Rams Come Up Short in Preseason Opener

Posted Aug 9, 2013

Sticking to the preseason theme of the Head Coach Jeff Fisher era, the Rams kept the game plan simple and spread playing time from the top to the bottom of the 90-man roster in their first exhibition game of the 2013 season. Still, a slow start was too much for the Rams to overcome, as they fell to the Cleveland Browns, 27-19, at FirstEnergy Stadium.

“The first preseason game is never an indication of where you’re at because there are so many different things going on,” Coach Fisher said. “We got to play a lot of players and we’ll be able to say that we saw some good things out of some young players.”

The Rams' offense struggled on the first two drives of the game, once losing possession after a running back Isaiah Pead fumble and then going three-and-out on the following drive.

The first offensive unit did manage to get back on track with a 59-yard reception from quarterback Sam Bradford to wide receiver Chris Givens. The play helped set-up a three-yard touchdown reception between the duo two plays later.

“With Givens’ speed and with the additions of (TE Jared) Cook and (WR) Tavon (Austin), hopefully we’ll be able to do that more and more this year," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "We’ve got speed at a lot of positions. Givens did a great job of getting by the corner and tracking that ball to make that catch.”

Givens feels that their final drive of the night will be more of what fans will see this season.

“Me and Sam (Bradford) decided to try and send a message, ‘This is the effort you’re going to get every Sunday,’” Givens said.

Givens finished the night with three catches for 83 yards over the course of three drives, while Bradford ended the game with five completions on eight attempts for 102 yards.

Rookie wideout Tavon Austin saw limited action, though he did earn a start alongside fellow receivers Givens and Austin Pettis, as well as tight end Jared Cook. Austin was targeted once, but didn’t come up with a catch on the night.

At running back, Daryl Richardson was tabbed for the start and put together a solid performance out of the backfield in addition to bringing in two receptions. Richardson looked quick and appeared to be more comfortable going into his second NFL season. Rookie running back Zac Stacy carried the ball seven times for 23 yards and showed some duraility after bouncing up following a tough hit. Fellow rookie Benny Cunningham also flashed signs of speed and agility in his limited reps.

Simplicity and fluid player rotation was key on the defensive side of the ball as well.

“We have a lot of things up our sleeve,” defensive end Chris Long said. “The important thing right now is to not give and show too much and work on your fundamentals. You need that foundation and a really good way to do that is to work on your basic defense.”

The unit gave up 191 yards in the first half, but only 53 of those came on the ground. Moving forward, the defensive starters are confident they can improve against the run.

"They had one run on us, which we could have done better on,” middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “But, overall, we need to just learn from it. The first drive, I like the fact that we kept them just to three (third-down conversions). That second drive, we need to find a way to get off the field, too many third down conversions. But, it’s all stuff that’s correctable and we can learn from it.”

Rookies T.J. McDonald and Alec Ogletree started at safety and linebacker, respectively. McDonald led the team with five tackles on the night.

Kicker Greg Zuerlein was consistent and strong as he drilled two 50-plus yard field goals, a 54-yarder and 55-yarder to kick the preseason off right.

In all, 89 players of the 90-man roster saw the playing field in some capacity in this year's preseason debut.

The Rams' will play their first home preseason game at the Edward Jones Dome on Aug. 17 when the Green Bay Packers come to town. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The next training camp practice open to the public at Rams Park will be at 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 10.