Rams 24, Ravens 10
ST. LOUIS -- Even with newly signed Steven Jackson just a spectator, the St. Louis Rams' first-string offense ended its long slump with two touchdowns. Troy Smith's illness kept the Baltimore Ravens' quarterback derby on hold.
Marc Bulger's 4-yard pass to rookie Keenan Burton with six minutes to go in the second quarter gave the Rams' starters their first score in three preseasons under coach Scott Linehan in a 24-10 victory Saturday night.
"We don't really talk about monkeys off our back in the preseason," Bulger said. "It's pretty much a practice and we've been having great practices. We still have to do it against Philly (in the opener), so we can't get too excited about a couple of drives."
Jackson, who signed a six-year, $44 million contract on Thursday to end a 27-day holdout, worked out in helmet and shorts well before the rest of the Rams (2-1) hit the field for organized pre-game warmups, and coach Scott Linehan said Jackson had the equivalent of a simulated game on Friday. He was booed by fans in a half-full Edward Jones Dome when he showed up on the videoboard in the first quarter.
Jackson expected such a reception after criticizing fans last year for failing to support the team, especially after the stadium had pro-Steelers and Packers crowds for late-season games. After signing, Jackson said he wanted to play in the Rams' preseason finale Thursday in Kansas City. Linehan rested most of his starters last year in the so-called Governor's Cup game.
Having waited 11 preseason games for the first touchdown by the starting offense, the Rams were forced to wait a little more when Burton's catch was first ruled an incompletion. Linehan challenged after first watching a replay that seemed to confirm a catch, and the call was reversed after a lengthy review.
"I felt I got a foot down, but at the same time I'm not the referee and they made a call off judgment," the rookie said. "I just tried to tell them that I was in. I didn't bobble it at all."
Bulger was on his game after two early stinkers, going 18-for-25 for 182 yards and no interceptions in the half against a Ravens defense minus two line starters, and went 5-for-5 for 46 yards on the first scoring drive. The first two preseason games he was 10-for-23 for 85 yards with three interceptions and no TDs.
"We keep putting more and more things in," Bulger said. "I think guys are starting to get it. We didn't prepare any different this week than last week, it's just things worked."
Smith, the former Heisman Trophy winner who's battling incumbent Kyle Boller for the Ravens' quarterback spot, missed a scheduled start and a chance to seize the job because of a viral illness, spending the game at the team hotel. Smith had been set to play as long as three quarters.
"He just couldn't do anything," coach John Harbaugh said. "It pushes us back. You had a hope or a thought that it could get answered tonight with Troy, but he didn't have an opportunity to prove that, so we're still looking to make that decision as we go."
Third-stringer Joe Flacco, the Ravens' first-rounder this year, played the entire game and failed to generate much until the second half while going 18-for-37 for 152 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. The Ravens couldn't capitalize on favorable field possession their first two drives, spurred by a 37-yard opening kickoff return by Yamon Figurs and a partially blocked punt by rookie Tom Zbikowski that gave them possession on the St. Louis 20 for their second drive before settling for a chip shot field goal by Matt Stover.
The Ravens (1-2) played their starting offensive line at the start of the third quarter and Flacco produced a 75-yard scoring drive. Derrick Mason caught four passes for all but 14 of the yards, capped by a 15-yard touchdown catch that was the first touchdown against the Rams' first-string defense in the preseason.
"It was a really good chance for me to get in there and get my feet wet," Flacco said. "There were things I would have liked to have done better. It was a great learning experience."
Lance Ball answered with a 5-yard run later in the third for the Rams, set up by Brock Berlin's 40-yard pass to Burton. Zbikowski's interception and 21-yard return of a pass by Bruce Gradkowski in the fourth put the Ravens at the St. Louis 44, but they got only one first down before turning the ball over on downs.
Ravens CB Samari Rolle (leg) and LB Terrell Suggs (franchise tag holdout) each played for the first time in the preseason. ... Rams WR Drew Bennett (groin) and WR Dante Hall (ankle) were knocked out in the second quarter, but Linehan expects both to be ready for the opener. ... Twelve players had at least one reception for the Rams, nine for the Ravens.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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