A primer on Rams’ preseason loss to Packers

ST. LOUIS — Here are some takeaways from the Rams’ 19-7 loss to Green Bay on Saturday night:

Whiffs in the secondary

Rams coach Jeff Fisher has stressed his team will keep things vanilla-flavored on both defense and offense during the preseason. But it’s doubtful his desire to hide certain schemes includes a wish to shy away from basic fundamentals like proper tackling. The Rams’ starting defense — specifically the secondary — showed some rustiness wrapping up during its three series on the field.

Two players most likely to hear about their form in film review are cornerback Trumaine Johnson and safety Darian Stewart. Both came up empty-handed more than once on stops that should have been made. None was worse than the spin move Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy used to leave Johnson hugging air.

Whiffs aside, credit the Rams’ defense for shoring things up in the red zone. Green Bay’s first-team offense never reached the end zone and twice had to settle for field goals.

“I’m disappointed in our tackling,” Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis said at halftime. “We didn’t play our best on defense. But I’m proud that, I guess looking back, we held a dang good quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) to six points. I think that’s a positive, but we definitely have to get better at tackling because we have some plays that should be 4-yard gains end up 11, 12 yards — stuff like that. Hopefully, we will learn from that and we have a couple more games to get that down.”

Problems punching it in

While the Rams’ starting defense stepped up in the red zone, the offense did the opposite on its second series. After Sam Bradford and Chris Givens connected in a big way (more on that below), the unit had as good of a chance as any to put six on the board. But a first-and-goal from the Green Bay 4-yard line ended with the Rams leaving the field empty-handed. An Isaiah Pead rush got stuffed for a loss of two yards, followed by back-to-back passes to Tavon Austin. The first sailed over the rookie’s head. The second was complete, but for just one yard. The Rams then turned back to Pead, who rushed for one yard before Green Bay linebacker A.J. Hawk sent him to the turf. The Rams went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, but the play never got a chance. Bradford fumbled the snap and the Packers recovered.

“Obviously, I’d like to have the throw to Tavon down on the goal line back,” Bradford said at halftime. “But I thought we executed pretty well. We moved the ball; we’ve just got to find a way to put some points on the board.”

Givens, again

Givens was a highlight of the Rams’ preseason opener and showed the same reason for excitement Saturday. After hauling in a 59-yard reception from Bradford in a loss to the Cleveland Browns, he thrilled hometown fans when he and Bradford connected on a 57-yard catch and run Saturday. Givens is now averaging 34.8 yards per catch this preseason.

Plenty of Pead

Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said Pead would get a chance to impress against the Packers.

He wasn’t kidding.

Pead, who fumbled one of his few attempts against the Browns, got the ball nine times on the ground he totaled 14 yards on those carries and also caught a pass. After taking his first handoff for 11 yards, he slowed. His best plays didn’t show on the stat sheet. Multiple times, Pead picked up blitzes to protect Bradford. He stuffed a linebacker that allowed Bradford to find Givens for the big pass play mentioned above.

Cook flashes

After a quiet preseason opener, Rams tight end Jared Cook showed why his team and its fans have been buzzing about him since he arrived from Tennessee. Cook made the most of the one pass Bradford threw his way. He caught it over the middle and rumbled up the sideline for a 37-yard gain.

“It was good to get a catch in,” Cook said at halftime. “I wish we had a little more time to prove what the offense could do, but I understand it’s a stepping stone and we’re still building.”

Austin also got on the board, making his first professional catch. Bradford targeted Austin heavily (seven times) after not finding him in the preseason opener. Austin finished with four catches for 28 yards, including a 15-yard catch and run that sent a ripple of excitement through the Edward Jones Dome.

Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or contact him at frederickson.ben@gmail.com.