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Rams Get Whitewash in No Time, but Is It in Time?

December 14, 1987|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

They give you 60 minutes to work with in the National Football League, but on Sunday the Rams could have beaten the Atlanta Falcons with an egg-timer.

How fast is fast? How good's your stopwatch?

The Rams ended up winning, 33-0, at Anaheim Stadium, and let's just say they went ahead and played the second half anyway.

It was a day, perhaps, when Coach John Robinson really could have run 47-Gap. Charles White did, 20 times in the first half alone, and gained 105 yards. And this with a left foot so sore that he could barely walk all week.

So what does White do with two good feet? Squash grapes? Does he gain more than 159 yards in 29 carries for the game?

White's first touchdown, a 21-yard run early in the first quarter, was scored before the first round of hot dogs could be consumed.

And it was all downwind from there, the scoreboard lighting up like a pinball machine.

It was as easy as 7-0, 9-0, 12-0, 19-0, 26-0, 33-0.

"They can play with anybody in the league right now," Atlanta guard Bill Fralic said of the Rams.

The Falcons, who proved they can play with few, may have considered stopping the game to save the ball and cherish the moment after first crossing into Ram territory with 5:57 left in the third quarter.

So much for high-water marks.

A tale of the tape shows that the Rams:

--Won their fifth consecutive game and improved to 6-7 with two games remaining.

--Gained 494 yards in total offense, the highest total of the season.

--Recorded their first regular-season shutout since a 16-0 victory over Kansas City in 1985.

--Had 15 first downs in the first half to the Falcons' three. The Falcons, though, did gather 17 passing yards in that time.

--Are absolutely, positively ready for the upcoming playoffs. Now, if they could only bribe someone at the door and get in.

"I think if things work out, and we get in, we can play with anybody in the league," Ram guard Tom Newberry said.

A few weeks ago, tackling an Einstein theory would have made more sense than to calculate the Rams' mathematical chances of making the playoffs.

But look what happened? The Minnesota Vikings, who needed to win two of their last three games to knock the Rams out, lost to Green Bay on Sunday. If the Vikings (7-6) split their final two games with Detroit and Washington, they would finish at 8-7. The Rams can finish with the same mark by winning next week against Dallas and in the finale against San Francisco.

That alone, though, doesn't get the Rams into the last wild-card spot. The first playoff criteria is head-to-head competition, and the Vikings beat the Rams earlier this season.

The Rams need to finish in a three-way tie at 8-7 with the Vikings and the St. Louis Cardinals. A three-way tie would eliminate the head-to-head criteria and make the records within the conference the deciding factor, which would give it to Rams.

The Cardinals, like the Rams, are 6-7 and need to win their last two games. Impossible? Well, St. Louis plays at Tampa Bay and at Dallas, two teams who exemplify mediocrity.

Some Rams admitted to scoreboard watching Sunday, though swore it was only to relieve the boredom.

"I saw the scoreboard," said wide receiver Henry Ellard (6 catches, 97 yards, 1 touchdown). "I saw that Minnesota lost. I said OK, that's nice."

So you think this playoff thing is easy for the players?

"I don't even know how we get there," fullback Mike Guman said.

The Rams, frankly, are glad to be anywhere these days. Remember those 1-7 blues?

"The thing is that we just messed up," quarterback Jim Everett said of the team's miserable start. "I hope we can just finish strong and be able to say we're a pretty damn good team."

The Rams were that on Sunday, taking the Falcons out of the game before the halftime show.

Then again, Atlanta didn't help itself. Trailing only 7-0 in the first quarter, center Doug Barnett sailed a snap over punter Rick Donnelly's head in the end zone.

Donnelly managed to knock the ball down with a hand, but when he picked it up he was tackled by Michael Stewart in the end zone for a safety. Michael Young assisted on the play.

An 18-yard Mike Lansford field goal with 11:10 left in the half made it 12-0, though Robinson was nervous that the lead wasn't more.

"I was concerned because it was 12-0 yet we were in complete control of the game," Robinson said.

Then, on the next drive, Lansford missed two field-goal opportunities, getting a second chance when a Falcon jumped offsides after Lansford's first miss hit the right upright from 46 yards. Lansford's second try from five yards closer was wide left.

But Robinson's fingernails were saved seconds later when LeRoy Irvin picked off a Scott Campbell pass and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown to make it 19-0.

Irvin, who could have been considered a head case only weeks ago, has returned to the Irvin of old.

Could you imagine, in your wildest dreams, Robinson ever handing LeRoy Irvin a game ball? The same Robinson once handed Irvin a suspension.

"LeRoy is playing as well as ever," Robinson said.

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