By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Dec. 10 2007

CINCINNATI — When Brock Berlin is old and gray, he'll gather up his grandkids
and tell them about his first NFL pass. It might not be a completely accurate
account, he conceded.

"I'm sure the story will change," Berlin chuckled Sunday after the Rams' 19-10
loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. "But either way you look at it, it was a
completion."

That it was, for 9 yards to wide receiver Torry Holt. A thing of beauty,
however, it wasn't. Defensive end Justin Smith "hit my arm as I was following
through," Berlin said. "I thought the ball was going straight up and to the
linebackers."

Instead, it fluttered out to the left, where Holt came back and made a diving
grab. Thus went the opening play in Berlin's regular-season debut.

Berlin, 26, was signed in May as a free agent and assigned to the practice
squad. He never had made a 53-man roster until last week. Starting quarterback
Marc Bulger suffered a concussion Nov. 25 against Seattle, and when No. 2 Gus
Frerotte sustained a partially torn labrum the following Sunday, Berlin had
skyrocketed from scout team to first team in less than two weeks.

He had only Friday's practice in that role before stepping out into a downpour
at Paul Brown Stadium. "I was proud of him," Rams coach Scott Linehan said. "It
was a very gutty effort."

Perhaps, but not terribly productive. The Rams' only touchdown was a 36-yard
interception return by cornerback Fakhir Brown. The offense mustered only a
50-yard Jeff Wilkins field goal in the fourth quarter.

"Obviously I was nervous at first," Berlin said. "But I got the first couple
of plays out of the way, and it was just football."

Berlin completed 17 of 28 passes for 153 yards, with no touchdowns and a late
interception; his passer rating was 60.6. Cincy's heralded QB, Carson Palmer,
put up similar numbers: 21 of 29, 189 yards, no TDs, two interceptions, and a
60.8 rating.

"For one day of practice, first start, I think he did pretty well," Bulger
said. "He kept us in the game, and that's probably as much as you could ask
from him."

Running back Steven Jackson said Berlin "stayed within himself; he didn't try
to be another player. As far as managing the game, he did a good job,
especially with the conditions the way they were."

Added center Andy McCollum: "He was in charge in the huddle, running the show.
... I thought he handled it really well."

Not so much at first, though. After the inelegant toss to Holt, Berlin tripped
on the second snap for a 6-yard loss, then threw behind wideout Isaac Bruce on
third down. The Rams also went three-and-out on their second possession.

Then Berlin connected on four of his next five passes, and the jitters faded.

"He settled in," said Holt, who had a team-high eight receptions for 90 yards.
"I was really, really proud of him. I told him after the game, 'Hey, look, you
played your heart out and you tried to do the best you could do to give us a
shot to win.'"

The Rams made four forays into Bengals territory. One ended with a punt, but
others were self-induced failures: a lost fumble and a Wilkins miss from 40
yards. Three-for-13 success on third down was a major culprit.

"That was tough," Berlin said. Still, the University of Miami product couldn't
help but enjoy the experience.

"It was exciting ... really exciting," he said. "This is my favorite thing in
the world to do, play football, and I had a blast out there. I just hate that
we came up short."