Saturday, August 9, 2008

By Nick Wagoner

Senior Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Before Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Titans, Rams coach Scott Linehan made it clear what he wanted to see from his team.

Words like tempo, execution and technique marked Linehan’s pregame comments. For the most part, it was the Titans setting the tempo on their way to a 34-13 win Saturday evening.

For the better part of the first quarter, with the starters on the field, the Rams couldn’t do much of anything Linehan hoped to see. In fact, the first team offense failed to score a touchdown for the ninth consecutive preseason game and the run defense of old reared its ugly head.

The Titans set the tone early by getting that first unit to go three and out on an opening drive that netted 0 yards.

The next drive was actually worse as two plays and a penalty lost 4 yards. On third-and-14 from the 1, quarterback Marc Bulger threw over the middle for fullback Dan Kreider but Brian Leonard tipped the pass, Tennessee linebacker Keith Bulluck intercepted it and returned it 13 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

Tennessee never relinquished that lead in improving to 1-0 in the exhibition season. The Rams dropped to 0-1.

The defense, meanwhile, couldn’t stop the Titans on the ground all night. Tennessee pounded the Rams with a variety of runners on its way to 343 yards on 40 carries for an average of 8.6 per carry.

Tennessee gashed the Rams for long runs all night, including a 35-yard jaunt by Tennessee quarterback Vince Young, a 66-yard touchdown run from Chris Johnson and a 45-yarder from Quinton Ganther.

The Rams offense came alive a bit on its final possession of the evening. Bulger hit Drew Bennett for a gain of 16 yards and Leonard gained 11 four plays later. Josh Brown kicked his first field goal as a Ram from 44 yards out to give the first unit its points.

Bulger finished his evening three-of-nine for 29 yards with the interception for a quarterback rating of 3.7. The offensive line found little rhythm and the running game posted just 15 yards on six attempts.

With the first teams on the field, the Titans grabbed a 10-3 lead at beginning of the second quarter on a 48-yard field goal by kicker John Vaughn.

Things picked up in the second quarter for both teams as big plays started coming in bunches.

Like a burst of lightning, Tennessee jumped to a 17-3 lead as rookie speedster Chris Johnson took a handoff up the middle and sprinted virtually untouched to a 66-yard touchdown.

With backup Brock Berlin in the game, the Rams offense found a rhythm. Berlin completed eight of his first nine attempts for 115 yards including a beautiful 47-yard strike down the right sideline to Dane Looker. That play set up Antonio Pittman’s 2-yard touchdown run off left tackle to cut the deficit to 17-10 Tennessee.

Berlin was perhaps the brightest spot for the Rams as he takes on Bruce Gradkowski in a battle for the third quarterback spot on the roster. Berlin finished 11-of-14 for 139 yards with the touchdown before Gradkowski took over late in the second half.

The teams traded field goals to wrap up the first half, including a 48-yarder for Brown.

The long runs continued for the Titans in the third quarter as back Quinton Ganther took a handoff 45 yards for a score. Ganther added a 2-yard score in the fourth quarter for a 34-13 lead.

Ganther led the rushing charge with 115 yards on eight carries.

Regardless of running back, the Titans continued to pound away as Omar Cuff handled the load late in the fourth quarter. Cuff gained 33 yards on nine carries and the Titans had a chance to score but took a knee to keep the final margin at 34-13.

The Rams head back to Wisconsin for four days of camp before calling it and heading back to St. Louis. They host their first preseason home game on Saturday against the Chargers at the Edward Jones Dome.