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Hapless Rams Are No Match for Chargers : Football: Los Angeles looks a lot worse than its 24-6 loss to San Diego might indicate.


SAN DIEGO — Embarrassing, inept, humiliating, depressing, sloppy, discouraging, disheartening, ugly, disgusting Ram football.

Imagine a team playing as poorly as the mind will allow, and the Rams went one penalty, one dropped pass, one blown coverage beyond in a 24-6 loss to the Chargers Saturday night at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

"We were awful," Ram Coach Chuck Knox said. "We just aren't in sync at this point. No way can we commit these kind of mistakes and win."

Nine consecutive exhibition defeats, 45 defeats in their last 64 regular-season games, and that's Ram football as they go bungling into the 1994 season.

If Charger running back Natrone Means plays the Rams every week, he rushes for twice the yards Dallas' Emmitt Smith gains this year.

If Charger linebacker Junior Seau plays the Rams every week, he leads the league in sacks and sets an NFL record for forced fumbles.

The Chargers were 0-4 in exhibition play before Thursday night, but they're talking playoffs now.

"I'm concerned--big time," said Knox, who was asked if he thought his players were concerned. "I hope they're concerned. They better be concerned."

Sure, the Rams didn't play running back Jerome Bettis and wide receiver Flipper Anderson, but why not? Why save Bettis and Anderson, but subject injury-prone quarterback Chris Miller to such a thrashing?

The Chargers were ahead, 24-3, with 1:16 remaining in the first half, and inexplicably Miller was still in the game, pitching footballs behind an offensive line threatening to end his season before it began.

The Rams couldn't play defensive ends Fred Stokes and Gerald Robinson and defensive tackle Sean Gilbert because of injuries, but that was starting cornerback Steve Israel beaten by Charger wide receiver Shawn Jefferson for a 22-yard touchdown; starting safety Deral Boykin beaten by tight end Alfred Pupunu for a four-yard touchdown, and heaven knows who was assigned to cover a wide-open wide receiver Mark Seay on his eight-yard touchdown catch.

The Rams lost the exhibition opener to the Packers, and fret not, they said, it was only the exhibition opener. They fell to New England in Anaheim Stadium, and it was early, they said. They were drubbed by the Raiders a week ago and apparently it was no fluke.

In four exhibition games, the opposition rolled up 58 points on the Rams' first-string defense. The Ram offense produced three touchdowns in four games, and if kicker Tony Zendejas (seven of eight on field-goal tries) ever misses the team bus, it's time to pack away the uniforms.

What were these guys doing in training camp? Do they teach mistakes?

--On the opening kickoff, starting linebacker Roman Phifer was caught holding.

--The defense had the Chargers stopped on their first offensive series after a third-down incomplete pass, but rookie defensive end Brad Ottis was flagged for stepping off-side and, eight plays later, the Chargers scored.

--On the ensuing kickoff, Ram running back David Lang couldn't catch the ball, which bounced out of bounds at the one-yard line.

--Four plays later, an unblocked Seau arrived in the backfield about the same time Miller was handing the ball to Lang. A collision produced a fumble, Seau recovered and, three plays later, Stan Humphries was throwing a touchdown pass to Jefferson.

--The Rams were penalized for an illegal block on the kickoff. . . . a poor snap from center forced Zendejas to miss a 49-yard field-goal attempt. . . . Means caught a short pass from Humphries and ran through a half-dozen Ram defenders before falling to the ground. . . . Holding penalty on Ram guard Bill Schultz. . . . Safety Anthony Newman drops an interception chance directed right into his hands at the goal line. . . . Miller throws a pass in the general direction of Richard Buchanan and Charger defensive back Darren Carrington intercepts. . . . Tight end Troy Drayton drops a pass. . . . The Rams elect to save quarterback Chris Chandler, and they start Jamie Martin in the second half. He fumbles the first snap from center. . . . Martin runs 10 yards for a touchdown, but the score is wiped out because offensive lineman Tom Newberry is caught for hitting a Charger defender in the face.

An endless series of mistakes, and the Rams counter that none of it means a thing until the regular-season opener.

Better days are ahead, the Rams say, but then in their last two regular-season openers, the Rams were outscored 76-13.

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