By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

MINNEAPOLIS - For the most part, Friday night’s preseason game against the Vikings was like most other preseason openers for the Rams.

But the end wasn’t very normal at all. The Rams and Vikings exchanged awkward plays to help each other out on the way to a 13-10 win for the Rams at the Metrodome on Friday night.

A penalty-laced game ticked by slowly enough, but a lack of offense on both sides led to a tight finish. But a surprising group of Rams showed plenty of poise on the game’s final possession to set up rookie kicker Kevin Lovell’s game winner. Lovell connected from 40 yards to give the Rams the win.

Fourth-string quarterback Brock Berlin has a strong final drive, leading the team into an impressive drive and completing a 16-yard strike to Marques Hagans to set up the final tally.

Berlin came up with a huge completion to rookie Derek Stanley on third down to keep the winning drive alive. Stanley was just one of the rookies to shine in Minneapolis.

The starters played about as much as expected, selected youngsters got a few extra snaps and then the reins were handed to the players near the bottom of the roster and the depth chart. But it was a pair of top rookies that jumped out in their NFL debuts.

Defensive tackle Adam Carriker and running back Brian Leonard were more than noticeable for their first half efforts with Carriker clogging running lanes on defense and Leonard’s hard charging style paid off for the offense.

Offensively, the Rams top unit had some limited success in two possessions with the majority of the “ones” on the field. Quarterback Marc Bulger led the Rams for a pair of possessions and running back Steven Jackson was on the field for just one of said opportunities.

Neither of those drives had the crisp execution or big plays of a team ready for the regular season, but they weren’t without bright spots, either. Bulger connected on six-of-seven passes for 42 yards, including a pair of hookups with receiver Torry Holt for 26 yards. But Bulger and the Rams’ second drive ended when a pass was tipped and intercepted by Minnesota defensive back Dwight Smith.

That brought Bulger’s night to an end, along with Holt, Isaac Bruce and the rest of the starting offense.

While the offense was looking to find a rhythm, the defense looked to be just fine in its pair of chances. That unit started the game out with a bang; stopping Minnesota back Chester Taylor for a 4-yard loss on the game’s opening play. After a slight stumble, the unit tightened up and got a stop.

The following possession was even better as the defense came up with a stop after just four plays and a single first down. Rookie tackle Adam Carriker made his presence felt in the middle as he disrupted a number of running plays and slammed Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson for a 1-yard gain for his first NFL tackle.

With the starters, calling it a night, the Rams turned the reins over to backup Gus Frerotte. Along with Frerotte, rookie running back Brian Leonard began to get the lion’s share of the touches.

And Leonard took full advantage of those chances on the team’s third possession. Minnesota had just put the first point of the game on the board with a 29-yard field from Ryan Longwell before Leonard and Frerotte took over.

The Rams responded, promptly marching down the field for a 73-yard drive that ended when rookie running back Brian Leonard burst through the middle for a 10-yard touchdown. Leonard was the star of the possession, rushing for 26 yards and adding a catch for 8 yards on the possession. Lovell’s extra point made it 7-3 St. Louis with 4:11 to go in the half.

Leonard finished his day with nine carries for 36 yards and five catches for 30 yards to go with his touchdown run.

The teams traded punts, including a beautiful 55-yard boot from Rams punter Donnie Jones and the score at the half was 7-3 St. Louis.

What appeared to be a promising and workmanlike drive for the Rams to open the third quarter turned disastrous deep in Minnesota territory. After a healthy dose of Rich Alexis and some solid third down completions by Fitzpatrick, what seemed to be sure points for the Rams turned into a touchdown for the Vikings.

On third-and-12 from Minnesota’s 27, Fitzpatrick floated a pass intended for tight end Dominique Byrd. But Fitzpatrick didn’t get enough air under the pass and linebacker Dontarrious Thomas intercepted it and returned it 76 yards for a score. That gave Minnesota a 10-7 lead with 9:49 to go in the quarter.

Just when it appeared the Rams would be unable to piece together much of anything they caught a big break. A third-and-9 pass to Stanley hit Vikings defensive back Tank Williams on the arm and bounced into Stanley’s arms. What would have been a touchdown was called an incompletion and the Rams challenged.

The Rams won the challenge, but got the ball at Minnesota’s 35 instead of a touchdown because of the call. St. Louis has it at Minnesota’s 39 with a second-and-14 as it trails 10-7 at the end of three quarters.

St. Louis finished the drive with three points after a key third down conversion in which Fitzpatrick hit Stanley for an 18-yard gain. That set up Lovell’s 39-yard field goal to tie it at 10 with 13:08 to play.

The Vikings finally mustered some offense with the help of a pass interference call on Josh Lay that put them in field goal range. But Longwell couldn’t convert the field goal opportunity and the Rams took over at their 32 with 2:52 to play.