ST. LOUIS — Ray Rice and Joe Flacco watched from home. Before the preseason finale, the Baltimore Ravens had one foot out the door.
“There’s no need for an assessment for where we’re at,” coach John Harbaugh said after a 24-21 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night with backups fighting for jobs on both sides. “It’s right around the corner, we’ve been on Denver now for a while.
“In reality, I’m sure they’ve done the same.”
Bobby Rainey, fourth on the Ravens’ depth chart at running back, scored his first two touchdowns of the preseason.
“I tried to take care of stuff,” said Rainey, who had 39 yards on 13 carries. “I’ve got no regrets.”
The Rams (1-3) avoided their first winless preseason since 2002 on Chase Reynolds’ lone reception of the game, a 17-yarder from Austin Davis with 2:40 to go. They clinched it when Drew Thomas intercepted third-stringer Caleb Hanie at the 4 in the final minute.
The Ravens (2-2) open the NFL season next Thursday night at Denver. Harbaugh typically sits all of his regulars for the final preseason game, and Hanie went the distance with second-stringer Tyrod Taylor held out.
“It was just practice, basically,” said Ravens wide receiver Marlon Brown, who scored on a 50-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. “We just practiced the plays that we know how to execute.”
The ultimate goal for both teams was to get out of the finale unscathed. The only significant injury was to Ravens backup linebacker D.J. Bryant, who left with what the team called a significant knee injury late in the first half.
“A lot of ligament damage but nothing he can’t come back from,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll need surgery. He’s a talented guy, he’s got a future.”
Neither side had much to say about cutdown day Saturday.
“It’s always hard,” Harbaugh said. “It’s always difficult choices. You have to do what’s best for the team.”
The Rams, who were 7-8-1 in coach Jeff Fisher’s first season, open at home against Arizona Sept. 8.
“I thought we had a really good training camp. I thought we did some really good things during the preseason when we were on the field,” quarterback Sam Bradford said. “Now, it’s full steam ahead and getting ready for Arizona next week.”
Attendance was announced at 53,364, although the 67,000-seat Edward Jones Dome appeared about one-third full for a sloppy show marred by six total turnovers. The Rams were whistled for 113 yards in penalties.
“We had a nice little candid discussion at halftime about that,” Fisher said. “The reality is most of the flags were directed at players who are not going to be on the field for us.”
Fisher opened with a handful of starters, including both first-round draft picks. Tavon Austin’s outing was damaged by one of the team’s three fumbles in the first five minutes, and linebacker Alec Ogletree had two tackles.
Rookie Zac Stacy scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter in a bid to secure the Rams’ backup running back job. St. Louis traded its last two picks in the draft to get Stacy, the career rushing leader at Vanderbilt who had 37 yards on 11 carries, and undrafted rookie Bennie Cunningham had 76 yards on eight carries in the second half.
Isaiah Pead is suspended for the opener and fumbled for the second time in the preseason on the opening kickoff. The Rams recovered that one, but quickly coughed up two more to the Ravens with Brian Quick and Austin both losing their grip after 14-yard catches.
Davis and Kellen Clemens both had strong games competing to be Sam Bradford’s backup.
Safety Matt Elam, the Ravens’ first-round pick, had a solid first half with a forced fumble and four tackles.
“I had a lot of fun out there,” Elam said. “I had the opportunity to play and I wanted to take advantage of that.”
St. Louis took its first lead on Nick Johnson’s 4-yard catch early in the fourth quarter, and the Ravens answered 2:21 later on Brown’s 50-yard catch and run for a 21-17 lead.
Rainey had opened the scoring with a 1-yard run in the first quarter and had an 8-yard run in the second.