‘Upgraded’ Ram Defense Doesn’t Make the Grade Just Yet
So much for Sean Gilbert’s Earthquake dance, the promising pass rush and the fresh, healthy legs in the secondary that were supposed to carry the Rams’ defense this season.
No, Saturday night it was the same old Rams, failing to produce a sack or interception and getting burned twice for touchdown passes by quarterback Drew Bledsoe in a 28-10 exhibition loss to the New England Patriots at Anaheim Stadium.
“I thought our first-string defense did very well,” Ram Coach Chuck Knox said.
Playing only the first half, the first-string defense gave up a respectable 135 yards of total offense but couldn’t keep Bledsoe, the Patriots’ second-year quarterback, under control late in the second quarter.
“Hey, we played great for 22 minutes,” free safety Anthony Newman said.
In the final 4 minutes 13 seconds, Bledsoe twice picked on the Rams’ top cornerback, Todd Lyght, who was beaten by receivers Michael Timpson and Vincent Brisby.
For those of you scoring at home, that brings the total of touchdown receptions scored on Lyght this season to three in two exhibition games.
After the game, Lyght left the Rams’ locker room without comment, but Newman played his typical role of coming to the defense of the defense.
“We need to play four quarters,” Newman said. “We’re not too concerned about what happened today. That was the first time anybody has thrown deep on us.
“I think we’ll overcome those things as the season goes on. I think we had a good showing. Guys were flying around out there, making plays.”
After tailback David Lang’s fumble gave the Patriots the ball at the Rams’ 37-yard line in the second quarter, Timpson burned Lyght over the middle in the end zone, and Bledsoe threw a perfect pass to him for the Patriots’ first touchdown.
Two and a half minutes later, Bledsoe began a drive at the Ram 47-yard line. He completed three of four passes for 38 yards in a six-play drive that ended in a four-yard touchdown pass to Brisby.
Matt Bahr’s extra-point kick made it 14-7 with 1:04 left in the half, and the first-string defense retired for the night. Bledsoe mopped up on the Ram scrubs for a while in the third quarter, finishing with nine-of-16 passing for 139 yards and the two touchdowns.
“Part of the reason we started so poorly was the play of Bledsoe,” New England Coach Bill Parcells said. “Any of you think he plays like a veteran quarterback, think again. He’s not a veteran yet.”
For a while, the Rams made him look like one. The Rams thought they had upgraded their depth in the secondary and had added a key to the pass rush by signing free-agent tackle Jimmie Jones of Dallas in the off-season.
But Gilbert, a Pro Bowl selection last season, and Jones have yet to produce a sack, and Saturday night, the only big hits were by rookie Toby Wright on special teams.
“The picks and the sacks will come,” Newman said. “I thought our front seven did a great job. They were putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback. They were getting in his face, but they weren’t getting the sacks because he was throwing the ball into the ground.”