Rams' first-team offense gets off to a slow start / Looker
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Aug. 10 2008
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Unfortunately for the Rams, we've seen this kind of
exhibition game before under coach Scott Linehan.
Despite the arrival of new offensive coordinator Al Saunders, the Rams'
starting offensive unit went without a touchdown for the ninth straight
preseason game since Linehan replaced Mike Martz after the 2005 season.
With Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson still AWOL in a contract holdout, and
with wide receiver Torry Holt seeing only limited duty, the first-team offense
managed only a 44-yard field goal by Josh Brown in three possessions in
Saturday's preseason opener against Tennessee at LP Field.
The Titans won 34-13.
Marc Bulger completed three of nine passes for 29 yards and an interception,
finishing with a passer rating of 3.7. Running backs Brian Leonard and Antonio
Pittman — Jackson's replacements — combined for a modest 33 yards on 11 carries
in the first half. Pittman did score a touchdown late in the second quarter
with Brock Berlin in at quarterback and mostly second-teamers on the field.
The Rams' first two offensive series were disasters.
Off the opening kickoff, two Leonard runs netted zero yards and Bulger
overthrew Holt on third down.
If you think that was bad, the Rams' second offensive possession produced seven
points — for the Titans. Following a fourth-down stop by the St. Louis defense,
the Rams took over on their 5.
On first down, defensive end Jevon Kearse — back with the Titans after four
seasons in Philadelphia — tipped a Bulger pass intended for Dan Kreider.
Kreider, the former Steeler, started at fullback and played extensively with
the starters in the first half.
On second down, Tennessee rookie defensive tackle Jason Jones beat Rams guard
Richie Incognito into the backfield, dumping Leonard for a three-yard loss.
After a delay of game penalty against St. Louis, Bulger's third-down pass over
the middle bounced off Leonard and was intercepted by linebacker Keith Bulluck.
Bulluck returned the "pick" 13 yards for a Tennessee touchdown with 7 minutes,
41 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
So six plays and two series into the game, the St. Louis offense had minus 3
yards and "minus 7" points.
Bulger came out for a third series, completing passes of 16 and six yards to
Drew Bennett, and seven yards to Dane Looker. Leonard also managed an 11-yard
run, his longest of the evening, behind a lead block by Kreider. After the
drive stalled at the Tennessee 26, Brown kicked his first field goal in a Rams
Left tackle Orlando Pace, in his first action since suffering a shoulder injury
in the 2007 regular-season opener against Carolina, played the first three
series before giving way to Adam Goldberg. Matched up against Tennessee Pro
Bowler Kyle Vanden Bosch, Pace looked rusty in pass protection.
Trent Green followed Bulger and played one series, completing one of three
passes and getting sacked once, before giving way to Berlin.
Tennessee tacked on two field goals and added a 66-yard touchdown run by Chris
Johnson. The Rams managed the Pittman TD and a second Brown field goal to trail
20-13 at the half.
The Titans had 157 yards rushing at halftime and added to that total on Quinton
Gather's 45-yard TD run in the third quarter.
Strong showing for Looker
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — If it's August, it must be time for Dane Looker's annual struggle to make the Rams' 53-man roster. This year's task became tougher when the Rams selected two wide receivers in the first four rounds of the draft — Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton.
But Looker, 32, staked his claim for continued employment with a strong first half Saturday night in the Rams' exhibition opener against Tennessee. Looker had four catches for 73 yards in the opening half, including a 47-yard reception from quarterback Brock Berlin that set up the only first-half touchdown for St. Louis.
On first and 10 from the Rams' 49, Looker snookered Tennessee cornerback Reynaldo Hill with a pump-and-go fake. Titans safety Calvin Lowry finally brought down Looker at the Tennessee 4, but a horse-collar penalty against Lowry advanced the ball half the distance to the goal to the 2.
On the next play, Antonio Pittman scored on a two-yard touchdown run with 3 minutes, 30 seconds to go in the first half.
Rookie cornerback Justin King, a fourth-round draft pick from Penn State, suffered a hyperextended toe in the second quarter and did not return.
Offensive tackle Brandon Gorin suffered a shoulder injury while giving up a sack late in the second quarter and did not return.
SITTING IT OUT
Half of the Rams' starting secondary missed Saturday's contest because of injuries suffered early in training camp. Free safety Oshiomogho "O.J." Atogwe remains sidelined with a hamstring pull and cornerback Fakhir Brown is out with a slight tear of the rotator cuff.
Todd Johnson started in place of Atogwe, and Ron Bartell in place of Brown.
Also out with injuries Saturday were: defensive end Victor Adeyanju (fractured finger), Avery (fractured pelvic bone), tight end Anthony Becht (hamstring) and offensive tackle Julius Wilson (calf).
In addition, linebacker Will Witherspoon dressed but did not play because of a tender shoulder. Tim McGarigle started in Witherspoon's place at middle linebacker.
Among the pregame scratches for Tennessee was tight end Dwayne Blakley, a Mizzou alum (groin).
In three previous trips to Nashville to play the Titans, the Rams went home losers. In 1999, the Rams suffered their first loss of the regular season 24-21, only to gain revenge three months later with a 23-16 victory over Tennessee in Super Bowl XXXIV.
The two other Rams-Titans meetings in Nashville were preseason affairs: a 30-3 loss in 2000 and a 28-26 setback in 2002. The most noteworthy thing about the 2000 meeting was that wide receiver Isaac Bruce — who scored the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XXXIV less than seven months earlier — signed a seven-year, $42.5 million contract extension earlier in the day.
The Rams have not announced their season captains, but quarterback Marc Bulger, strong safety Corey Chavous, defensive tackle La'Roi Glover and wide receiver Torry Holt went out for the pregame coin toss.
Punter Donnie Jones — and not Looker — did the holding on Josh Brown's 44-yard field goal in the first quarter. After Brown kicked a pair of first-half field goals, Justin Medlock took over the place-kicking duties in the second half.
The Titans are wearing patches on their jerseys to commemorate their 10th season as the Tennessee Titans.