Saturday, August 24, 2013
Rams-Broncos: What to watch revisited
By Nick Wagoner
A look at how the Rams fared in five key areas of Saturday night’s 27-26 loss to the Broncos.
Safety First: As expected, Rodney McLeod got the start in place of injured starter Darian Stewart, who was a pregame scratch because of a hamstring injury.
McLeod didn’t get a ton of opportunities but was solid in the chances he did get, making four tackles. He didn’t appear to have any glaring missed tackles and provided good coverage on tight end Jacob Tamme to keep the Broncos out of the end zone in the first quarter.
It’s unlikely McLeod did enough to win the starting job alongside T.J. McDonald, but he certainly didn’t do anything to take himself out of the running, either.
Saffold’s Return?: Rodger Saffold pushed to play all week as he returned to practice from a dislocated left shoulder. When Joe Barksdale, Saffold’s replacement, didn’t make the trip to Denver because of an infected cut on his hand, it became a necessity to have Saffold back in the lineup.
For the most part, Saffold held up well in his return. Making just his second start at right tackle, he had a couple of shaky moments but kept Denver pass-rusher Von Miller at bay for the most part.
Miller did beat Saffold once but quarterback Sam Bradford stepped up in the pocket and Miller missed the sack opportunity. Of more concern, Saffold earned flags for a false start and illegal formation in the second quarter.
All told, Saffold played 24 offensive snaps with the first group and seemed to have no issues with the shoulder.
Rookie Test: In some ways, it was another rough start for linebacker Alec Ogletree in the first quarter, but he more than atoned for it in the second.
Ogletree put on a show in the second quarter, providing ample evidence why the Rams coveted him in April’s NFL draft. Ogletree stripped Denver running back Ronnie Hillman, scooped up the ball and returned it 13 yards for a touchdown.
The light seemed to go on from there as Ogletree dropped deep in coverage for a pass breakup he nearly intercepted and a tackle for a 3-yard loss on the ensuing drive. He followed with a similar drop that he actually hauled in for an interception on Denver’s following possession.
Safety T.J. McDonald got in on the act as well, coming up with a first-quarter blocked field goal. Ogletree had six tackles, two for loss, two passes defended, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception and a touchdown and McDonald had three tackles and a blocked field goal.
It wasn’t a perfect night for the pair despite those gaudy statistics, but it was certainly a big step in the right direction.
Finding a finish: The Rams have had some trouble finishing drives with touchdowns instead of field goals or missed fourth-down conversion attempts.
They wasted no time getting a red zone chance Saturday night as Tavon Austin’s 81-yard punt return gave them possession at Denver’s 3. Bradford wasted no time cashing in that field position, hitting tight end Jared Cook for a touchdown on the first play.
That would do it for offensive touchdowns as the first-team offense played the entire first half. The Rams did reach the red zone again, but Bradford and receiver Austin Pettis just missed on a connection for a touchdown and settled for a field goal. They settled for a pair of field goals from kicker Greg Zuerlein.
Behind Bradford: The Rams continued their game of musical backups with Austin Davis getting the first crack to work with the second-team offense. Once again, Davis did nothing to separate himself from Kellen Clemens in the competition for the No. 2 job.
Davis played the third quarter and, as all backup signal-callers have in this preseason, came under heavy pressure most of the night. He finished 5-of-9 for 40 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions for a rating of 66.9.
Clemens entered with 3:37 to go and fared a little better. He finished 2-of-5 for 18 yards and threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Potter to give the Rams a chance to win on a two-point conversion.
Neither Davis nor Clemens has been able to do enough to take a lead and the decision on Bradford’s backup will have to wait for at least another week.