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Scott Ostler

Rams Play the Game Boldly, Then Badly

December 22, 1987|Scott Ostler

Forget those formulas, Ram fans.

With Caltech computers standing by to compute the Rams' chances of earning a wild-card berth in the playoffs after they whipped the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, a funny thing happened.

The Rams were the whipees, 29-21.

Reports of the Rams' life and Tom Landry's death were premature.

I won't say the Dallas coach's job was in danger, but when the Cowboys left town to fly to Los Angeles, Landry was issued a one-way ticket.

There were reports that Landry had lost his touch, but he pressed all the right buttons Monday night. Maybe it was the new hat. There must have been some magic in that new cloth that he found, for when he placed it on his head, they began to gain some ground.

Landry played it straight, Ram Coach John Robinson defied the book, and that was the difference.

The turning point came in the second quarter when Ram kicker Mike Lansford nailed a 45-yard field goal to narrow the Dallas lead to 13-10 and earn several thousand bucks for Lansford's "Kick Out Cancer" charity fund.

But the Cowboys were detected offsides on the play. The Football Commandments say quite clearly, "Thou shalt not taketh points off the scoreboard."

But Robinson sensed this was a time for boldness. If the Rams accepted the penalty, they would lose the field goal but have a first down on the Dallas 23-yard line.

Robinson immediately stepped out onto the field and motioned grandly toward the North end zone--"Go for it!"

The gesture couldn't have been more dramatic if Robinson had had a sword in his hand and been accompanied by a bugler.

It was absolutely the right decision. Your team is moving, pushing the Cowboys around. This was the time not only to go for the lead, but to make a statement. Damn the commandments. Take this field goal and shove it.

Two plays later, Jim Everett made Robinson look like a ninny by throwing an interception. That led to a Dallas field goal and nine-point halftime lead.

Hey, it's the thought that counts, right?

Landry, on the other hand, played it close to the vest. Twice his field goal kicker was roughed up while successfully kicking a field goal.

Twice the Cowboys could have thrown back the three-pointers, like undersized trout, and gone for touchdowns. Twice Landry kept the points.

And he earned a return ticket to Texas, and maybe a gold star on his report card from owner Bum Bright.

Robinson learned his lesson. In the third quarter the Rams, still trailing 16-7, had fourth-and-four-inches and punted.

They were still in the game, until the instant-replay officials took the Rams out of the game, set and match.

When Everson Walls intercepted a Jim Everett pass at the sideline, it wasn't immediately clear if he got both feet down in-bounds. It was a case for the plain-clothes zebras in the instant-replay booth.

Word came down from on high: "I did not have indisputable evidence that he (Walls) did not have two feet down to reverse the call of the field officials."

This report is believed to have been ghost-written by Sparky (Double Negative) Anderson and Mike Port.

One word would have done it: "Inconclusive."

Either way, the Cowboys kept the ball, marched to a quick touchdown, and that was your ballgame.

One more shining moment for the Rams, however, one last glimmer in the dying embers of a season. Jim Everett scored a one-yard touchdown on a nifty bootleg.

As Everett trotted into the end zone he wound up and cranked a rainbow spiral into the second deck of the stadium.

This is the way touchdowns were celebrated in the old days, back in the '60s, before Pete Rozelle outlawed the practice of tossing souvenirs into the crowd.

The toss will cost Everett a $100 fine, but it could have been worse. Had he thrown a gum wad instead of a football, the kid would have been in big trouble with the law.

Everett's dramatic gesture would have been the perfect ending for the season. Unfortunately, the officials located another football and the game continued, and it went quickly downhill for the Rams.

Everett was knocked out of the game with a chipped ankle, Ron Brown was knocked woozy, Lansford missed a field goal, Brown dropped a bomb from sub quarterback Steve Dils, Tim Tyrrell dropped a fourth-down pass . . .

Welcome back to hard time, Rams.

So Landry will be home for Christmas; Robinson, as the jocks say, can hang his head high; and the Rams will be in the playoffs, if only in their dreams.

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