The Rams kicked off their 2014 season with their first pre-season game against the New Orleans in the Edward Jones Dome on Friday night.
Both teams were without their starting QB’s. Rams QB Sam Bradford is still recovering from his ACL injury he suffered last year, although he has participated in training camp, performing fluently. Saints QB Drew Brees also missed the game due to an oblique strain he recently suffered in training camp.
Veteran QB Shaun Hill, who has been in the NFL since 2002, and is considered by many to be one of the best backups in the NFL, got the start against New Orleans. He finished 5 of 7 throwing for 84 yards and two touchdowns
In the first quarter, the Rams defense came out strong, with Chris Long picking off a Luke McCown pass early on, giving the Rams the ball. Hill then proceeded to drive the Rams down the field, capped off by a 16-yard TD pass to Cory Harkey, finishing off a six-play, 40 yard drive.
The Saints were able to muster a field goal to make it 7-3 going into the second quarter.
In the second quarter, the Saints were able to take the lead, thanks to the quarterback play of Ryan Griffin, and the Rams’ defensive struggles. Missed tackles, poor run defense (the Saints gained over 200 total yards on the ground) hurt the Rams, and wore down the young but vulnerable secondary as Mark Ingram ran all over St. Louis, as did Khiry Robinson. After scoring a touchdown making it 9-7, however, Shayne Graham missed the extra point, keeping the game a two-point difference.
Hill continued to take the reigns at QB for the Rams, and after another strong drive, launched a pass to Stedman Bailey to give the Rams the 14-9 lead. But New Orleans would respond again. Ingram rushed for a touchdown to make it 16-14.
At the end of the half, Greg Zuerlein booted a 45-yard field goal to give St. Louis the 17-16 lead.
The second half consisted of the Saints constantly getting the upper hand, eventually turning the game into a 26-17 lead in their favor. They played rough and tough against third-stringer Garrett Gilbert, putting a lot of pressure on the rookie quarterback.
In the fourth quarter, down 26-17, fourth string QB Austin Davis, who has been cut by the Rams in the pass, took the reigns. Early on, however, most of his plays involved giving the ball to Tre Mason. With 3rd down & 10 at the Saints’ 15, Davis threw a pass into the end zone caught by Austin Franklin to pull the game within two.
Davis later in the end of the game mounted a two minute drill driving the ball all the way to the Saints 31 yard line for Greg “The Leg” to make the game-winning field goal, which looked to be a 49-yard field goal. However, the referee called intentional grounding on the Rams, which not only pushed them 10 yards back, but also caused 10 seconds to run off the clock.
Zuerlein would miss the long field goal, and the Rams lost the game 26-24.
The game wasn’t a total disappointment. For starters, the Rams out-gained the Saints in total offense. Also, losing a preseason game doesn’t mean much in the big picture (they Rams have gone 4-0 in the preseason yet still struggled in the regular season). Hill performed very well, proving to be a competent backup to Bradford, and even a starter, which he has proven over the years. But the offense is still going to be led by Bradford.
The 2014 season (or preseason for that matter) has just begun, so there’s no need to panic, Rams fans.
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)