For the second week in a row, the brightest moments for the Rams Sunday came when they had their special teams on field.
Johnnie Johnson blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The field goal that gave the Rams a 16-14 lead was set up on the ensuing kickoff when Michael Young dislodged the ball from Viking returner Greg Richardson, and Mickey Sutton recovered for the Rams.
And, of course, there was the consistently outstanding punting of Dale Hatcher. Hatcher punted seven times and averaged 43.3 yards per punt.
Hatcher's first two punts, high spirals that covered 46 yards each, didn't show in the final statistics because both were called back by Ram penalties. His third--the first that counted--sailed 51 yards.
His next two punts measured 46 and 37 yards, and both resulted in fair catches by Richardson.
The next time Hatcher was called on, the Rams had the ball on their one-yard line. Standing inches in front of the back of the end zone, Hatcher boomed off another 51-yarder that sent Richardson retreating into his own territory to make the catch.
Hatcher got off another 50-yarder before his last two punts--of 40 and 28 yards--ran out of field and ended up in the Viking end zone.
Hatcher, who averaged 43.2 yards per punt as a rookie in 1985, fell off to 38.6 last season because of a condition he calls "lazy ankle."
"I went home to Cheraw (South Carolina) in the off-season and told myself to just start over," Hatcher said. "I just went back to the basics and worked it out."
The Ram pass rush, a glaring deficiency last season, seemed improved Sunday, although Viking quarterback Wade Wilson got all the time he needed on the 41-yard touchdown pass to Hassan Jones that lifted Minnesota to victory.
The Rams had four sacks, and three came from the defensive line. Defensive ends Gary Jeter and Shawn Miller and nose tackle Alvin Wright got to Wilson, as did linebacker Mel Owens. Linebacker Mike Wilcher also deflected two passes.
Minnesota wide receiver Anthony Carter had 4 receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown Sunday. His favorite reception, however, was the one the Vikings got from the Anaheim Stadium crowd.
"We've got some fans in L.A.," Carter said. "I thought we were playing at home for a while."
The Rams' dismal first-half play didn't seem to bother owner Georgia Frontiere, who spent most of the first quarter on the sidelines giving hugs and kisses to Ram players and coaches.
She even walked over and gave a big hug to a startled-looking Coach John Robinson during one timeout.
One press box observer noted that Frontiere had "made more contact than LeRoy Irvin so far."
The Rams' Tim Tyrrell was cited for roughing the kicker in the second quarter after he flattened punter Greg Coleman. Television replays showed that Coleman took a couple of steps to the side before starting into his normal punting approach, and a punter is fair game if he starts to run.
But the play was upheld after review, although replay official Armen Terzian's explanation seemed a bit contradictory.
"I thought there might be touching of the ball," Terzian said in a statement released later, "which negates any roughing of the kicker. In looking at it, it looked like there was a step prior to his going into his kicking motion. From what I gather from the referee, everything going forward was part of the kicking motion."
Coleman: "I took two steps then punted. It's a judgment call, and sometimes it works for you and sometimes it works against you."
In case you're wondering, the last time the Rams won a game that mattered was Dec. 7. It was a 29-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys at Anaheim Stadium. Since then, the Rams have lost to, in order, Miami, San Francisco, Washington (playoffs), Houston and Minnesota.
The Rams Are Not Making Excuses, but . . . Dept.: Already without receiver Ron Brown, who played sparingly because of a hip pointer, the Rams lost their best receiver, Henry Ellard, when he suffered a hip pointer returning a punt in the third quarter.
"After seeing Ron's situation, I think it's going to be a solid week (before it heals)," Ellard said.
A Viking fan was slightly injured when he fell more than 40 feet from the view level to the club level as he cheered the touchdown pass from Wilson to Jones that gave the Vikings the victory.
Marc A. Heguy, 24, of Downey, jumped up to cheer and fell forward and over the railing and onto Kelly W. Green, 36, of Laguna Nigel, said Anaheim city spokeswoman Sheri Erlewine.
Heguy, who had complained of a sore right arm and chin, was treated and released at the stadium, Erlewine said. Green was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange for treatment for upper back pain.
Ram Notes Linebacker Kevin Greene (virus) did not dress for Sunday's game. Kevin House started at wide receiver for Ron Brown (hip bruise). . . . Fans booed loudly a pregame show of union solidarity between the Rams and Vikings. Team members exchanged handshakes at midfield before the kickoff.