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Notebook : Greene's Performance Lost in Downer of Debut

September 14, 1987|GENE WOJCIECHOWSKI and CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

HOUSTON — Coach John Robinson, upset with the Rams' 20-16 loss to the Oilers Sunday, may have been hasty with his postgame proclamation of: "I can think of no one who played well."

Actually, there was Kevin Greene, who at least deserves mention for scoring the only Ram touchdown of the day. Then again, it's never a good sign when one of your leading scorers is a defensive player.

Greene, inserted as a rusher in passing situations, provided the Rams with 13-0 lead after returning an interception for a touchdown late in the second period.

With the ball on the Oiler 40, quarterback Warren Moon attempted to loft a pass over Greene and to running back Mike Rozier. Greene tipped the ball in the air with his left hand and then cradled it with his right. Twenty-five yards later, he had his touchdown.

"I just caught it," he said. "It wasn't any big thing. It's something any professional athlete should do. The ball was tipped and I took it in. Big plays are big plays, but we didn't win the game.

"We were rolling there for a little bit, but the Oilers came back and stuck it to us."

Greene finished the game with two tackles, one sack and the interception.

Oiler Coach Jerry Glanville, who conducted a comedy routine during a conference phone call with Los Angeles reporters earlier in the week, turned serious after his team's victory Sunday.

"This was a great team win . . . we gave the ball today to Justin Russell, a young man who was in the hospital for cancer when I was in the hospital last February (for gallbladder surgery)," he said.

"He's a fighter. He showed me what toughness is. We made a promise to each other in that hospital that he'd be here to get the game ball against the Rams. He never gave up and we'll never give up."

Sunday's game featured assorted wackiness. For instance, Oiler fans, apparently opinionated about their music, heartily booed a youth group after it finished performing a painful rendition of the national anthem.

Then there was Curtis Duncan's near mistake on an Oiler kick return. Duncan botched a catch of Mike Lansford's kick, watched the ball bounce into the end zone . . . and then froze.

Unsure whether he must run the ball out of the end zone (since he had attempted to field the ball in the fair territory), Duncan began to run. Inches before he reached the goal line, he stopped, waited until Ram defenders were preparing to tackle him for a safety, and then kneeled in time for a touchback.

At one point Sunday, Ram quarterback Jim Everett completed 5 of 6 passes for 63 yards. After that, he completed just 4 of 20 passes for 62 yards.

Other numbers of note: After a disappointing season in 1986 and an inconsistent exhibition season this year, Ram punter Dale Hatcher regained his Pro Bowl form Sunday. He punted seven times against the Oilers for a 46.4 average.

Is 300 a lucky number? For the 11th time in his career, Houston quarterback Warren Moon (21 of 43, 310 yards) passed for more than 300 yards in a game. Here's the catch. In the 11 times Moon has hit the 300-yard mark, the Oilers have only won three times.

Sunday's crowd of 33,186 was way down because of continued reports that the Oilers might be moving the franchise to Jacksonville. At least that's what some Houston officials were saying privately. The Astrodome's capacity for football is 50,594.

Afterward, Houston Coach Jerry Glanville said he doesn't want to leave, despite some reports in Jacksonville newspapers.

Glanville said: "I was asked by that reporter, 'If you have to leave, where would you like to go?' I said if we have to leave, I wouldn't mind going to Jacksonville because they have a grass field."

Lansford has not missed an extra point or field goal this season. Counting the exhibition season, Lansford has made 11 straight field goals and 13 consecutive extra points.

His field goals Sunday were from 28, 44 and 47 yards.

Johnnie Johnson started for Nolan Cromwell at safety Sunday, snapping a string of 116 straight starts for Cromwell when he has been healthy. Cromwell, though, has not been bounced out of the lineup. The Rams rotate three safeties--Johnson, Cromwell and Vince Newsome--in and out of the lineup and list all three as starters on their depth chart.

Sunday, Cromwell played every third series and in all passing situations.

Add nonstarts . . . Veteran inside linebacker Carl Ekern did not start or play Sunday because of a sore knee. Ekern, who had arthroscopic knee surgery less than a month ago, was thought to be ready to go, but coaches decided to hold him out of the game.

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