The Ravens' fourth and final preseason game went off just as planned, except for the loss.
The starters rested. The backups played well. The pending roster choices got tougher.
Baltimore lost, 21-24, Thursday night in St. Louis, a week before their regular-season opener in Denver.
Now Head Coach John Harbaugh and the front office will make the difficult decisions of paring the roster down to 53. Cuts must be made by Saturday at 4 p.m.
"Heck of a football game, really. It was exciting, fun to watch," Harbaugh said. "I thought we played well. … Really happy with the play of a lot of guys. It was a good night for us."
The fourth preseason game is all about determining who will get the final roster spots. Harbaugh said this week there were a couple still up for grabs. Two of the positions to watch – running back and wide receiver – had a couple standouts.
Running back Bobby Rainey continued to show his offensive potential. It took determination and three efforts for Rainy to rumble in for a 1-yard touchdown after being initially stopped in the first quarter. Then he shook off a couple more tackles for an 8-yard score at the end of the first half. Rainey finished with 13 carries for 39 yards.
"I have no regrets," Rainey said. "I feel like I did everything I was supposed to do. Going into this last evaluation, I feel pretty good."
The wide receiver competition grew perhaps even more muddied.
Rookie free agent Marlon Brown, who flashed with an impressive touchdown in the third preseason game, caught four more passes for 79 yards. He had a 50-yard catch and run for a touchdown. Tandon Doss, who had a tough preseason to this point, caught five passes for 75 yards. Rookie seventh-round draft pick Aaron Mellette snagged five balls for 70 yards.
Harbaugh said the receivers "all played pretty well."
"I can't control who makes the decisions," Brown said. "I feel like I just went out there and just made plays and made an impact. Hopefully I get [a spot]."
Some players could be cut before tomorrow's practice. Others will have to sweat it out for more than 36 hours. Brown echoed the sentiment of a number of players on the bubble.
"It's going to be peaceful and calm for me, personally," he said. "I feel like I had a pretty good camp. I had good preseason games. Whatever happens, happens. It's not in my hands anymore. It's in God's hands."
As expected, the Ravens rested their starters – and even some of their backups.
Quarterback Joe Flacco, wide receiver Torrey Smith, running back Ray Rice, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and linebacker Terrell Suggs all didn't play.
Instead, third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie got the start and played the entire game. Backup Tyrod Taylor, who underwent concussion tests this week, warmed up but didn't play.
The Ravens offense started running back Rainey and wide receivers Brown and Mellette. The most senior player to see time was tight end Dallas Clark, who needs all the snaps he can get after signing midway through training camp.
The most accomplished defensive players* *to start was nose tackle Terrence Cody, linebacker Albert McClellan and first-round draft pick Matt Elam.
The game got off to an ugly start with a fumble and three turnovers in the first four minutes, six seconds. Chykie Brown jarred a ball loose on the opening kickoff. Safety Omar Brown stripped receiver Brian Quick. Hanie was picked off on an errant pass. Elam stripped first-round rookie and Baltimore native Tavon Austin.
Then it became the Rainey show. The backup running back saw the vast majority of the offensive action, running six times on a single drive until he punched in a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Ravens a 7-0 lead. The two teams traded field goals to cap the first quarter.
From there, the lead was traded back and forth until the final seconds ticked off the clock.
The Rams came back with a 10-play, 95-yard drive highlighted by a 26-yard completion to Quick, who leapt to make the catch over Brown.
Baltimore re-took the lead at the end of the first half when Rainey broke through a couple tackles and bounced in for an 8-yard touchdown. The Ravens went into the locker room with a 14-10 lead.
St. Louis scored at the end of a 10-play, 95-yard drive on a 4-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Nick Johnson. Brown's 50-yard touchdown reception gave Baltimore the lead back, only to be lost again.
Hanie nearly led the offense on a game-winning comeback after getting the ball back with just over a minute to play. He got the ball moving, but the drive ended inside the Rams' 5-yard line after a pass bounced off the hands of tight end Matt Furstenburg and was intercepted by a St. Louis defender.
The Ravens finished the preseason with a 2-2 record, and will now shift their focus to the Denver Broncos in the highly-anticipated rematch of last year's AFC division playoff game.
"We've been [moved] on to Denver," Harbaugh said. "I'm sure they've done the same."