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The Decline and Fall Of Rams Continues With a 31-14 Loss

November 09, 1987|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

In the diary of the Ram collapse, the team goes from Super Bowl contender in July to a vagrant on football's Wall Street in November.

The fall is dizzying, frightening, steamy. In the end, the tailback walks out on the team in a huff, leaving scars and stars behind.

The team acts as if it can carry on, pretending, wanting not to notice.

But the heart is gone, and the world is spinning, and sometimes it takes an outsider with perspective to say it.

"A lot of the Rams miss Eric Dickerson and they seem to be searching for something," New Orleans linebacker Rickey Jackson said. "They are definitely a different team without him. They lack speed. There were a couple of holes out there today that Dickerson would have gained 60 or 70 yards and maybe even scored on but today without him, they only gained three or four yards."

And just when you think it can get much worse, that the Rams can sink lower, they play another game and get even worse and sink even lower.

Sunday, the Saints beat the Rams, 31-14, in front of 43,379 at Anaheim Stadium. Others expected, 11,541 to be exact, didn't bother to show at all.

Those that did brought their boo birds and jeered until their throats hurt. They booed owner Georgia Frontiere and she waved back, raising an ear-plug theory in the press box. Fans went so far as to boo an announcement of the head coach's weekly radio show.

On the field, the Rams missed more tackles and more opportunities, but most of all they missed Saints running back Dalton Hilliard, who wiggled and jiggled his way through defenders as if he'd been doused in corn oil.

Yes, the Rams search. And Eric Dickerson's name remains on the lineup card. An oversight or wishful thinking?

And yes, the Rams wonder.

Are they still a run team or a pass team? Are they a good team or a bad team? Are they a team in transition or remission?

They did debut new tailback Greg Bell, the lost nugget in the Dickerson trade, and he scored on a nifty 32-yard scoring pass in the third quarter.

Except, by the time Bell touched the ball, his team was already trailing, 17-0.

No, the Rams don't seem sure of themselves. Is this quarterback Jim Everett's team now or is the ghost of Dickerson still lurking?

"You guys try to philosophize," Everett said. "I don't know. All I know is that we'll get it right."

Just not by tonight.

On the Rams 10-minute ticker of disaster, they emerged as the only team in the National Football League still to have not won a game with non-strike regulars.

The regulars have lost eight straight games dating back to last December. And the question now is, "Where would the Rams be had it not been for the strike?"

The Ram defense, once among the finest in the land, is still waiting for a 1 p.m. wake-up call. The Rams allowed 443 total yards, including 199 to the unheralded Hilliard.

Hilliard, only the backup to starter Rueben Mayes, had 92 yards rushing, 84 receiving and 23 passing.

Hilliard bounced off so many Rams on his 38-yard scoring pass from Bobby Hebert in the first quarter that it's safer to name Rams who didn't have a shot at him, which included Jerry Gray, Carl Ekern, Doug Reed, Reggie Doss, Greg Meisner and Robinson from the sideline.

In the second quarter, Hilliard really suckered the Rams when he rolled right on an apparent run only to show off his arm, throwing 23 yards to tight end John Tice for a touchdown.

It put the Saints up 17-0 with 10:14 left in the half. Hilliard's pass was so true that not even a pass interference penalty, Nolan Cromwell on Tice, could break it up.

If it wasn't Hilliard shredding the Rams it was quarterback Hebert, still more noted for spirals thrown as a Michigan Panther in the United States Football League.

Hebert, much like Joe Montana a week before, pretty much had his way with the Rams, completing 12 of 20 passes for 188 yards and 2 touchdowns.

"I've just got no clue," said nose tackle Meisner, one of a handful of Ram rushers who did not lay a glove on Hebert. "It's the most frustrating situation I've ever felt other than a life or death situation. We're getting our faces rubbed in dirt. We're already at the bottom of the well, but we keep getting kicked down further and further."

The Rams seem only further tormented by their fruitless comeback attempts.

They toiled much of the first half trying to do with Charles White what they did with Dickerson. That's run, run, run.

But 47-gap moves at 33 speed with White. The proof is in the plodding. The clincher came early in the first quarter, when Robinson reached back and tried to overpower the Saints on fourth and three at the New Orleans 32. He sent White around right end only to watch as his back was crushed before he hit the line of scrimmage.

The Saints turned it around and went 68 yards for the touchdown that put them up, 10-0.

In fact, the Rams can thank the Saints for even letting them back in the game.

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