Word from the locker room: The Rams said they were encouraged with Saturday night’s performance against the Cleveland Browns.
Upon initial review, that would be like someone saying the water wasn’t as cold as they expected when leaping from the Titanic.
The Rams exercised their first offensive unit for three quarters of play against the Browns, but lost, 21-10, and fell to 0-3 in exhibition play.
Encouraging or discouraging? The Rams’ No. 1 offensive unit, which has been guided by quarterback Jim Everett, has had 17 possessions in the first three games and has produced one touchdown and two field goals.
“The thing that was different about tonight than the first two games was we must have had about 350 yards of offense,” Ram Coach Chuck Knox said. “We moved the football offensively. We had a good mix, we got some things done and we’re missing (some players). . . .
“There were some encouraging things. We had a good week’s work here and I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
The search for the end zone, however, continues. The Rams outgained the Browns, 347-250, in total offensive yardage, but were left wandering short of the end zone until Mike Pagel threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Lynn James in the fourth quarter.
“We played a lot better,” Pagel said. “The first two games we didn’t play very well at all as an offense, but this week we moved the ball. It was a good experience for us.”
The Rams, however, turned the ball over three times. They were successful on third down only four times in 14 attempts. Everett has yet to throw a touchdown pass.
Starting guard Tom Newberry left the game because of a back injury, starting guard Leo Goeas was helped off with a neck injury, starting tackle Jackie Slater will have his sore foot X-rayed today and rookie defensive lineman Maa Tanuvasa was on crutches after spraining his knee.
Wide receiver Henry Ellard didn’t play because of an ankle sprain, and the Rams remain desperate for an additional wide receiver with speed and experience. Russell White gained 61 yards in 18 carries, but the running back corps has been sacked hard by injuries.
Encouraging or discouraging?
“We moved the ball, which is encouraging,” said Ernie Zampese, Ram offensive coordinator. “But we didn’t make plays when we had to; that’s it in a nutshell. You have to make a play.”
The Rams controlled the ball for more than seven minutes on a 16-play opening drive, but then couldn’t find the right play to get the ball in the end zone.
Tony Zendejas, called on to save the moment with a 34-yard field-goal attempt, hit the left upright.
The Ram defense, which has proven stubborn in the early going so far, gave the offense another opportunity to score in the second quarter. Linebacker Shane Conlan forced running back Eric Metcalf to fumble and defensive tackle Sean Gilbert recovered at the Browns’ 29-yard line.
The Rams’ offense advanced to the five, retreated a yard after Tim Lester was tackled for a loss and then turned to Everett. On second and goal from the six, wide receiver Todd Kinchen turned left, Everett threw right and the ball fell incomplete. On the return walk to the huddle, it appeared Everett had some words for Kinchen, who was making his exhibition-season debut after recovering from knee surgery.
“What I say with Todd and I is going to stay with Todd and I,” Everett said. “We just have to get on the same page because that was going to be a touchdown.”
On third and goal, Everett failed to find a receiver and took off running before being stopped for no gain. A holding call on Goeas was declined, and Zendejas kicked a 23-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
The Rams were on the prowl for more points with less than two minutes to play in the half when former UCLA defensive back Eric Turner recovered wide receiver Sean LaChapelle’s fumble at the Rams’ 27-yard line.
“I take full responsibility,” LaChapelle said. “I thought I was down, but I wasn’t down, I guess.”
After the Browns took possession, quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who had relieved starter Bernie Kosar, hit wide receiver Michael Jackson for 15 yards, running back Tommy Vardell for 11 yards and defensive tackle--yes, that’s defensive tackle--James Jones for a one-yard touchdown.