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Boring, Boring but Rams Derail Detroit, 14-10

October 20, 1986|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

Don't let anyone tell you that the Rams are boring.

Winning is not boring. Keep saying it over and over; winning is not boring, winning is not boring.

Keep thinking what the Indianapolis Colts would give to be 5-2 right now. Or Tampa Bay. Or Green Bay.

Keep convincing yourself that a crummy-looking, foul-smelling snoozer of a win is better than an adrenaline-pumping loss any day of the week.

OK, now you're ready to hear about the Rams' 14-10 win Sunday over the Detroit Lions at Anaheim Stadium.

It was a game in which the Ram offense consisted of the following:

--An interception return for a touchdown by safety Nolan Cromwell, who picked off an Eric Hipple pass at the Ram 20-yard line and ran 80 yards the other way to give the Rams a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

--A one-yard touchdown run by Eric Dickerson on the last play of the first quarter, which gave the Rams a two-touchdown lead at 14-0.

--A 6 for 12 passing performance by quarterback Steve Bartkowski, who finished with 48 gross yards passing. And gross they were.

--A 130-yard rushing day for Dickerson, who spoiled his role as the star by fumbling twice. His second fumble, with 3:43 left, set up the only Detroit touchdown and led to an exciting finish, something that didn't seem possible in this game.

After Vernon Maxwell scooped up Dickerson's fumble at the Ram 28, the Lions cut the lead to 14-10 with 3:19 remaining on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Hipple to Ray Chadwick.

The Rams then decided to leave it up to the defense, as if they had any choice.

"With a game on the line, I'd rather have our defense on the field," Ram cornerback LeRoy Irvin said. "I want to be out there. I don't want to put our destiny in anybody's hands except our defense's. Because then they have to score instead of us having to score."

The Lions got the ball back at their own 18-yard line with 1:04 left but had no timeouts remaining. Hipple, though, worked his team down the field, the Lions getting as far as the Ram 33 after a 27-yard pass to Chadwick.

But the defense again came to the rescue, as Johnnie Johnson intercepted a Hipple pass with 14 seconds left to clinch the win.

It was Johnson who also forced a James Jones fumble on the Ram goal line, Mel Owens recovering with 6:56 remaining.

Afterward, Ram Coach John Robinson, the proponent of "winning isn't boring" tried to sound as if he was on the winning team.

"Sure, I'm happy," he said, trying his best to sound convincing. "We're 5-2, but I'm very aware that something had better start happening to us. We have to play at a higher level if we are going to contend."

The mood in the Rams' locker room was one of a team that had gotten away with something criminal. In this case, it was a narrow win over a team that performs about as well on the road as the Edsel. Detroit did not have a road win in 1985.

The Rams are edgy and nervous, and rightfully so. The mashed potato portion of their schedule is over. The Rams don't play St. Louis again this season. Or Indianapolis. Or Tampa Bay.

From now on, the weeks will be filled with teams such as Atlanta and Chicago and New England and Dallas.

"We can't afford to play like this in upcoming games," Dickerson said. "We all feel like that. We've got to get a lot better to win, or we'll find ourselves at 5-5."

Now, to the Rams' pass-o-meter.

Bartkowski, he of golden locks and arm, was allowed to throw just 12 times in the game. Standing by his locker afterward, he bit his lip and took it like a team player.

"It was a frustrating game for me," Bartkowski said. "But the bottom line is that we won."

And, lest we forget, winning is never boring.

"I don't really know what the problem is," he said. "It's not just one thing you can point to. We haven't been consistent. Everyone is partially to blame."

If Bartkowski was on the verge of screaming out at the top of his lungs about how he can't play when pass plays are being dispensed by an eye dropper, well, he wasn't showing it.

But he must have been feeling it.

Still, losing is so much easier to take when you win, especially when you have an offense that can rely so heavily upon its defense.

The Rams let Hipple do just about anything he wanted, save for getting into the end zone. Hipple completed 31 of 50 passes for 316 yards. He was great between the 20-yard markers.

But that's what the Ram defense is all about. Just when you think you're going good, they stop you.

"We weren't able to burn the Rams," Detroit Coach Darryl Rogers said. "We didn't capitalize on our opportunities and neglected to put the ball in the end zone."

That was due in part to Cromwell and Johnson.

Johnson, the Rams' defensive back-of-all-trades since losing his starting free safety job to Vince Newsome, was forced into the game at cornerback when starter Jerry Gray sprained an ankle in the second quarter.

The Rams were glad Johnson was around for the finish.

The Lions were sitting at the Ram three-yard line midway through the fourth quarter when Jones busted up the middle toward the goal line.

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