Going back over the past several years or so, the St. Louis Blues and the St. Louis Rams had a couple of things in common. A) they both play in St. Louis, and B) up until not that long ago, nobody anywhere cared what they did, or who they played, if they won, or even when they played.
Until recently however, the St. Louis Blues have been showing signs of turning their car-wreck of a franchise around and have qualified for the NHL playoffs in the past 2 seasons. They had 3 1st round draft picks in the Draft of 2007; and the Rams, up until not that long ago, I thought they still played in Los Angeles, are showing signs of becoming a somewhat respectable football team.
The Rams are coming off a season last year where they won 7 games and actually tied one (with San Francisco in Week 10).
An NFL pre-season game last night (Saturday) at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver (2-1) went a long way to prove that the Rams could actually be a threat this season.
Albeit last night’s matchup was only pre-season, St. Louis (0-3) nearly knocked off one of the best NFL quarterbacks of the past 10 years in Peyton Manning.
Manning of course won the game, but he nearly lost it. The Rams, particularly their rookies, stepped up and nearly won the game when Head Coach Jeff Fisher opted for a 2-point conversion and the ruling on the field was overturned after the receiver did not have full control of the football. Thus Denver held on by the skin of its teeth to win, 27-26.
But it was the new faces of the Rams that nearly got them a surprise victory over the Super Bowl favourites.
The Rams’ first three picks from the 2013 NFL Draft stole the show in Saturday’s 27-26 loss to the Denver Broncos. WR Tavon Austin (West Virginia) set the tone early flashing his speed returning a punt to the Denver 2 yard line, LB Alec Ogletree (Georgia) displayed his ability to take the ball away, and S T.J. McDonald (USC) made plays on defense and special teams. Also drafted by the Rams were: Stedman Bailey (West Virginia), Barrett Jones (Alabama), Brandon McGee (Miami-Florida), and Zachary Stacy (Vanderbilt).
The veterans also looked sharp too. Manning was in game shape obviously, but Rams QB Sam Bradford wasted absolutely no time, connecting with TE Jared Cook for a three-yard touchdown on the offense’s opening one-play drive. Cook displayed the match-up problems he poses to defenders, and he continues to show the skills that scare safeties when Denver LB Danny Trevathan’s attempts to grab and hold Cook were not enough to stop him from bringing in the reception. Cook finished with four catches for 50 yards, while Bradford threw for 160 yards on 9-of-16 passing for the night.
Bradford’s continued success with Cook wasn’t the only positive glimpse that came out of Saturday. After leaving early in the first preseason game and returning to practice this week, RT Rodger Saffold started and suffered no setbacks throughout the first half. Also on the line, Chris Williams made his second start of the preseason at left guard.
While the Rams improved in the giveaway/takeaway column by creating four turnovers, they did not improve in terms of cutting down on penalties. The team finished with 10 penalties for a total of 69 yards.
As part of a strong defensive effort throughout the first half, the Rams recorded their first takeaway of the preseason when Ogletree ripped the ball out of RB Ronnie Hillman’s hands, recovered the fumble, then returned it 13 yards for his first NFL touchdown.
As far as special teams made out for the Rams, The Rams’ third-round pick, McDonald (rookie Safety out of USC) took Denver points off the scoreboard when he blocked a 34-yard Matt Prater field goal in the second quarter. McDonald also came up with some key tackles downfield in the first half.
Ogletree and McDonald were part of a complete defensive performance that held Manning to only one touchdown despite three trips into the red zone.
Some other defensive rookies also made with big plays when LB Ray-Ray Armstrong (LB out of Miami-Florida) sacked QB Brock Osweiler for a 10-yard loss and CB Darren Woodard (CB out of Texas-El Paso) picked off an Osweiler pass for a 23-yard return.
In terms of the Rams quarterbacks, Bradford saw action through the first half. He completed 9-of-16 passes for 110 yards for a passer rating of 98.4. His projected backup, Austin Davis (Southern Mississippi) completed 5-9 for 40 yards. Kellen Clemens delivered a 1-yard touchdown reception to TE Zach Potter . Tim Jenkins saw his first NFL action and completed his only throw for a 7-yard gain.
The Rams will look to continue their improvement when they close out the preseason back home, in the Edward Jones Dome, against the Baltimore Ravens on Aug. 29. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Rams have won three National Football League championships (two pre-merger and one Super Bowl), and are the only NFL franchise to win championships in three different cities (Cleveland, Los Angeles, and St. Louis). Their last Super Bowl victory came in 2000 when they beat the Tennessee Titans, 23-16 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Kurt Warner was the Rams QB and won the MVP.
Just for the record, the Rams moved to their current location in 1995.
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