tried to stay in there and battle. But he was really woozy on the sideline. The same with Blaine. . . . They both had pretty good concussions."
Bulger did not have to be hospitalized because of his concussion, Vitt said.
Bulger was injured late in the second quarter on a blitz by Arizona safety Adrian Wilson. The Cardinals also sent a linebacker on the play on the same side. Running back Steven Jackson turned inside to take on the linebacker, allowing Wilson a free path to Bulger.
Vitt said the sack was the result of a blown blocking assignment, but he did not say who blew the assignment.
It was telling, however, that Jackson was benched at the end of the game, when another successful Arizona blitz resulted in a sack and a lost fumble by Bulger's replacement, Jamie Martin. Martin was shaken up on the play but kept playing.
On his weekly radio show Monday night, Vitt said that Martin came out of the game with bruised ribs and that rookie Ryan Fitzpatrick would get some work with the first unit when the team returns to practice Wednesday.
In any event, Bulger was helped off the field Sunday with 4 1/2 minutes to play in the third quarter and the Rams clinging to a 17-16 lead. It was the second of a career-high three sacks for Wilson, a five-year veteran who had a modest 5 1/2 career sacks in 71 NFL games before Sunday's contest.
So what was the problem with blitz pickup?
"It was lack of execution," Vitt said. "We know what 24 (Wilson) is. We know where the (protection) is supposed to go. We know where the backs are supposed to go. And we don't get it done. There was absolutely no disguise by them, in what they were doing.
"They were showing 24 in the paint (near the line of scrimmage). And wherever he showed in the paint, that's where he was coming from. So you have one or two ways to pick it up. Either a back goes there and picks him up, or the line slides that way and picks it up. And we had (breakdowns) three times. They were critical busts."
Ironically, Bulger's season comes to a halt on a weekend in which he moved to the top of the NFC passer ratings. After completing 19 of 24 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona, Bulger has a 94.4 passer rating for the season. That ties him for the conference lead with Drew Bledsoe of Dallas.
Bulger ranks fifth in the NFL in passer rating, behind four AFC quarterbacks: Cincinnati's Carson Palmer (105.6), Indianapolis' Peyton Manning (104.6), San Diego's Drew Brees (100.0) and New England's Tom Brady (96.2).
With Archuleta unavailable for the Houston game, rookie Jerome Carter will make his first NFL start. Carter stepped in at strong safety when the concussion forced Archuleta to the sidelines against Arizona.
"Jerome Carter made some mistakes (Sunday) on defense, when he had to go in and play for 'Arch,'" Vitt said. "It's his first extended play time in the 'mixed-down' situation. He's going to grow from that. And at the end of the day, he probably did more good things than bad things."
Prior to the Arizona game, Carter's playing experience had been largely limited to the Rams' six-defensive-backs package, as well as special teams.
Saipaia's absence against the Texans means that Rex Tucker will be the first guard off the bench behind starters Claude Terrell at left guard and Adam Timmerman at right guard. Saipaia rotated in for Timmerman in both halves against the Cardinals, because Timmerman has been slowed by a back injury.