The Rams returned to Anaheim Tuesday a different team.
A good team?
Well, don't push it just yet.
Still, Monday night's 30-26 victory over the Washington Redskins did a lot for a struggling team's image. The Rams, in fact, don't look like the same players who were routed by the New Orleans Saints and fell to 1-7 two weeks ago.
Playing with new-found intensity since, the Rams have strung together wins over St. Louis and Washington.
But even the Cardinals managed 239 yards rushing against the Ram defense. Monday night, the Redskins gained just 66.
Coach John Robinson admitted Tuesday that the mounting turmoil of the season--Eric Dickerson, LeRoy Irvin, Charles White, the player strike--clearly zapped his team of spirit.
"How much effect the distractions had, it's startling to me now," Robinson said. "It demanded all our attention."
He suggested that the emotional strain seeped onto the playing field.
"It was a little traumatic that all of a sudden the Rams can't tackle, and the Rams can't stop anybody," Robinson said.
With practices now focused on blocking and tackling instead of pending legal action, the team has apparently found itself.
"We're back to being us again," Robinson said.
He wouldn't go so far as to say the team might win its final five games and finish 8-7, though a partially soft schedule--Tampa Bay, Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco--seems to give the Rams a chance.
"It was so much fun for us (Monday) night that we just want to go out and play again," Robinson said. "If we won all five and had a winning season, great, but we just want to play again, and get back in the habit of playing like we have always believed we can."
When Ram quarterback Jim Everett went down with a knee injury with 7 minutes 44 seconds left in the first half Monday night, the first one on the scene was Robinson. Initially, he didn't like what he saw.
"When I got there, he had all the look of a ligament," Robinson said, fearing the worst. "That was even though he said he was OK."
The injury turned out to be only a bruise, and Everett returned in the second half and was feeling fine Tuesday.
"I think it was important for Jim Everett that he come back and play," Robinson said. "Just for his mental state of mind."
His or the coach's?
Ram Notes Safety Vince Newsome and linebacker Jim Collins, suffering minor knee injuries, have about a 50-50 chance of playing Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, John Robinson said. . . . Charles White was suspended for one play in the third quarter Monday night for using a sticky adhesive on his hands to improve his grip on the ball. Stickum was banned a few years ago, largely because of its overuse by Raider cornerback Lester Hayes. . . . Robinson said he didn't know who finked on White. "Maybe (the official) shook hands with Charlie," Robinson said.
The coach praised the play of fullback Mike Guman, who gained 66 all-purpose yards and blocked diligently for White. Robinson did not want to be reminded that the Rams put Guman on waivers in September to juggle their roster, betting he wouldn't be claimed because of his guaranteed contract and that the team could re-sign Guman, which it did. "It wasn't as though he was some guy nobody wanted," Robinson said. "I don't want to talk about that. That's three months ago."
Ron Brown's 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown Monday was his first since the 1985 season, when he returned three for scores and was selected for the Pro Bowl. . . . The Rams are shaking people up with their special teams play, having recorded two blocked punts--both by Nolan Cromwell--that led to touchdowns in the last two games. The Rams practice blocking punts almost daily, some players choosing not to wear helmets during the drills. "It's the most dramatic single play in the game," Robinson said. "It changes the game so fast."