Preseason Week 2
Saturday Aug 20, 2011
Brandon Gibson catches an 83-yard touchdown on the game’s opening drive. Photo by Ed Szczepanski/Getty Images.
If you started watching the Rams game Saturday night 16 seconds after it started, you missed the most exciting play of the game.
In an offensive set that featured three TEs, Sam Bradford executed a perfect play action fake and delivered an 83-yard bomb to Brandon Gibson for a touchdown. It looked like Bradford and company picked up right where they left off last Saturday night when they were dismantling the Colts.
The problem was for the rest of the 59 minutes and 45 seconds of the game, the Rams looked less like the team last week and more like those teams during the 6-42 years of 07, 08, and 09.
First team struggles after the opening play.
There were missed blocking assignments. There was a ton of poor tackling. There were big gains by Titans’ backup players. For most of Saturday night, the Rams looked subpar in most aspects of the game.
Through the first half, the Titans had control of the game. The Titans rushing attack looked fantastic despite missing both All-Pro, Chris Johnson, and his backup Javon Ringer. Key stops by the Rams on third down stalled two long Titan drives forcing two Rob Bironas field goals.
On offense, the Rams did not do much after the Gibson touchdown, gaining only 70 yards the rest of the half. Bradford threw a pick (on a ball off the hands of intended receiver Mike Sims-Walker) and the rest of the drives ended in punts.
Second team regains momeuntum.
The second half was a bit better for the defense. The Rams defense held the Titans off the scoreboard in the second half. The run defense became a little more stout (not much though) and Spags began sending pressure to try to keep Jake Locker in the pocket.
Pressure from a Darian Stewart-blitz on a naked boot by Locker led to a James Butler interception. On the ensuing drive, the Rams capitalized, led by AJ Feeley. Feeley found Donnie Avery for a 19-yard touchdown.
Avery, who is almost a year removed from a nasty knee injury that sidelined him all of last year, looked fresh and fast. Like it or not, a healthy Donnie Avery will make this football team.
Third team offense drives for the game-winning score
Most of the second half fell in line with a typical preseason game. There were 9 straight drives that ended with punts. There were a bunch of penalties. There was poor tackling, especially on the part of the Rams. This came as a bit of a surprise to me.
The highlight of the second half was watching second-year pro Thad Lewis execute a great drive that led to a Josh Brown 42-yard game winning field goal. In his second drive of the night, Lewis and the Rams took the ball at their own 9 yard line with 3:41 to play.
On the first play, rookie Greg Salas dropped a ball that warranted some jeers from those who remained at the dome at this point. However, Lewis would help Salas redeem himself by targeting him the next two plays, both completions for a total of 25 yards. The first of the two catches by Salas was along the sideline with a defender draped all over him.
Lewis would then connect with Fendi Onobun for a 12-yard gain just before the two-minute warning. With the ball at the Rams’ 46 yard line, the Duke product connected on three straight passes, once to Toston and twice to Onobun bringing the Rams to the Tennessee 35 yard line.
Lewis’s final pass on the drive was caught by Mardy Gilyard, taking the ball to the 23 yard line, where Josh Brown would line up to attempt a game-deciding field goal.
The drive capped off the second week in a row where Thad Lewis played pretty well. He was very composed on that drive. Sure it’s late in a preseason game, nothing to get overly excited about, but one has to think it is no concidence that Taylor Potts was cut this past week.
It would be nice to see this team tackle a little bit better. However, I can’t help to wonder if the poor tackling is a direct result of the new practice regulations handed down by the new CBA. Excuses aside, the tackling will have to improve prior to week one when the very elusive Michael Vick comes to town in Week 1.
Also this 2011 draft class has come to play thus far – from top to bottom. Quinn and Kendricks have played well thus far. Fourth-round pick Salas had a couple of nice catches in his debut.
But more specifically, I’ve been very impressed with linebacker, Jabara Williams (yeah the guy you went to Google for after his name was called) and safety, Jonathan Nelson. Williams, a former running back, has shown great athleticism thus far. Nelson looks to be a sure tackler.
Jake Locker is a good kid. I like him. I respect his decision to go back to school and try to accomplish things that University of Washington football program had never accomplished. I remember those in the Suh camp in 2010 thought we could pass on Sam Bradford, find a stop-gap quarterback in the meantime and draft Locker this year. I think Jake will be a good quarterback someday in the NFL. That being said, I’m very happy Sam Bradford is a St. Louis Ram.
Finally, despite what most would consider to be an unimpressive performance, a bright side remains – that is the Rams came away with a win. On top of that, it was a comeback win. Last season in the second half, the Rams scored 10 points or more in only 7 of 16 games. Of those 7 games, only twice did they score more than 10 points. For a team that struggled greatly last season in the second half of football games [see especially weeks: 1, 2, 7, 10, and 17] it was nice to see them make adjustments at half and come out with the W. Pretty or not.
Now, on to Kansas City.