National Football League

Quick Takeaways from the Rams’ Preseason-Opening Loss

Even a green quarterback like Brandon Weeden understood that once rookies Alec Ogletree and T.J. McDonald were deemed vulnerable, he should attack them. Ogletree missed a tackle on the very first play of the game, a pass in the flat to Dion Lewis, and didn’t generate a ton of positives. On a 3rd and 5 from the Cleveland 32, Lewis undressed McDonald on a running play up the middle, and Lewis came up with a first down.

Both rookies made plays on Cleveland’s touchdown drive that closed out the first quarter, with Ogletree delivering some big-time blows and McDonald showing some reliable tackling, leading the team with four. However, Ogletree was beaten badly on the long pass that set up first Browns touchdown, and simply couldn’t cover Lewis on the first play of the second quarter, a two-yard touchdown pass that was a great call and play by Cleveland.

It should be noted that if this were a regular-season game, the Rams would have been blitzing Weeden and pressing the Browns receivers, and presumably would have had more success. But Brandon Weeden going 10-of-13 for 112 yards and a touchdown without facing any pressure at all isn’t going to cut it. I’ll be interested to see if the Rams try to apply a little more pressure to Aaron Rodgers when the Packers come to town.

The offense moved reasonably efficiently, even though Jared Cook wasn’t targeted and Sam Bradford threw in Tavon Austin’s direction only once. Bradford was 3-of-4 for 40 yards on the first Rams drive, before Isaiah Pead fumbled a first-down carry at the Browns’ 28. Then, after a three-and-out, Bradford hit Chris Givens twice for 62 yards – the second completion a three-yard touchdown – to get them their first TD. Overall, the No. 1 offense moved the ball well and got it into the end zone once in three drives.

Daryl Richardson looks good, having gained 24 yards on four carries and getting 20 more on two catches. His explosiveness can make a big difference. Pead appeared indecisive, although he did average six yards on his three carries. He must improve his ball security from here on out.

The punt coverage allowed a 90-yard return by Travis Benjamin. The issues on that play are a great learning experience from a first preseason game. Clearly, there are issues. Greg Zuerlein looked to be in midseason form, with 54- and 55-yard field goals without a miss. Johnny Hekker averaged 55.7 yards for his three punts, although one was returned 90 yards, resulting in a net average of just 19 per punt.

The problems on special teams were the same ones as last year. Pead was indecisive coming out of the end zone, taking a knee so that the Rams could start at their own 20. On his other returns, he brought it back to the 14-yard line and the 17-yard line. On Benny Cunningham’s only return, he brought it back 36 yards to the 30-yard line. Cunningham has looked good in camp, and that continued in game action.

Other youngsters who stepped up included big receiver Raymond Radway, who had a beautiful catch and run for a 53-yard touchdown. He also had a big drop in the closing moments on a perfectly thrown ball from Kellen Clemens.

Safety Rashard Hall, who had a nice scrimmage on Saturday, dropped an interception that turned out to be key. Instead of the Rams getting the ball close to their own 20, Cleveland punted and downed the ball at the one.

St. Louisan Robert Steeples made some plays at cornerback and had three tackles. He looks like he has a chance to contribute as a fourth or fifth corner.

The Rams’ quarterbacks were 20-of-37 for 314 yards and two touchdowns, and one real interception. A second pick occurred on a Clemens Hail Mary on the last play of the game.

Zac Stacy showed some nice quicks, and would have had a huge gain had he not stepped out of bounds after a reception in the third quarter.

Browns quarterbacks were 26-of-34 – way too good of a percentage – for 249 yards and two TDs. Add that to Cleveland’s 56-percent success rate on third down, and you can see why the Browns won the possession battle, 33:48 to 26:12.

Jeff Fisher and his staff will watch the tape, and have plenty to correct in the seven practices before their next game. While there were some really good things from this game, the Rams obviously have a lot to work on.