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This Time, It's the Saints Who Get Their Kicks, Not Rams, 6-0

November 10, 1986|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS — The people here have never forgiven the Rams for the last game of the 1983 season, when Mike Lansford kicked a last-second field goal that kept the Saints from the playoffs and their first-ever winning season.

So it was with considerable pleasure Sunday that the Saints beat the Rams, 6-0, before a crowd of 62,352 at the Superdome.

Never mind the aesthetics of it all.

What a joy it was for people to witness Eric Dickerson and the Ram offense struggle as they did.

What great comfort they would take in knowing that the mighty Dickerson was so beaten and tired afterward that he could barely part his lips and utter a comment.

"I'm exhausted," said Dickerson, who was held to just 57 yards in 21 carries. "I'm not talking."

What a switch it was to see a punishing Saint defense sending some of the other guys to the trainer's room with an assortment of light concussions and bruised ribs.

And whose kicker is smiling now after making second-half field goals of 20 and 22 yards to win the game? Not Lansford. Try Morten Andersen.

But, mostly, what a thrill to see Lansford himself, standing out there alone in the first quarter, his 37-yard field-goal attempt having bounced off the right upright in what would be the Rams' greatest scoring chance of the afternoon.

The Rams should have known then that things were not meant to bounce their way, that it would be their fate to slip on one banana peel after another.

The loss dropped the Rams to 7-3 and cut their lead in the NFC Western Division to just one-half game over the San Francisco 49ers. And look who's charging from the outside? Could it possibly be the Saints at 5-5?

"I think we're going to win our next six games and end up 11-5 and go to the playoffs," New Orleans linebacker Rickey Jackson said.

Jackson, obviously, wasn't a Saints' history major in college.

But who's to say at this point?

The Rams thought they had their division in a choke-hold after last Monday night's dramatic, 20-17 win over the Chicago Bears.

"We had great momentum after Monday night," Ram Coach John Robinson said. "But maybe the reality of this league is that unless you're one of those really super teams, maybe you don't put (together) three wins in a row. We've never claimed to be a great team. I don't think that adjective has ever been used."

Ram fans may have found a few other adjectives to describe their team Sunday.

The Rams stood afterward and swore on a stack of Cajun pancakes that a week on Bourbon Street had nothing to do with their three fumbles, one interception and first regular-season shutout since the 1981 season.

And, really, how was this offensive performance (172 total yards) that much different than any of the rest?

In its previous three games, the Ram defense had spotted the offense the first touchdown of the game.

So where were scoring threats LeRoy Irvin, Mark Jerue and Nolan Cromwell when the Rams needed them?

Actually, the defense and special teams did their best to get the Ram offense its weekly point injection.

Early in the first quarter, Irvin intercepted a Dave Wilson pass at the Ram 26-yard line. That drive ended with a resounding punt.

Later in the quarter, Kevin Greene recovered an Eric Martin fumble on a punt return and ran the ball 13 yards to the Saints' 22-yard line.

Then came Lansford's missed field goal.

Cornerback Jerry Gray saved a Saint touchdown in the second quarter when he slapped the ball out of Martin's hands at the Ram two after a 48-yard reception and run. Irvin recovered at the four.

Later in the quarter, safety Vince Newsome intercepted another Wilson pass and returned it 11 yards to the Ram 42 with 32 seconds left in the half.

But the Rams turned right around and gave it back, on a Mike Guman fumble at the Ram 46.

The Saints had five turnovers in the first half, the Rams two.

"It was very clear we had the ball in their scoring area," Robinson said. "We just didn't get it in."

So a scoreless first half spilled over into the third quarter, when the Saints set out on the most impressive drive of the day. They started at their own 26 and kept the ball for 16 plays and nearly 11 minutes (10:50) before settling for Andersen's 20-yard field goal.

On the next series, Ram quarterback Steve Dils fumbled a handoff to Dickerson, with James Haynes recovering for the Saints at the Ram 14, leading to a 22-yard Andersen field goal with 12:31 left in the game.

"It's got to be my fault," Dils said of the fumble. "It happened so quick. The ball slipped and hit him (Dickerson) high. To tell you the truth, I really don't know what happened."

With all the mistakes, the Ram offensive machine never got out of first gear.

"We like to beat people down," tight end David Hill said. "On those couple of drives, when we turned over the ball, we just gave them more energy."

The Saint defense played as if it had collectively stuck a finger in a light socket.

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