ST. LOUIS — One yard away from the end zone, Ravens running back Bobby Rainey tried the right side where he was met by a wall of St. Louis Rams' defenders. He then cut back toward the middle and just as it looked like his progress was about to be stopped, Rainey burrowed his way over the line for the Ravens' first touchdown.
All of the Ravens' projected starters watched Thursday night's 24-21 loss in the preseason finale against the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome either from the sideline or from back in Baltimore, where they remained to rest up for next Thursday's regular season road opener against the Denver Broncos.
With his team opening up the season on a Thursday, a reward for its Super Bowl XLVII victory, head coach John Harbaugh handled the final preseason game more cautiously than usual, holding back not only the starters but a handful of key reserves.
That left the stage for guys like Rainey, a diminutive running back from Western Kentucky who initially thought he made the Ravens opening-week roster last year only to get cut on the eve of the opener; rookie wide receivers Aaron Mellette and Marlon Brown, both trying to earn one of the final one or two roster spots at their position; and strong-side linebacker D.J. Bryant, a Randallstown native hoping to find a long-term home with his hometown team.
It was one final opportunity for several players on the roster bubble to make a statement that they belonged on the team through Saturday's 6 p.m. roster cut deadline from 75 to 53 players. Most of the team's 53 roster spots were set long before kickoff but Harbaugh acknowledged on Tuesday that there were still a few players who could perform their way on or off the team.
Rainey, who is battling recent acquisition Delone Carter and Anthony Allen, for the third running back spot behind Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce certainly made the most of his opportunity. He scored two first-half touchdowns, both on second efforts, to send the Ravens into intermission with a 14-10 lead.
Also used as the kickoff and punt returner, Rainey rushed for 39 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries and caught one pass for eight yards. Meanwhile, Allen fumbled the ball inside the Rams' 5-yard line.