In the last two seasons, Rams quarterback Jared Goff has started 31 regular-season and four postseason games, avoiding or playing through injuries while taking nearly every snap.
A backup was necessary as a practical matter. But that roster spot was seldom needed on game days.
That would be the best-case scenario again this season as the Rams try to return to the Super Bowl.
But in a limited appearance Saturday, veteran Blake Bortles looked like a capable fill-in should injury befall Goff.
With Goff and every starter on offense held out to avoid injuries, Bortles played the first two series in the Rams’ 14-3 defeat to the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Bortles, who signed a one-year contract with the Rams after playing five seasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars, looked comfortable in the offense while operating behind a line that featured rookies David Edwards and Bobby Evans starting at the tackle spots.
Bortles completed only three of eight passes for 50 yards, but he was on target: Tight end Johnny Mundt and receiver JoJo Natson dropped passes, and a defender knocked one out of receiver KhaDarel Hodge’s hands.
Bortles, who helped the Jaguars to the 2017 AFC championship game, shook off the miscues and enjoyed his first time running the Rams offense in a game.
“I feel like I picked up lot so far,” he said. “Obviously, still got a lot to go, a lot to learn, just kind of the intricacies of it, but it’s been good so far.”
Bortles completed a pass on a rollout and also scrambled for a first down. His best play came in a third-and-eight situation, when he stepped up and fired a 12-yard pass to receiver Mike Thomas for a first down.
McVay, who let passing-game coordinator Shane Waldron call plays Saturday, said he was confident in Bortles’ ability to step in for Goff.
“He’s a proven guy in this league — he’s shown that he can be a big-time quarterback, and I think he’s really picked things up nicely,” McVay said. “He’s kind of unfazed by anything that doesn’t always go our way.
“He just keeps that even-keeled demeanor, very similar to what we love so much about Jared.”
While the game enabled Bortles to acclimate to a new system, it also served as a return to action for cornerback Kevin Peterson.
In the 2017 regular-season finale against the San Francisco 49ers, Peterson intercepted two Jimmy Garoppolo passes.
But the undrafted free agent from Oklahoma State suffered a knee injury during the 2018 preseason opener against the Baltimore Ravens and was sidelined all season.
On Saturday, Peterson intercepted a second-quarter pass by Mike Glennon. Steven Parker also intercepted a pass.
McVay and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer decided that center Brian Allen and guard Joe Noteboom, second-year players who are projected as starters, got plenty of good work in joint practices with the Chargers and Raiders. Allen and Noteboom did not play Saturday.
But nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day and linebacker Micah Kiser, second-year players on track to start the Sept. 8 opener against the Carolina Panthers, played against the Raiders. Joseph-Day had one tackle, Kiser four.
The game also served as the first NFL exhibition experience for Rams rookies.
Edwards started at left tackle, Evans on the right. But they switched sides during the first half and also played guard as Kromer shuffled young players to various spots.
Running back Darrell Henderson came into the game during the first quarter in relief of starter John Kelly. Henderson rushed for 13 yards in six carries and caught one pass for minus-five yards.
Safety Taylor Rapp started and made several good plays, including a pass breakup on third down that forced a punt.
The Rams do not tackle during practices, so Saturday night’s game offered Rapp his first chance to do so since his final college game at Washington.
“I haven’t tackled someone since like last December,” he said, “so I was a little nervous about the first tackle, but it was fun to get out there and go full-go.”
The Raiders scored first after Glennon’s 38-yard pass to receiver J.J. Nelson set up DeAndre Washington’s seven-yard touchdown run.
The Rams failed to capitalize on Peterson’s interception, but Parker’s 39-yard interception return later in the second quarter helped set up Greg Zuerlein’s 36-yard field goal, pulling the Rams to within 7-3 at halftime.
Raiders quarterback Nathan Peterman scrambled 50 yards on a third-quarter play before tossing a three-yard touchdown pass to receiver Keelan Doss en route to a 14-3 lead.
The Rams were at the center of controversy last season after officials failed to call a pass interference penalty against Nickell Robey-Coleman in the NFC championship game against the New Orleans Saints. The noncall led to a rule change that allows coaches to challenge the call when officials rule that no interference occurred. McVay challenged a third-quarter ruling of no pass interference, but the ruling was upheld. ... Brandon Allen completed six of 12 passes for 34 yards, John Wolford six of eight for 54 yards. ... Kelly rushed for 10 yards in three carries. ... Hodge caught three passes for 48 yards. ... Johnny Hekker punted five times and averaged 47.8 yards per kick. ... Defensive back Darious Williams and linebacker Trevon Young each recorded six tackles.