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Rams Again Getting the Hang of Winning, Rout Tampa Bay, 35-3

November 30, 1987|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

The Rams were so low a few weeks ago they could have played handball against the curb. They were so down they thought Michael Jackson's latest album, "Bad," was all about them.

Ram guard Dennis Harrah swore he saw this team as he dragged large metal cans from his garage to the sidewalk.

"I've just been thinking of getting us out of the stench of this garbage dump we've put ourselves in," he said.

Sunday, the Rams brought out the air freshener and used it on Tampa Bay, beating the Buccaneers 35-3 in front of 45,188 at Anaheim Stadium.

And suddenly, the Rams have gone from 1-7 to 4-7, and that's just heaven for a team that had become an eyesore.

Suddenly, the Rams are so high that Ron Brown is catching touchdown passes, and Jim Everett is throwing them. They're so up that Charles White can nobly brush off questions about the man who's still chasing him for the National Football League rushing title. Clue: "Let him run 47-Gap."

The Rams are on such a roll that linebacker Mel Owens, so efficient that you almost never hear from him, is intercepting passes and setting up touchdowns. They're so good now that Steve Dils can mop up in the fourth quarter and Jon Francis can sub in the backfield along with Tim Tyrrell.

Was that a Pop Warner team the Buccaneers fielded on Sunday?

"I think we found out today what happens when you put boys on the field against men," Tampa Bay Coach Ray Perkins said. "We need some new people and I intend to find them."

The Rams even rubbed dirt in the face of quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who played long enough in the fourth quarter to throw an interception on his third pass attempt.

Maybe it's saying something, but the Rams haven't had a game like this since 1985, when they took turns beating up on the St. Louis Cardinals, winning 46-14.

So what happened to the dissension, the bickering, the back-stabbing?

Why didn't the Rams just jump of the cliff after 1-7? Why didn't they leave on that trip to nowhere?

"We could have packed our bags," Owens said. "But this team is going to win sooner or later. We're going to win in the future, so we shouldn't be surprised when we win now."

The team is playing as if nothing matters, and hey, it doesn't.

"We're just having fun," linebacker Kevin Greene said.

If you're a Ram, what's not fun about driving 69 yards on the opening kickoff and watching Everett throw 19 yards to Ellard for a touchdown, Ellard's first of the season.

What's not thrilling about seeing Owens intercept a Steve DeBerg pass in the second quarter and return it 26 yards to the Tampa Bay 15, only to have White score from two-yards out four plays later?

What's so bad about leading 14-0, 21-0, 28-3 and 35-3?

Nothing, unless you're safety Nolan Cromwell, who was knocked unconscious in the fourth quarter after making a big hit on a Tampa Bay receiver.

"I don't remember much," Cromwell said later. "I don't even know what the score was, to be honest with you."

Today's film showing will be a first run for Cromwell, who will be happy to see highlights of:

--Jim Everett. In his best outing of the season, Everett completed 14 of 19 passes for 208 yards and 2 touchdowns. His release was quick and his timing nearly perfect. He was everything the Rams hoped he would be. . . . last September.

"If I went back to the Houston game, I wouldn't recognize us right now," Everett said of the team's 20-16 loss in the opener.

Everett's 39-yard touchdown pass to Brown in the fourth quarter made it 35-3 and left Everett in a confident mood.

"We were definitely on today," he said. "I could admit I was pretty hot today."

And how about all that momentum?

"Yeah," Everett said. "It's a little late."

--Charles White. His 137-yard, 29-carry performance allowed him to maintain a 92-yard lead over Dickerson in the heated race for the NFL rushing title. Dickerson had 136 yards on Sunday in Indianapolis' win over Houston. White, who also scored two touchdowns, is 48 yards shy of his first-ever 1,000 season in the NFL.

Yet, publicly, he refuses to make Dickerson an issue.

"I'm not paying that much attention," White said. "I'm just happy to be aboard. I'm just happy to be here."

White reached the 100-yard rushing mark with 7:13 left in the third quarter. His best run came in the second quarter, when he literally hurdled over Buccaneer linebacker Ervin Randle on his way to a 23-yard gain.

Getting White his yards has become an obsession with the Rams' offensive line, which is blocking for White with all the respect it had for Dickerson.

"When he stepped in, we knew he'd do the job," guard Tom Newberry said. "There was never, ever a doubt in my mind. We're getting as many yards now as ever before. Charlie's had a 200-plus game and the rest were over 100. We're going to keep it that way, I think."

But Harrah says any talk of winning the rushing title for White is just that.

"If we happen to get Charlie the title, that's a plus," Harrah said. "But we've thought of titles too early this year. Four (wins) in a row is the title I want right now."

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