ST. LOUIS While quarterback Nick Foles took a definite step forward Saturday for the St. Louis Rams, one of the most consistent offensive players throughout training camp has been wide receiver Chris Givens.
Now in his fourth season, the 25-year-old Givens could be an impact player as the deep threat for Foles and the offense.
Givens hauled in a 44-yard touchdown pass from Foles in the first half during Saturday’s 24-14 loss to Indianapolis, his second straight game with a long TD reception after catching an 80-yarder last week against Tennessee.
He has seven catches for 179 yards and two TDs in three preseason games.
“We were able to get some really good run plays going, some play action down field to Chris,” Foles said. “Chris did a great job tracking the ball, going to get it and showing his athletic ability.”
Asked if he has developed a connection and trust with Givens, Foles was quick to bring in his entire receivers group.
“I have a trust factor with all my guys,” he said. “They know that I trust them and when that ball is in the air, they’re coming down with it. I don’t care who’s on. They know they have to go win on their routes because I’m going to get it out.
“I’m going to let them go do their thing. They’re extraordinary athletes. They’re great teammates. I believe in them.”
Foles was extremely sharp Saturday in his best preseason performance in three games, completing 10-of-11 passes for 128 yards and the TD to Givens. He did so under a lot of heat from the Colts’ pass rush.
Overall he is 16-for-23 for 215 yards with a TD and one interception.
“I felt like there was improvement,” Foles said. “I still expect more from myself. I expect more from this offense, as does every player on this offense. Can’t say enough, I feel like it’s one step in the right direction and we just have to continue to improve on it.”
Rams coach Jeff Fisher, whose team returns to action Thursday at home against Kansas City, also signed off on Foles’ big night.
“His numbers were good. He knew where to go with the ball,” Fisher said. “We had a couple of protection issues, which I think you attribute to preseason. He knew he was going to get hit and he got back up and he kept playing.”
What can Brown do for Rams?
Though he suffered an ankle sprain Saturday, Rams rookie Jamon Brown continues to assert himself as a potential solution on the offensive line. Brown was moved to left guard after playing right guard throughout camp.
“Coach gave me a heads up that he was going to move me to the left side, try to work me around to different spots on the line,” said Brown, who hadn’t played left guard since his freshman year at Louisville, where he mainly played left tackle. “It wasn’t too bad. It’s all the same, really you’ve just got to flip everything in your head. Pretty much techniques and everything’s the same, just flipping stances.”
With left guard Rodger Saffold still being held out with a shoulder injury, the Rams may consider moving Brown to the left side on a more permanent basis. One reason would be keeping a little more experience on the right side, where Saffold could line back up at his previous right guard spot next to rookie right tackle Rob Havenstein.
Fisher didn’t believe Brown’s injury was serious.
“When you’re talking high ankle you’ve got problems, when you’re talking lateral sprains they’ll come back fast,” Fisher said. “He wanted to come back in the game, but we held him out. Beyond that, we ended up fairly good in the game from an injury standpoint.”
Not to be overlooked was the quick reaction by Foles to Brown’s injury. While he had just thrown a long TD pass to Givens, Foles immediately went to Brown’s aid as he was lying in pain on the turf.
“Yeah, trust me, I was extremely excited about the touchdown, but when I saw Jamon down … that’s the most important thing,” Foles said. “The guy’s protecting me each and every down and to see him down, you think the worst, but he’s a tough guy. I know he’s going to bounce right back. So I was excited to see him walking around and have a smile on his face.”
Mason also injured
Rams running back Tre Mason said he tweaked a previous hamstring injury, which the club is calling a strained right hamstring. Mason was injured on a 14-yard pass play and did not return.
“I don’t know how long that’s going to be, but he’s a quick healer,” Fisher said. “It appears to be mild at this point, but it would be unlikely that he would play Thursday. But I think he’ll be fine.”
Flags on the field
The Rams continue to struggle with penalties, picking up 10 more Saturday for 83 yards. Among the infractions were a pass interference call on wide receiver Tavon Austin that wiped out a big gain and a defensive holding call on Alec Ogletree that wiped out an interception by Janoris Jenkins.
“From a big picture standpoint we still have some work to do,” Fisher said. “Obviously tonight is a great illustration of if you turn the football over (and) you have costly penalties at the wrong time it will cost you a ballgame. We’ve got to get the penalty thing under control.”
Center Barrett Jones and guard Demetrius Rhaney each were guilty on face mask calls. The interference call on Austin seemed borderline after watching a replay, but penalties remain an issue with the team.
The Rams were the sixth-most penalized team in the NFL last season, but the overall penalty leader was Super Bowl runner up and NFC West rival Seattle.
“Penalties will hurt us,” Rams safety T.J. McDonald said. “That is one thing that we have to eliminate. That’s one thing that beats us. You can’t beat yourself like that with penalties and win. With the (penalty on the) Jenkins’ interception, that takes away big momentum from the game.
“We just have to play disciplined and stay on top of everything and make sure that we’re on top of everything.”
Rams D-line makes a stand
In what could be a good sign of things to come, the Rams’ heralded defensive line slammed the door on the Colts during a first-half series and nearly forced a safety.
A Johnny Hekker punt backed the Colts up to their own 5-yard line and they kept moving backwards from there. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald was living in the backfield, making two stops for lost yardage and combining on one of them with Michael Brockers.
“That’s the way it needs to be,” Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “That’s the play that we expect, or that I expect out of our defense. It’s kind of like people got upset and decided to take it to another level. Our D-line fired off big time three plays in a row. ‘Brock’ and Aaron were all over it. “