By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Aug. 17 2008
The Rams tackled better, rushed the passer and did a much better job against
the run.

On offense, they nearly doubled San Diego's first-half yardage output — 193-98.

Even the coverage units on special teams were crisper. But by the end of the
half, once the starters were done for the evening, the Rams had nothing to show
for it. At least on offense.

Yes, the August gridiron nightmare continues. In 10 exhibition games under
coach Scott Linehan spanning 2˝ preseasons, the Rams still don't have a
touchdown from their first-team offense.

"Our goal was to improve and get a win," Linehan said after a 7-6 triumph at
home over San Diego. "And to be honest with you, we accomplished our goal. ...
So you can ask me anything you want and I'm happy man."

OK, well, what about the continuing trouble scoring by the first unit?

Linehan seemed so bound and determined to score a touchdown with his starters,
he went for it twice on fourth and goal early in the second quarter inside the
San Diego 10.

"It wasn't so much to break the preseason touchdown spell, or whatever it is,"
Linehan said. "It was more kind of a determination check. I was really proud of
offensive line. Our backs ran well."

Keep in mind, the Rams' two best offensive players — running back Steven
Jackson and wide receiver Torry Holt — weren't on the field. Jackson's still
holding out; Holt rested a tight back.

Even so, you'd think the Rams somehow would stumble into the end zone against a
San Diego defense that was resting half of its starters.

Things went from shaky to surreal to scary for quarterback Marc Bulger and the
Rams' offense.

After a three-for-nine passing performance last weekend in Tennessee, Bulger
wasn't much better Saturday night in the Rams' exhibition home opener, played
in a half-filled Edward Jones Dome.

He completed seven of 14 passes, with two interceptions, before a hard hit by
linebacker Jyles Tucker ended his evening late in the second quarter. There was
some early concern about a rotator cuff injury, because Bulger was hit as he
was trying to follow through in his throwing motion, but Bulger said after the
game that he's OK.

"It's fine," he said. "It was just a quick, scary thing. He got me when my arm
was coming forward, and I wanted to make sure my rotator cuff was still in
place. Just for a minute there it felt weird. I threw a little bit in the third
quarter (on the sidelines) and it felt fine."

The Rams picked up two quick first downs after the opening kickoff. But on
second and 7 from the San Diego 49, Bulger overthrew tight end Randy McMichael
on a deep route over the middle. The ball deflected off McMichael's hands as he
lunged for the ball ... and into the grasp of Chargers rookie cornerback
Antoine Cason.

Cason wasn't content with just an interception; he raced 53 yards with the
return to the Rams 30.

That set up a San Diego field goal. And on the next Rams offensive play, Bulger
threw another interception. This time, Chargers corner Cletis Gordon stepped in
front of wide receiver Drew Bennett on a sideline route for the interception.

The crowd responded with boos for Bulger.

Once again, San Diego took over in Rams territory, but once again the Rams
defense limited the visitors to a field goal by Nate Kaeding.

Perhaps wanting to settle down Bulger, offensive coordinator Al Saunders went
to the running game almost exclusively on the next drive. Making frequent use
of two-tight end sets, the Rams pounded away behind an offensive line that
included Nick Leckey starting at center in place of the injured Brett Romberg
(broken hand).

Antonio Pittman ripped off runs of 14 and 15 yards. Brian Leonard bounded
outside for a gain of 10, then later spun off would-be tacklers for a 9-yard
advance. Even a personal foul for a late hit by wide receiver Dane Looker — of
all people —couldn't slow the Rams.

Would this be the night the Rams would get into the end zone with their
starters in the preseason?

Linehan seemed determined to make it happen, going for it on fourth down twice
in the red zone. The first time it worked, the second time it didn't. On fourth
and goal from the 2, Bulger's quick pass to Leonard was stopped for no gain
with 10:39 to play in the half. Seventeen plays and 82 yards of offense over
nearly 10˝ minutes of clock time resulted in zero points.

The Rams didn't get on the scoreboard until Travis Minor's 3-yard touchdown run
and Brown's extra point gave them a 7-6 lead with 5:46 left in the third.