Rams Fall to Texans
Saturday, August 19, 2006
By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

One week after establishing a strong running game and an equally impressive run defense, the Rams struggled in both areas against the Texans on Saturday night.
Houston used a good rushing performance and a stout run defense of its own to stop the Rams 27-20 at the Edward Jones Dome in each team s second preseason contest. The Texans improved to 2-0 in the preseason while the loss drops the Rams to 1-1.
Against the Colts in the preseason opener, the Rams ran for 202 yards on 40 attempts and limited Indianapolis to 38 yards on the ground. It was just the type of game that coach Scott Linehan hopes to see his group involved in this season.
"The biggest disappointment I had in the game (Saturday night) was our inability to run the football offensively and stop the run defensively, something we did very well the week before," Linehan said. "You want to see consistency in this game, this business, and we certainly weren't that in that area."
So, that made what happened Saturday night a little upsetting for the Rams new head coach. Of course, most of the Texans' running success came against St. Louis backups.
Still, the Texans put up 143 yards on the ground on just 21 carries, an average of 6.8 yards per attempt. The most glaring error came when running back Vernand Morency went 43 yards untouched for a touchdown in the third quarter.
On the other side of the ball, the Rams had almost no success on the ground as the Texans showed more eight-man fronts and run blitzes than the Colts. Running back Steven Jackson was held to 10 yards on four carries and the team finished with 61 yards on 27 carries, an average of just 2.3 per attempt.
Perhaps part of the problem was the fact that the Rams entered the game with no healthy fullbacks. Paul Smith (calf) and Madison Hedgecock (ankle) missed the game because of injury, leaving inexperienced tight ends attempting to handle lead blocking duties.
"They did a good job of stopping it," Linehan said. "They played pretty good run defense. A lot of it was designed to stop the run.
They saw us rush for 200 yards last week. We're not going to just run into a wall and we are not going to bail on the run, but you have to have success throwing it so you can get back and run it better."

Another development occurred Saturday night that was a little disturbing to the head coach was the significant increase in penalties, particularly pre-snap penalties on the Rams.

"Obviously the penalties were a little bit of a problem for us, (they) nullified some gains," Linehan said.
St. Louis had zero false starts against the Colts and was generally mistake-free in that regard. Not that Linehan expected perfection again, it is the preseason after all, but the penalties slowed down a number of St. Louis drives.
The Rams were flagged 13 times for 104 yards, including a few false starts and a costly special teams flag.
In spite of those issues, the Rams still had a chance to pull off another comeback win against the Texans.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was given a chance to come back on the Texans again. Many will remember Fitzpatrick's stunning performance in a dramatic comeback against Houston on Nov. 27 last season.
But Fitzpatrick couldn t quite get the Rams into the end zone. Down 27-20, Fitzpatrick drove the Rams to Houston s 2, but couldn t punch it in. Had the Rams scored, Linehan said they would have gone for the 2-point conversion to win it.
"I think that s the time to do it," Linehan said. "We ran a two-point play on the play before we almost scored on. I quite often will do that on third down if it's third and two or three."
One of the few bright spots on the evening was the Rams' first-team defense. As promised, the Rams played their starters longer against Houston than they did against Indianapolis. But, the presence of the starters on both sides for the entirety of the first quarter didn't necessarily equal much in the way of fireworks.
St. Louis' defensive starters stayed on the field for the first drive of the second quarter and continued to have success. Houston gained 74 yards against the Rams' starters but were kept off the scoreboard.
"That"s one thing that doesn't show up in the preseason games,"
Linehan said. "The first team defense did an excellent job of keeping them to no points out there. I really felt that that was the bright spot going into halftime and you kind of forget that going into the end of the game."
Both teams had promising drives stall because of penalties and sacks.
The Rams managed a field goal, but Houston couldn't respond.
The Rams scored first after they traded punts with the Texans on kicker Remy Hamilton's 32-yard field goal. The first scoring drive started at the St. Louis 34, and the Rams' moved quickly.
A 25-yard completion to tight end Aaron Walker put the ball at Houston's 13, but the Rams weren t able to advance it any further and settled for three points to make it 3-0.
Houston's offense promptly followed with an impressive drive that included a 21-yard run by rookie back Wali Lundy. Like the Rams, though, the Texans stalled in the red zone and had to settle for a 37-yard field goal attempt by Josh Brown. Brown missed the kick to the left, though, and the Rams took over.
The first-team offense had its moments, as it took quarterback Marc Bulger a little time to get on track. Bulger finished his day after three series in which he went seven-of-13 for 86 yards. Torry Holt had four catches for 48 yards to lead all receivers.
Houston took advantage of the Rams' changes to the second unit in the second quarter. The Texans scored a touchdown and a field goal against the Rams' second defensive unit to take a 10-3 lead into the locker room.
It didn't take long for the Texans to capitalize on the departure of the defensive starters, though, promptly marching 45 yards for a touchdown. Running back Vernand Morency burst in from 4 yards away to give the Texans the lead. Brown's extra point made it 7-3 Houston.
After the Rams' second offensive unit struggled through its first two series, the group found a rhythm at the end of the quarter.
Quarterback Gus Frerotte hit receiver Shaun McDonald for a 30-yard gain down the middle to the Houston 27.
Again, the drive stalled and the Rams were forced to settle for a 50-yard attempt by Hamilton. The Texans blocked that attempt, though, and the Rams were thwarted.
Houston took advantage of the field position from the blocked kick and drove into St. Louis territory for a last-second, 48-yard field goal try from Brown. Brown made the kick for the halftime margin.