NFC West: Ravens-Rams

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams' offense made progress in the team's third exhibition game, a 24-10 victory over the Ravens on Saturday night.

Yes, the Ravens rested some starters, but Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott were among the Baltimore defenders playing. The Rams were without Steven Jackson, but they still opened the game with a 10-play drive to a field goal.

A note on each of the nine plays before Josh Brown's 37-yard field goal gave the Rams a 3-0 lead:

  • First play. The Rams are serious about using their tight ends in the running game. Randy McMichael sealed off Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson to spring Antonio Pittman for a 16-yard gain.
  • Second play. Right guard Richie Incognito pulled to the right side and smacked Scott during Pittman's 5-yard run. A nice play by Incognito.
  • Third play. McMichael and fellow tight end Joe Klopfenstein sealed the right side for another Pittman run, this one good for 8 yards. Again, the tight ends are active in the run game for St. Louis. Getting Anthony Becht healthy will make this group better.
  • Fourth play. Receiver Drew Bennett isn't running away from defenders. Bennett thought cornerback Frank Walker interfered with him on a 30-yard timing lob up the right side of the field. Whether or not Walker interfered, he was all over Bennett. The pass fell incomplete.
  • Fifth play. Remember the block Incognito put on Scott during the second play of this drive? I wonder if Incognito remembers it after Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis de-cleated him on this second-and-10 running play. Incognito pulled to his right again, but Lewis hammered him under the chinstrap on his way to Pittman. The play gained 1 yard.
  • Sixth play. Bulger can count on finding Torry Holt for short gains on inside moves. An offside penalty had turned third-and-9 into third-and-4 for the Rams. Bulger's quick pass beat the pass rush as Holt, lined up wide left, led his defender inside. The ball was on Holt's back shoulder, but the TV commentators were right in saying Bulger can dial-up this play almost at will.
  • Seventh play. Bulger and Bennett still aren't on the same page. They weren't close to connecting on this quick first-and-10 pass attempt toward the right sideline. McMichael, lined up on the right side in pass protection, held up against Suggs' initial punch. The ball was gone before Suggs had time for a follow-up move.
  • Eighth play. Suggs beat McMichael and left tackle Adam Goldberg to disrupt Pittman's rushing attempt.
  • Ninth play. Bulger lined up in the shotgun on third-and-10, a pass protector on each side. McMichael tried to push a blitzing Lewis upfield, but Lewis was relentless. The linebacker flushed Bulger from the pocket, turned upfield and sacked him.

This was an effective first drive for the Rams with a couple of exceptions. An inability to make plays with Bennett as the intended receiver short-circuited this drive. The same issues marked the Rams' previous exhibition game against San Diego.

Rookie receivers Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton combined for eight receptions, 128 yards and a touchdown later in the game. Are they ready to contribute as rookies?

Around the NFC West: Linehan must win

August, 24, 2008
8/24/08
8:52
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Scott Linehan knows he has to win this season. Linehan must do a better job handling defeat, the coach acknowledged. He also must not focus on the offense at the expense of the rest of the team.

Also from Thomas: Linehan is doing whatever he can to avoid a repeat of 2007, even changing up things in his personal life. Will it carry over onto the field?

Still more from Thomas: Where were you when the Rams' first-team offense finally scored a preseason touchdown? Thanks for asking, Jim. I was at the Cardinals-Raiders game.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers summaries on the Rams' key new players: Chris Long, Jacob Bell, Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Josh Brown, Trent Green and Anthony Becht.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers late-night thoughts following the Cardinals' 24-0 victory over the Raiders in the third exhibition game. Somers after coach Ken Whisenhunt defended a struggling Matt Leinart: "Jeff Fisher has done the same for Vince Young in Tennessee. I'll take the coach at his word, but you don't expect a first-round pick in his third year to look as bad as Leinart did."

Also from Somers: an overview of the game, including this observation Leinart: "Only one of his passes, a 14-yarder to receiver Anquan Boldin, seemed to be thrown with much conviction or accuracy. It's hard to see Saturday's video helping Leinart keep the job."

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune assesses Matt Leinart's poor performance against the Raiders before getting into how well the Cardinals' defense played.

Also from Tulumello: a look at the Cardinals' continuing penalty problems.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com balances good with bad following the Cardinals' performance. Speaking of the good, how about that Cardinals defense?

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says there's no way the Cardinals can open the regular season with Leinart at quarterback.

Jim Cawley of Florida Today checks in with Joe Cohen as the recently released 49ers defensive lineman helps family recover from Tropical Storm Fay in Florida. Being released was tough, but as Cohen put it: "I can't let this incident halt my life. There are other people in worse situations than me."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times breaks down the Seahawks' roster heading into the next exhibition game. He places Deion Branch on the bubble, only because the receiver could open the regular season on the physically unable to perform list. He lists Will Herring among the longshots at linebacker.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune offers ideas for improving the exhibition season: "Memo to the league: Monday night football and overtimes have no place in the preseason."

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seahawks punter Ryan Plackemeier, who is competing with Reggie Hodges for a roster spot. The two have become friends.

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