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Ram Notebook : Victory Gets Monkey off the Back of Fumbling Young

October 27, 1986

Ram wide receiver Michael Young won't easily forget his role in Sunday's 14-7 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

In only his second career start, the second-year receiver from UCLA fumbled once at the goal line in the second quarter, costing the Rams a probable touchdown.

In the third quarter, at the end of a 12-yard pass play, Young fumbled again. Falcon cornerback James Britt picked up the loose ball and returned it 65 yards for the Falcons' only score.

"I've never done that," Young said. "I only fumbled twice in six years, counting college. For the first time, I thought that if we lost the game it would be on my shoulders. It's a terrible feeling. I never want to get it again."

Young said he was consoled by his teammates.

"LeRoy Irvin told me he's been in the same situation, knowing that one of his mistakes could cost us the game. But he said that that we won and not to worry about it."

Oh Henry: Wide receiver Henry Ellard made his season debut but wasn't a factor. Ellard, who ended his 89-day holdout last Thursday, didn't have a catch.

The only pass he remembered being thrown his way was tipped and intercepted in the third quarter by Atlanta free safety Bret Clark.

"I felt at home," Ellard said. "I didn't have any jitters, not at all. Next week, I'm ready to get things going."

Next Monday, of course, the Rams play the Chicago Bears.

Injury report: Ram tight end Tony Hunter missed the game with an ankle injury. Defensive end Gary Jeter left the game in the first half with a hamstring strain.

There seems to be one moment of instant-replay confusion in every National Football League game now.

In the second quarter, Britt knocked the ball out of the hands of Young as Young seemed about to complete a 22-yard touchdown play.

Falcon defensive end Mike Pitts recovered the ball in the end zone, and the officials immediately ruled it a touchback: Atlanta's ball, first down on the 20.

Then everything stopped as replay official Fred Silva, a former NFL referee, reviewed the play in the press box and radioed his opinion down to the field.

Referee Jerry Markbreit announced over the public address system: "The play stands."

The Rams thought that meant it was a touchdown and started to celebrate.

Said Britt: "I thought they'd given it to them. I didn't know exactly where we were on the field. I knew he was heading for the goal line and I was trying to get it."

Young said he couldn't have called the play, either.

"I was just trying to stretch for the goal line," he said.

Eric Dickerson had rushed for only 73, 41 and 26 yards in his previous three games against the Falcons--30 less than he gained Sunday.

"They were determined they were going to run the ball on us," Britt said. "They did a few things that were somewhat different and stuck with it. They were trying to get the cutback on us and go back to the weak side."

Falcon Coach Dan Henning also had an explanation for why the Rams were able to run for 234 yards this time: "They played better."

The Rams' defense scored as many points and gave up fewer than their offense, but defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur shrugged and said: "Well, we're a team. . . ."

Then: "Sure, if they (the opponents) don't land in the end zone you feel damn good. Damn right."

But there isn't much time to enjoy it. Next Monday night the Rams will play the Bears at Chicago, where they were embarrassed, 24-0, last January.

"It's hard to think about that game right away," Shurmur said, "but our team has not forgotten the NFC championship game, like the game in Atlanta two weeks ago.

"There'll be a lot of looking at that film. They're the Super Bowl champs. They've lost only one game. We love to play those kind of games."

Johnnie Johnson, who lost his starting free safety job during training camp when he injured his knee, was back in the starting lineup.

But he hasn't exactly moved Vince Newsome to the bench. Newsome and strong safety Tim Fox were rotating series with Johnson and starting strong safety Nolan Cromwell. Both units ended up playing a similar amount of time.

The Ram safeties have been seeing a great deal of action on special teams and the coaching staff thought they all would benefit from the system.

Follow the Bouncing Cornerback: Herman Edwards made his debut with the Falcons Sunday after being released by the Rams. The Rams picked him up after he was waived by Philadelphia and he played against the Eagles last month.

One more transaction and he'll be a good candidate for the record for former teams played against in one season . . . if there is such a thing.

Times staff writers Chris Dufresne, Rich Roberts and John Weyler contributed to this story.

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