Rams beat Raiders 31-17 in preseason opener

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ST. LOUIS - Just like the days when he was a third-stringer, Kurt Warner couldn't get enough playing time.

Warner was back in MVP form for the St. Louis Rams' preseason opener Saturday night, producing a quick touchdown on his only drive in a 31-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders.

Warner, who threw 41 touchdown passes in the Rams' Super Bowl season, was in for only seven plays but made them count.

''Too bad it's an exhibition game and you only get to play so much,'' Warner said. ''It's tough to get out there feeling good and have to shut it down quickly. But we understand what these are for.''

Warner expects to get a lot more playing time next week at Tennessee in a rematch of the Super Bowl. The Rams beat the Titans 23-16 last January.

''We need to continue to do this every time we step on the field,'' Warner said. ''Go out there and be crisp, be sharp, be smooth.''

The Rams led the NFL in offense last year under coordinator Mike Martz, now the head coach, and they opened with three passes.

Isaac Bruce and Warner connected for a 26-yard score with 9:31 left in the first quarter, with Bruce slipping two tackles en route to the end zone. Bruce also caught a 21-yarder and Torry Holt caught a pair of 9-yarders. The only incompletion was a dropped pass by Bruce.

Warner got light duty because the opener is a month away, and because the Rams wanted to take a longer look at backups Trent Green and Joe Germaine. Green, the starter before a season-ending knee injury last preseason, was 5-for-7 for 61 yards and two touchdowns as the Rams took a 21-10 halftime lead.

Green was called for intentional grounding his first series, but threw two 50-yard strikes to Holt that just missed. Holt dropped the first one at the Raiders 5 and Charles Woodson was called for interference on the second, which set up a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Robinson.

Green also connected with Ricky Proehl for a 13-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Germaine threw an interception that was returned 33 yards for a touchdown by Calvin Branch in the third quarter. He also set up the Rams' final touchdown, a 4-yard run by Damon Washington in the fourth quarter.

It was an up-and-down game for kicker Sebastian Janikowski, the Raiders' first-round pick. Janikowski made a 46-yard field goal with several yards to spare near the end of the half, but his 35-yard attempt in the third hit the left upright and had no touchbacks on his kickoffs.

''I'm not happy I missed it,'' Janikowski said. ''But it's good for me that I missed it now, rather than in the season.

''You learn. I need work on my steps and my angle.''

Raiders starting quarterback Rich Gannon got even fewer snaps than Warner. Gannon was 2-for-2 for 10 yards in the Raiders' first series, going three plays and out for the night.

Backup Bobby Hoying played most of the game for Oakland, going 11-for-21 for 107 yards.

Jerald Moore, the Rams' feature tailback in 1998 before losing the job due to fumbles, scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter for the Raiders. Moore had 38 yards on 11 carries and was the Raiders' top receiver with four catches for 46 yards.

''I'm just trying to get a spot on the roster,'' Moore said. ''I come to a team with a lot of great backs and I'm blessed with the opportunity to get back on the field again. I want to make the most of it.''

Marshall Faulk carried only twice for 3 yards for the Rams, and several key players on both teams sat out the game. The list included Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown and Rams defensive linemen D'Marco Farr and Grant Wistrom. Rams cornerback Todd Lyght, who ended a holdout on Wednesday, did not dress.

Both teams escaped without major injury. Rams fullback James Hodgins strained his left rotator cuff in the first half.


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