No doubt, facing the Baltimore Ravens’ second-string defense made it easier for the No. 1 pick.
Bradford made another favorable impression in his second preseason start, going 6 for 6 for 68 yards and a touchdown to open the St. Louis Rams’ 27-21 victory over Baltimore on Thursday night. A.J. Feeley’s thumb injury gave Bradford his starting shot last week, and the rookie may have done enough to get the nod in the opener Sept. 12 against the Cardinals.
”It’s not up to me, it’s up to our coaches,” Bradford said. ”I trust what they believe. If they think I’m the guy, I am. If not, that means I’ve got to work that much harder and get that much better before I am.”
Coach Steve Spagnuolo refused to tip his hand, saying he and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur would meet to discuss the lineup.
”You’re talking about all the positions?” he joked. ”I get you.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh did not hold back, saying, ”He’s going to be a star, there isn’t any question about it.”
The Ravens (3-1) held out all of their starters, plus backup quarterback Marc Bulger in his return to St. Louis after getting released by the Rams in April, denying fans a shot to either cheer or boo a player who was the starter from 2003-09.
”I got to see a lot of people I haven’t seen in six months,” Bulger said. ”They made the decision on Wednesday and I was on board with it.”
The production suffered, especially in the first quarter when they were outgained 157-19 with one first down and gave up two touchdowns. The first three preseason games, the Ravens allowed only one touchdown.
”I know they didn’t play a lot of their guys, I do understand that,” Spagnuolo said. ”We’ll take some good out of it.”
Ravens starters didn’t mind watching.
”Oh, we’re ready,” linebacker Ray Lewis said. ”The bottom line was to let the young guys get some work in, and now it’s over. Let’s start next week, here we go.”
Third-string quarterback Troy Smith went the distance for the Ravens, who missed a chance to go unbeaten for the second straight preseason to end a seven-game winning streak. Smith was 18 for 38 for 237 yards with two interceptions and was the Ravens’ top rusher with 56 yards on seven carries, scoring on a pair of short runs in the second half.
Smith drove the Ravens to the Rams 35 on the final drive before getting sacked on consecutive plays by Bobby Carpenter and Jermelle Cudjo. His final pass from near midfield was batted away in the end zone.
”There’s definitely some things I wish I could take back,” Smith said. ”We could have done some things better.”
The Rams (3-1) opened with their starters on both sides of the ball, with the notable exception of running back Steven Jackson. They used the game to audition potential backups Kenneth Darby, Chris Ogbonnaya and Keith Toston, who combined for 117 yards on 32 carries.
Baltimore had one highlight-reel play, when reserve linebacker Dannell Ellerbe got a chance to showboat twice on a 57-yard interception return for a score in the second quarter.
Ellerbe took advantage when Brandon Gibson bobbled a potential reception and had such clear sailing, he had time to hold the ball out in front of him right after the pick and then paused at the goal line, holding the ball over the line, before finally stepping into the end zone.
The Ravens’ other big play was by running back Jalen Parmele, who ran down Chris Chamberlain after an 83-yard interception return at the 5 on the final play of the first half. Chamberlain intercepted a tipped pass on fourth-and-1 from the St. Louis 1.
Bradford and second-year quarterback Keith Null were a combined 12 for 12 for 131 yards and two touchdowns to open the game for a 14-0 cushion. The run ended on Ellerbe’s interception return.
Bradford’s arm accounted for all but 7 yards of a 10-play, 75-yard drive to open the game and scored on the opening possession the last three games. Most of the throws were short and safe, but the big play was a 36-yarder to Danny Amendola that set up a 2-yard scoring pass to Billy Bajema.
”Obviously, I understand we weren’t going against their first defense,” Bradford said. ”But at the same time, if you go out there and execute like we did as an offense, you really can’t ask much more than that.”
Notes: Josh Brown kicked a 54-yard field goal in the third quarter for St. Louis, finishing the preseason 8 for 8. … Thaddeus Lewis, competing with Null for the Rams’ third-string job, threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Brandon McRae in the fourth quarter.