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Rams A.D. (After Dickerson) Are No Match for 49ers, 31-10

November 02, 1987|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

The Rams continued their free-fall through the NFL on Sunday, losing a game as swiftly and thoroughly as they recently lost a be-goggled tailback of repute.

The 1987 team, now at the nadir of its existence, has as its only recourse to search for lost souls and another season.

Unfortunately, San Francisco's 31-10 drubbing of the Rams at Anaheim Stadium served only to make fans remember Eric Dickerson, not forget him.

But, of course, it's time to move on, for Dickerson is now winning games for another franchise. He was then; this is now. Remember all those draft choices.

"This defeat was not psychological, it was physical," Coach John Robinson said afterward.

It was also aggravating, irritating and irrevocable. It was cornerback Jerry Gray running stride-for-stride with 49er sprinter Jerry Rice, only to watch quarterback Joe Montana set the ball in the only place Rice could catch it and Gray couldn't.

Touchdown, 49ers.

And how many times does a receiver catch the ball in the end zone with both feet in bounds and not get a touchdown? It happened in the fourth quarter to Ram tight end Damone Johnson, who had to lunge back toward the field to catch a Jim Everett pass and did, only to be knocked back out of the end zone before the ball crossed the plane of the goal.

It happened. And, of course, Charles White was stopped cold from a foot away on the next play, which happened to be fourth down, teasing the Rams all the more.

Everything's happening to the Rams. Everything bad. They're losing tailbacks, cornerbacks, game plans, dignity.

They're losing battles with the National Football League's instant replay system.

Not a bounce of a ball or a checkbook is going their way. And because of it, the Rams are going down, down, down.

Sunday's loss puts them at 1-6 for the season, a healthy five games behind the division-leading 49ers. For the Ram regulars it was the seventh straight loss dating back to last season.

If things don't turn around soon, the non-strike Rams could celebrate the one-year anniversary of their last regular season win this Dec. 7 (29-10 over Dallas), which seems fitting enough.

After the pain of this week, with the loss of the offense and all, the Rams needed Montana and the 49ers as much as it needed another contract negotiation.

Montana, as is his Anaheim custom, was brilliant, slicing up the Ram defense with a highlight-film performance. In the 11 games he's started against the Rams over the years, Montana has averaged 289 yards passing per outing.

Sunday, he missed his mark by five yards, completing 20 of 31 passes for 294 yards and 3 touchdowns.

"They play well against us down here," Robinson said. "Joe Montana, it's been three or four years since I've seen him throw an incomplete pass."

Or so it seems.

Montana set the tone of the game early, driving his team 80 yards in the first quarter for a touchdown, Tom Rathman doing the honors with a nine-yard scoring run.

The Ram offense, which as mentioned before had relocated earlier in the week, put on its best face, considering.

But it was left to veteran and venerable safety Nolan Cromwell to get the Rams in position to score their only meaningful points in the game.

His interception and 28-yard return of a Montana pass in the second quarter set the Rams up at the 49er 15-yard line.

Of course, the Rams couldn't get to the end zone, but they did get a 22-yard field goal from Mike Lansford.

If there was a key moment in the game it was brief, in the second quarter, and probably nonconsequential considering the final score.

But with the Rams trailing, 10-3, and driving, quarterback Everett was called for a fumble when attempting to pass.

A replay confirmed Everett had not began his forward pass, and the 49ers took over at the Ram 39.

A few blinks later, from the 17-yard line, Montana teamed up with receiver Mike Wilson, who accepted the pass at the 10 and faked three Ram defenders out with a spin move before speeding into the end zone untouched.

Everett's disputed fumble was something to chew on, but even Robinson knew better than to make it an issue.

"Obviously, it was critical," he said. "But when you lose 31-10, it means that no one played. We didn't compete well enough to win."

The 49ers proved that late in the half, when they drove 95 yards in 12 plays on the Rams, scoring on a two-yard pass from Montana to John Frank to make it 24-3 with 22 seconds left.

The Rams came charging back with a big 29-yard pass from Everett to Ellard, but watched the half expire because they had no time outs to stop the clock. Montana, who isn't afraid to say the obvious, admitted in so many words that playing the Rams had never been easier.

"They were a different team today without Eric," Montana said. "Yes, it was a big relief not to have Eric in there."

What the Rams did have was Charles White, a gallant runner who kicks and bites and fights for every yard he can manage.

On Sunday, that meant 52 yards in 21 carries. Not exactly Dickersonian numbers.

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