ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams' first-team offense has yet to score a preseason touchdown in three years under coach Scott Linehan.
The San Diego Chargers kept them off the board again, although Linehan was more than satisfied, given how tough wins have been to come by. A third-quarter 3-yard run by Travis Minor with all backups on the field was the difference in a 7-6 victory Saturday night.
The Rams lost their first eight games last season and finished 3-13, earning the second pick of the draft.
"I know you've got a lot of questions for me, but it really doesn't matter," Linehan said. "You can ask me anything you want, and I'm a happy man."
The Chargers' defense was happy, too, after making some big stops. Antoine Cason and Cletus Gordon intercepted Marc Bulger on consecutive passes in the first quarter and the Chargers, who opened with reserves at six spots on defense, stopped St. Louis at the 2 in the second quarter.
Both Gordon and Cason, San Diego's first-round pick, are backups, and each played three quarters.
"It was good for us to come out and show what we can do," Cason said. "It gave us confidence to play like we've been practicing, and things will fall into place."
The Chargers also opened with only three starters on offense.
The game drew a placid crowd of 53,039, about 15,000 shy of capacity and the franchise's worst since moving to the Midwest in 1995, and was blacked out on local television. The Rams had three home games blacked out last season.
Both teams went without their featured back, the Chargers by design as usual to save LaDainian Tomlinson for the regular season and the Rams because Steven Jackson remains a holdout. San Diego also kept out quarterback Philip Rivers, who played into the second quarter of San Diego's preseason opener.
Rivers, coming off knee surgery, led the Chargers to two touchdowns in three possessions last week in a 31-17 victory over the Cowboys to open the preseason. Backup Billy Volek got the start against the Rams. San Diego's biggest plays in Week 2 were returns of 53 yards by Cason and 16 by Gordon that set up short field goals by Nate Kaeding for a 6-0 halftime lead.
Without so many of their front-liners, the Chargers mustered little against a Rams defense that was gouged for 340 yards rushing in a 34-13 loss to the Titans last week. Volek was 5-for-7 for 58 yards and rookie Jacob Heater, starting in place of Tomlinson, had 59 yards on 12 carries.
"We drove the ball pretty well but we've got to go get touchdowns and not field goals," Volek said. "I've got to get rid of the ball quicker."
Jackson, coming off his third straight 1,000-yard season, is seeking a new contract entering the final year of a deal he signed as a rookie in 2004. The Rams cut off negotiations on the first day of training camp until Jackson reports.
The Rams lost Bulger, too, after he was hit from behind by Jyles Tucker while preparing to pass in the final minute of the first half. The ball popped out of his hand for a fumble that was recovered by guard Jacob Bell, but Bulger said he was fine.
"He got my shoulder when it was coming through, and it was just a 5-minute thing," Bulger said. "I don't think in the regular season it would have been a big deal."
Bulger has thrown three interceptions in the preseason, one returned for a touchdown.
"The only way I know how to get out of these little ruts is to keep throwing," Bulger said. "I promise you if I came out in the second half I would have kept throwing.
"I might have had 10 picks, but I would have kept throwing the ball down the field."
The Rams' first-stringers came agonizingly close to reaching the end zone in the second quarter, making it to the 1 before getting pushed back and then denied after 17 plays covering 77 yards. Brian Leonard, one of Jackson's backups, was stopped for no gain from the 2 on a fourth-down swing pass.
Leonard, Jackson's backup last season, strained his left shoulder in the second half.
|San Diego (1-1-0)||6||0||0||0||6|
|St. Louis (1-1-0) «||0||0||7||0||7|
SD - Pass: C. Whitehurst (6-14, 67), Rush: J. Hester (12-59)|
STL - Pass: M. Bulger (7-14, 56), Rush: A. Pittman (9-67)
|FG||Nate Kaeding 27 Yd, 9:18. Drive: 6 plays, 21 yards in 2:56.|
|FG||Nate Kaeding 31 Yd, 5:51. Drive: 6 plays, 16 yards in 3:13.|
|TD||Travis Minor, 3 Yd run (Josh Brown kick is good), 5:46. Drive: 13 plays, 71 yards in 6:53.|
St. Louis Rams Youth Hat
$24.95 Shop Now!
|Complete Player Stats|