Henry Ellard may have been the Rams' leading receiver entering Saturday night's exhibition finale against the New England Patriots, but that wasn't really saying much.
In the three previous games, Ellard had just eight receptions for 112 yards and no touchdowns--not the kind of statistics that get you into the Pro Bowl. Unofficially, Ellard also had dropped four passes.
But those numbers were still good enough to lead a weak Ram receiving corps that had performed erratically during the preseason. In all, 15 receivers had combined for just 44 receptions and 462 yards. None were for touchdowns.
That drought finally ended Saturday night when quarterback Dieter Brock combined with Ellard on a 21-yard touchdown pass play in the second quarter of the Rams' 14-13 victory over the Patriots in Anaheim Stadium.
And Ellard and Brock combined to instill some life into the Rams' passing attack. Brock, in about 2 1/2 quarters of work, completed 11 of 19 passes for 163 yards, while Ellard had five receptions for 80 yards.
The Rams' offense, particularly the passing game, has looked miserable at times this year, but for Brock and Ellard, it was just a matter of time before things started clicking.
"When you have a new quarterback, it's a matter of getting your timing down, and that takes a while," said Ellard, who also ran a reverse for 13 yards to contribute to the Rams' first scoring drive.
"It doesn't just happen right away. You have to get out and play together. Tonight, it came around, and we're starting to get a feel for each other."
Ellard was the main man in the Rams' second touchdown drive, which saw them go 56 yards in just three plays.
The first was a 13-yard pass to Ellard, the second a 20-yard run by Barry Redden, and the third a 21-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Ellard, which left Patriot defensive backs Ronnie Lippett, Roland James and Fred Marion with shrugged shoulders and shaking heads.
On the play, Ellard somehow slipped open on the right sideline and broke wide open over the middle before collecting Brock's perfect pass and sailing into the end zone untouched.
"The defense they were playing gave us a chance to work some of our in routes and out routes," Ellard said. "They played off the line by about 10 to 12 yards and that gave us some more room."
Ellard had jammed his thumb prior to the exhibition season and played the first two games with a soft cast and a glove on his left hand. He said the injury inhibited his ability to catch balls that were thrown low, but he didn't use the injury as an excuse for his subpar performance.
It just took Ellard, the Rams No. 1 receiver, some time to gain confidence in his new quarterback, and vice versa.
"It's nice when it's time to throw the ball, Dieter can look my way and feel he can throw it to me," Ellard said. "He knows I'll be in the area he's looking for."
Added Brock: "We had been missing on a few things in the first three games, but it's coming along now. Henry is running some good routes, and I think both of us are getting confident with each other."
Ellard appeared to be recovered from his thumb injury, and the other starting wide receiver, Ron Brown, caught only two passes but appeared to be running better after arthroscopic knee surgery a month ago.
"Brown is rounding into shape," Ram Coach John Robinson said. "He's on his way. I feel much better about him now.
"I like the way we came out and played the first half. Our defense played very well. Dieter Brock did an outstanding job. He does what I look for in a quarterback.
"Our defensive line continues to play well, although we lost (nose tackle Greg) Meisner (holdout) and (Jack) Youngblood (retired). The other players have been marvelous."