Rams Drop Preseason Opener

Posted Aug 12, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS – While to a man, the Rams were disappointed in the result of Sunday’s preseason opener against the Colts, they also followed the lead of coach Jeff Fisher in keeping perspective when it was over.

Indianapolis scored on its first play from scrimmage and never looked back on its way to a 38-3 win against the Rams on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. St. Louis falls to 0-1 on the preseason while the Colts moved to 1-0.

While the score was certainly lopsided, Fisher made sure his players knew after the game not to get too low based on the loss. Likewise, he wouldn’t want them to get too high after a win.

After all, the Rams defeated these Colts 33-10 a year ago in the preseason on their way to a 4-0 performance before a disastrous 2-14 regular season.

In other words, the results of the preseason have no bearing on what happens when the games start to count.

“You try to come out with a mindset of we are going to try to win this game but you have to focus on improving and doing your job individually, especially in the preseason,” defensive end Chris Long said. “You are trying to win but if you don’t win, you are not going to panic. We are not going to panic. We have had good preseasons before and then had crappy seasons. We are going to try to have a better game the next game.”

The Rams actually opened the proceedings with some positive momentum after rookie running back Isaiah Pead brought the opening kick back 30 yards to the 22.

Quarterback Sam Bradford, running back Steven Jackson and Co. found a quick rhythm offensively as coordinator Brian Schottenheimer mixed the run and the pass almost equally as the Rams marched into Indianapolis territory by moving the chains methodically.

Jackson ripped off four runs for 17 yards and Bradford connected on his first three passes to give the Rams a second-and-4 at the Colts’ 38.

But a delay of game penalty on the Rams pushed them back 5 yards and ultimately set up a fourth-and-3 at the 37.

“Obviously, we would like to have had points on that drive,” Bradford said. “I thought we did a good job, we have just got to finish. That’s what these games are for; to come out here and learn from your mistakes and hopefully next week we won’t do that.”

Instead of going to dynamic rookie Greg Zuerlein for the long field goal, Fisher gave a quick glimpse into his approach for the preseason: he went for it. Bradford missed Amendola on an out pass but the message was clear.

“We were just trying to keep the drive alive,” Fisher said. “I know we’ve got a kicker that can bomb it and I wanted to keep the drive alive. But the decisions you make in the preseason are totally different than the ones you make in the regular season.”

The Colts quickly converted the turnover on downs into points as rookie quarterback Andrew Luck dumped off a screen pass to running back Donald Brown, who cut the daylight on the right and raced 63 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead the Colts would not relinquish.

Of course, while the play was well designed and executed, Fisher was quick to point out that there were some missed actions on the play that would have significantly altered its outcome.

“We were pressuring at him and the player who had the responsibility for the back got grabbed and there was a couple of others holds down the field on the play,” Fisher said.

Such is life in the preseason when officials are working out the kinks as well and especially with replacement referees in place for right now.

From there, the Rams continued to make some costly mistakes that continued to result in points for the Colts and none for the Rams.

Aside from a 37-yard field goal from Zuerlein, the Rams were unable to muster any points and finished the day with just 215 total yards while the Colts racked up 430.

Along the way, the Rams were hit by some calamities such as a fumble by Pead that turned into points for Indianapolis. Indianapolis won the turnover battle two to nothing.

Perhaps most frustrating was the inability of the Rams to get in a rhythm because they couldn’t get off the field. Indianapolis was 11-of-15 (73 percent) on third downs Sunday.

“It was kind of an unusual game because the offense puts a drive together and they are back on the field one play later because we gave up a touchdown so now you are trying to catch up on your plays for the defense and you can’t stop them to catch up the plays for your offense,” Fisher said. “We tried to get as many players in as we could and we did and we’ll just move on.”

Indeed, it was clear right away the Fisher and the Rams’ primary concern Sunday was getting a look at a number of players and not really much else.

While Indianapolis had some things in schematically, the Rams were extremely vanilla in their approach on both sides of the ball. The idea of making substitutions and taking extended looks at a variety of players was evident throughout the game.

“We are going to look at the tape and there is going to be some good things on that tape,” Fisher said. “Obviously, the game results from turnovers and false starts and they converted on third downs. If you don’t get the ball back, that’s what is going to happen in the ball game. But as I told the players, we had a couple of coverages, a couple pressures and a couple fronts and we wanted to see them play. And that was pretty much the same thing on offense. I went for it on fourth down (three times) to get some more plays because we want to evaluate players and you want to get a chance to see them.”

While Jackson played the first drive and one play on the second, Bradford was able to get another turn with the top offense and handle a second drive. He finished seven-of-nine for 57 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions for a rating of 93.1.

After the departure of the top offense, the Rams continued to cycle through almost the entire 89-man roster as Kellen Clemens quarterbacked the second unit and rookie Austin Davis played the entire second half with the third unit.

“This is definitely the time where our scouts and our coaches are evaluating certain players and the one thing about the preseason is it allows our young players to learn from their mistakes and hopefully that doesn’t happen again,” Jackson said.

Now, the Rams will turn their attention back to training camp and the next preseason contest at the Edward Jones Dome against Kansas City on Saturday. They return to practice on Tuesday after getting a chance to look at the film and make the appropriate corrections.

“It’s good for us to get out here and mess some things up sometimes,” Long said. “We are going to learn from those mistakes. I am glad they are happening now rather than week one so we are just going to continue to build on what we’ve been building on. Nobody is panicking over a preseason loss but nobody is happy about losing. So we have to keep an even keel and come out and work through it.”