Sunday, August 18, 2013
Observation deck: Packers 19, Rams 7
By Nick Wagoner
ST. LOUIS -- For the second consecutive week, the Rams participated in a sloppy preseason game and walked out with a loss.
This time it was a 19-7 decision to Green Bay on Saturday night.
Some quick hits and reaction from Saturday night’s game:
Quarterback Sam Bradford was sharp again but missed chances in the red zone clouded that performance a bit. Bradford finished 8-of-12 for 155 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions and a rating of 109.7. That effort included a picture-perfect strike to receiver Chris Givens for a gain of 57 yards. But that work was partially forgotten as the Rams failed to finish the drive with a touchdown after Bradford missed a wide-open Tavon Austin in the flat for a would-be score and fumbled the snap on fourth-and-goal at the 1.
Clearly, the Rams would like to put some points on the board, namely in the form of touchdowns. On the bright side, they did create some big plays with the completion to Givens and a 37-yard strike to tight end Jared Cook. Those big plays have Bradford excited about the offense’s potential.
Tackling was again an issue for the Rams. The hope is that the preseason provides enough opportunities for any tackling rust to get knocked off but there wasn’t much progress from Week 1 to 2 in that regard. On Green Bay’s first two offensive plays, the Rams had safety Darian Stewart and defensive tackle Michael Brockers miss tackles. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson later got in on the act with two whiffs of his own. The Rams took extra time in practice to work on tackling at “thud” tempo when they had the pads on last week and may have to do so again this week.
Running back Isaiah Pead got an extended look, starting the game but also playing into the third quarter. He had some good moments and ball security was not an issue on any of his 12 touches. Running room was hard to come by but Pead was strong in pass protection.
Speaking of the running game and a lack of room to run, the offensive line struggled to get much push at all. While that group did fine in pass protection, there was nowhere for Pead or any of the backs to run with the first group.
Rookie starting linebacker Alec Ogletree stayed in the game longer than the rest of the defensive starters and, at first glance, made some strides from last week. He was more reliable tackling and seemed to be better with communication and in his assignments. The Packers did gash the Rams with the tight end in the passing game, an area where Ogletree is supposed to be an asset.
Austin was far more involved this week as Bradford targeted him seven times. Austin came up with four catches for 28 yards and should have had a touchdown. Austin flashed some of the speed and agility that he’s shown regularly on the practice field but also spent a bit too long looking to make a move and not running. You don’t want him to change his game too much but it’s going to be harder for him at this level to take the circuitous routes he sometimes took to the end zone in college.
With Pead taking most of the snaps, presumptive leading running back Daryl Richardson didn’t get much work. When he came in, he did make a nice catch on a wheel route for a gain of 24 yards. It was a good sign for Richardson, who had a couple of drops last week in Cleveland.
The preseason is usually a time for abundant penalties and the Rams again proved that to be true. They were flagged nine times for 52 yards. That was an area coach Jeff Fisher wanted to see cleaned up after last week but he didn’t get his wish. Of particular concern should be the continued illegal formation flags the Rams have drawn. Although only one of those penalties was accepted, the Rams had three flags thrown for that violation.
Competition for the backup quarterback job appears to be gaining little to no clarity. Kellen Clemens got the first chance to work with the second team offense and struggled mightily. Austin Davis came on in the fourth quarter and was a bit better, getting the Rams on the board with a touchdown pass to Nick Johnson.
Looking for a name of a little known player or undrafted rookie who seemed to be pretty active and make a strong impression? Defensive end Gerald Rivers got a lot of playing time in the absence of backup Eugene Sims and generated fairly consistent pressure in his opportunities. Linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong was also active.
Perhaps most important, the Rams made it out of the game without any serious injuries. The Rams removed Stewart from the lineup as a precaution for some hamstring tightness.