ST. LOUIS — For now, at least, the identity crisis is over. The Rams can look themselves in the mirror again. They can walk down city streets with their families again.
Why? Because the Rams are the Rams again. At least they were on Sunday, against the soon-to-be leaving St. Louis Cardinals, when the Rams pulled out a 27-24 win at Busch Stadium in true macho-man fashion, marching down field through a driving rain on their way to a game-winning 20-yard Mike Lansford field goal as time expired.
Oh, but this wasn't just a drive. It was the drive. It perhaps did more to help this team than any couch session with a psychoanalyst.
It was the deja vu march to end all marches, a 94-yard, 23-play back-breaker that consumed the final 11:01 of the game.
"You're sitting there and you just watch and watch," a disbelieving Cardinals quarterback Neil Lomax said. "I figured we'd at least get the ball back with a minute or a minute-and-a-half to go."
But when Lansford's kicked sailed through and true, there was nowhere for the Cardinals to go but home, wherever that might be these days.
And if you can forget for a second that the Cardinals (3-6) were the league's 26th best defense coming in, the drive and the game means all the more. Some people go to the mountains of Tibet to find themselves; the Rams apparently need long journeys on AstroTurf.
"We finally just said to-hell-with-it," Ram Coach John Robinson said. "We were going to go out and play as physical as we could."
Aggressiveness was something the Rams had been struggling with since well, you know, the trade.
"This was a kind of reaffirmation of what you believe in," Robinson said.
So let the record show that the Rams can still finish a game with more yards rushing (239) than passing (144).
It was just like old times.
The Ram tailback, Charles White in this case, gained 213 yards in 34 carries. It was the fifth-biggest rushing day in Ram history and only 2 yards less than Eric Dickerson's greatest regular-season performance with the Rams (215 yards vs. Houston, 1984).
"That's the role of our tailback," Robinson said. "I've been doing that for a lot of years. It works a lot of times."
Then again, sometimes it doesn't. There's been this year, for instance. Sunday's win was the first for this team's regulars since last Dec. 7.
And the Rams, remember, improve only to 2-7 with the win.
But Robinson hopes his team has at least turned the corner on a season that's been more like Dead Man's curve.
"It's important to have stopped it and get it turned around," Robinson said. "It seemed we were on a slide and couldn't stop. It was like something negative was going to happen. This is more typical of what the Rams have been, and I think still are."
He hopes this head rush, admittedly against the league's 19th-ranked defense against the run, will get this team believing again.
The performance for White was the crown jewel in a season marred by personal and professional crisis.
White, perhaps with a premediated purpose, rushed past reporters again, refusing to comment on his greatest day.
Or maybe in his mind he had just spoken, 213 times in 34 carries.
"Maybe he just doesn't like you guys," guard Dennis Harrah said, laughing. "Everybody wants Charlie to do good. You know, Charles White is the last person in the world to tell Coach Robinson to run 47-Gap."
But even White, like Dickerson before him, needed a lot of help from his friends.
And he got it from the Ram offensive line, which was fast losing its youthful look and reputation as the league's Brawny Boys. On this day and on one drive, though, they dug deep down within and opened up a whole new world for their new favorite tailback.
"That was Ram football today," tackle Jackie Slater said. "That's the way we've got to play to be successful. There's been a lot of distractions. Things have been going bad. But we really picked up the intensity in the second half."
It also helped that the Rams, for the first time since the strike, happened to still be in a game in the fourth quarter.
The final drive, which began at the Ram three-yard line, was made possible because the Rams had fought back from a 24-14 deficit after blowing a 14-0 lead of their own in the first half.
Most Rams said they felt the game was theirs at halftime, even though they trailed by three points, 17-14.
"We didn't know how we were going to do it," guard Tom Newberry said. "But we knew we were going to win. Everyone just said 'This is it. It's time to turn it around.' "
Almost on cue, Ron Brown fumbled the second-half kickoff into the hands of Derrick McAdoo, who recovered it in the end zone for a Cardinal touchdown.
That made it 24-14, and it seemed as if the Rams were headed for loss No. 8.
It took a spark from Nolan Cromwell to get his team back in the game. With 6:24 left in the third quarter, Cromwell came charging from the right side and blocked Greg Cater's punt cleanly, sending the ball bounding back toward the St. Louis end zone.