BY JIM THOMAS
Monday, August 22, 2011 12:30 am


The Rams didn't handle Tennessee's aggressive blitzing very well Saturday. As is usually the case, it wasn't just one thing but a combination of factors that led to pass-blocking breakdowns against the Titans.

"It was a number of different things all the way from the line, to the backs, to the quarterbacks," coach Steve Spagnuolo said after reviewing film of the Rams' 17-16 victory.

Preseason or not, Tennessee has always brought the heat when playing the Rams, dating back to the rivalry that grew out of the Super Bowl XXXIV meeting won by St. Louis 23-16 a dozen seasons ago. Former Rams coach Mike Martz once complained about all the Tennessee blitzing following a preseason meeting. Former Titans coach Jeff Fisher countered by saying he wouldn't blitz so often if Martz didn't throw the ball on every down.

Following Saturday's game, Spagnuolo had no complaints about the number or the design of the Tennessee blitzes. His only gripe was that the Rams didn't block them better.

"I didn't think it was anything extraordinary," Spagnuolo said, referring to the Titans' blitz package. "By that, I mean they stayed pretty basic. We actually ran the same blitz path on defense (against the Titans)."

But the Rams weren't nearly as effective with their blitzes.

"They ran it better than we did," Spagnuolo said. "But I don't think it was anything that we couldn't handle. They did dial it up quite a bit, and maybe that was their emphasis and they wanted to be aggressive. Kudos to them, because for the most part it worked."

Playing the entire first half, quarterback Sam Bradford was sacked twice and hit hard on several other occasions. He was slow to get up when hit low by Titans defensive end William Hayes on the Rams' final offensive play of the first half, an incomplete pass intended for Danny Amendola.

"Nothing we saw out there was anything new," Bradford said. "We had seen all those blitzes in practice. We could've picked those up. It was just a matter of making the right steps in communication to make sure we're 'picked up' in those blitzes.

"But it's good to see those in live action. Sometimes you see those blitzes in practice and they're a little slower. We know what we need to work on. Obviously, we've got to be better in that area of the game."

A lot better, because Spagnuolo said the Rams will see much more complex blitz schemes from opposing defenses once they get into the regular season. Better communication, recognition and reaction are necessary at all levels of the offense to combat the blitz.

"When the ball's snapped, it doesn't always come out the way they lined up," Spagnuolo said. "They may change something on the run and guys have to react to that, so communication, a little bit of identification, and some reaction to things that happened in front of you (are needed).

"Again, I'm going to go back to I don't think what they did was real extravagant, for lack of a better word. Most of those blitz patterns are the same things that we run on defense and have run in practice. So I don't know if they caught our guys off guard."

The Titans did a lot of late movement just before the ball was snapped, which at times seemed to catch the Rams off-balance and cause some confusion.

"They threw a lot of stunts at us," left tackle Rodger Saffold said. "When things were basic in base (offense), we held up pretty well. We just have to constantly work on switching things; a lot of movement before the ball's being snapped; a lot of re-identification. Things like that.

"That's something that we've got to continue to feel more comfortable with. And I think we're going to do a lot better with that as the season goes on. I'm glad that we actually had a chance to look at it (in the preseason)."

One way to combat the late movement is to have the quarterback alter his cadence or the snap count, something that Spagnuolo thought Tennessee QB Matt Hasselbeck did very effectively Saturday.

Veteran Hank Fraley started in place of the injured Jacob Bell (knee) at left guard and had some problems Saturday. Adam Goldberg replaced Saffold, who has had back issues, early in the second quarter and had some rough moments himself. Late in the first half, the Rams inserted Renardo Foster at left tackle and Quinn Ojinnaka at left guard with the starting unit.

So as the Rams approach their roster cutdowns, it's clear that they are still considering several options for backups on the offensive line. Although listed as a tackle, Ojinnaka also saw action at center against the Titans.

"He did it a little bit during the (practice) week," Spagnulo said. "He hasn't had a lot of experience there before. He actually played all three inside positions (Saturday) night. He played left guard, center and right guard. To have him go over to left guard without having a lot of reps, and center without having a lot of reps, was a lot to ask for. But I thought he did a commendable job."