ST. LOUIS — It was a drive to cherish, all right--all 94 yards, last 11 minutes and 1 tick of the game, 23 plays of it. A return to old times, that's what it was, and had Ram tackle Irv Pankey been able to stand without his leg buckling, he would have celebrated with a victory dance.
"That's the highlight film of my career," he said. "You know how an offensive lineman's highlight film is usually this long (his hands spread apart about 6 inches)? Not this time."
Guard Tom Newberry had been there, too, limping gingerly back to the huddle as the Rams moved down the field in short, measured bursts. Nine yards here, five yards there. Newberry's leg ached, too, but no way was he going to miss this tiny bit of Ram history.
"I was tired, but then I saw their guys and I said, 'I'll keep going a little longer,' " Newberry said. "That was a long drive."
A reporter approached tackle Jackie Slater. The drive, talk about the drive, he is told.
Slater began a 30-second impromptu speech about the St. Louis Cardinal defensive line. Very impressive . . . tough . . . aggressive, he said. One more compliment and you're ready to alert the authorities in Canton.
Slater paused. "You from St. Louis?" he asked.
No, said the reporter.
A half-smile arrived. Pankey was through with public relations work. "Then that was vintage Ram football," he said.
For an entire season, the Rams have longed for a drive like the one that beat the Cardinals, 27-24, Sunday at Busch Stadium. This was Dick and Jane football, with big, easy-to-read plays like pitches and sweeps and handoffs.
"That ranks as one of the most important things this football team has done," Coach John Robinson said.
What with their 2-7 record, this hasn't been a year to remember for the Rams. But Sunday's final drive was one to clip and save.
It began at the Ram three. The clock read 11:01.
"We were on the 2 1/2-yard line and me and the offensive line were actually laughing and joking about it," tight end David Hill said. "We said, 'Boy, we got a long way to go.' Then we looked at the clock and there was 11 minutes and something left. So we said, 'Hey, let's drive the ball all the way down there and take up the whole clock and win the game.'
"That's something I hadn't heard us say this year."
From the official play-by-play:
(Charles) White blasts middle for 9 yds. (Mike) Guman plugs middle for 5 yds. White sweeps left end for 3 yds. White slithers middle for 8 yds. First and 10 at the Ram 28. "We were running basic plays," Hill said. "We were just getting in our stance and hitting the guy in front of us."
The Cardinals had done well enough against the Rams during the first three periods. White had broken one long run for a touchdown, but little else. But now this.
White runs for no gain. (Jim) Everett passes incomplete to (Ron) Brown. White flys right for 12 yds. White carries middle for 4 yds. Guman plugs middle for 7 yds. First and 10 at the Cardinal 49. "It's like, if you get the first two first downs you become a big ball and the ball starts rolling and rolling," Hill said. "That's what we're used to doing."
The Cardinals began to tire. Hill said he remembers seeing some of them "disoriented, they didn't know what was going on."
White carries middle for 7 yds. White sweeps left end for 6 yds. White carries middle for 1 yd. Everett passes incomplete to Guman. Everett passes complete to ( Henry ) Ellard for 10 yds. The pass to Ellard may have hurt the Cardinals the most. The Rams, at the St. Louis 35, needed nine yards for a first down. If they fail, Robinson has to decide between a fourth-down try or at least a 53-yard field-goal attempt.
"The offensive linemen were psyched," said Everett. "They were ready to kill. It's like a fight and you have the best fighter. It was fun."
White carries middle for 4 yds. Guman runs middle for 5 yds. Everett sneaks middle for 1 yd. White carries middle for 2 yds. White carries left for 6 yds, fumbles for 1 yd., recovered by LA White. "My heart stopped," Guman said. "I thought we had a touchdown and then I saw somebody strip the ball (from White). I thought, 'Should I scoop it up and run right in the end zone or fall on it?' "
Guman fell on White and the ball at the Cardinal six.
Guman carries middle for 2 yds. Guman carries middle for 1 yd. With three seconds left, Everett asks for a timeout. Mike Lansford arrives shortly thereafter.
As Lansford, who kicks barefooted, prepared for the 20-yard field-goal attempt, the Cardinals began taunting him.
Lansford glanced up. "I laughed at them," he said. "I told them to come up with something better."
Lansford attempts FG 20 yds; GOOD.