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Rams' Simple Plan for Week 2: Make Plays : Pro football: Everett and Gary will start, but the team is preparing Bettis, along with Jones and Drayton, for duty against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

September 12, 1993|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two problems confront the Rams as they make their 1993 regular-season home debut today against the Pittsburgh Steelers:

--They can't score touchdowns.

--They can't stop the other team from scoring touchdowns.

The solution:

--"We got to score some points," said Ernie Zampese, the offensive coordinator. "We get the chance (last week) to catch the ball for a touchdown, then catch the damn thing, don't drop it. You got to make the plays."

--"I may be going senile," said George Dyer, the defensive coordinator, "but I really feel the way these people are working, the ability we have and the way they played in that football game, all we have to do is make some plays."

There it is, the Rams' game plan for Week 2: Make some plays.

The Rams will continue to start Jim Everett at quarterback and Cleveland Gary at running back, but the team spent a lot of time this week preparing running back Jerome Bettis, wide receiver Ernie Jones and tight end Troy Drayton for duty.

Bettis earned praise and the promise of more playing time from Coach Chuck Knox last week after running five times for 24 yards and catching a six-yard pass.

Jones, a big-play maker for the Cardinals in 1991 before running into problems off the field, provides another deep threat to go with Flipper Anderson.

Drayton has been bombarded with information while trying to learn a variety of positions in the passing game. He caught two passes for 45 yards during a 36-6 loss to the Green Bay Packers last Sunday, including the team's longest reception of the day, a 25-yarder, but he also dropped a pass in the end zone in the closing seconds.

"We would all like to use that as an excuse," said Zampese, referring to the Rams' shuffling of offensive personnel in recent weeks. "But you got to play the guys you've got. We get paid to get them ready to play. That's our job and we didn't do it very well last week."

The Rams' first offensive unit has scored one touchdown in four exhibition games and one regular-season contest, Everett has yet to throw a touchdown pass, and the Rams have yet to win in 1993.

The offense will be playing a Steeler defense that failed to corral San Francisco quarterback Steve Young last Sunday. The 49ers jumped to a 17-0 lead in Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium before settling in to record a 24-13 victory.

"It's a good defense," Zampese said. "They are very, very athletic and like all Steeler teams, they are very physical. There's going to be some head-rattling."

The Steeler defense features former Ram linebacker Kevin Greene. Greene, the Rams' all-time sack leader with 72 1/2, will be matched much of the day against tackle Jackie Slater and tight end Travis McNeal, who replaces an injured Pat Carter.

"You never know from game to game; all of a sudden you can break out of a slump," Zampese said. "We started slow last year and then broke out of the dang thing and started scoring some points. So who knows? We could break out of this thing this weekend."

The Ram defense, which had been charged with keeping the opposition close while the offense found itself, failed to shut down the Packers' passing attack in its first assignment.

This week the Steelers' starting quarterback, Neil O'Donnell, is bothered by a sore elbow. So the task for the Rams' defense is to stop running back Barry Foster, who ran 17 times for 80 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers.

"That's going to be one of the real tests for us," Dyer said. "You've got to have a lot of people come to the football and once you make contact you have to wrap him up because he's got tremendous movement and power."

Foster ran for 100 or more yards 12 times last season and led the AFC in rushing with 1,690. He also had nine fumbles, same as Gary.

"They had two guys in the backfield last week and one guy carried it once and Foster carried it every other time," Dyer said. "You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out who is going to get it."

The Ram defense, which finished 27th in the league against the run last season, imported help in the off-season, obtaining linebackers Shane Conlan and Henry Rolling. But Rolling is out because of a broken thumb and Conlan, who did not practice all week, is questionable because of a groin injury.

The Rams, who are 10-0-1 at home against the Steelers, bounced back from a 40-7 opening-day defeat by Buffalo a year ago and whipped New England, 14-0, in their home opener.

"The keys to winning are, defensively, we've got to do a pretty good job of shutting them down and not permit them the quick, early score," Knox said. "We've got to be able to control their running game to an extent and put some pressure on their quarterback.

"Offensively, we've got to put some points on the board. Special teams are supposed to be special, and we have to do a better job covering kicks and punts. We just have to make some plays."

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