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For Rams, It All Goes Right, Then It All Goes Wrong : Pro football: After leading the Packers, 17-3, Los Angeles falls apart in second half, blows chance to at least tie in final minute.

October 10, 1994|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Final minute, Lambeau Field, game on the line:

--Bart Starr goes over Jerry Kramer: touchdown, Packers win.

--Jerome Bettis runs behind Wayne Gandy: holding, Packers win.

The Packers' NFL title victory over Dallas on the frozen tundra in 1967 will long be remembered, but the Rams (2-4) will do their best to forget Sunday's second-half collapse, which allowed the Packers (3-3) to overcome a 17-3 halftime deficit for a 24-17 victory.

"I don't know if we let down or they rose to the occasion," Ram linebacker Shane Conlan said. "Whatever, it's ridiculous. It's 17-3 and we're thinking pretty big about ourselves as we come in for halftime, and I don't know, maybe we got flat. We didn't make plays and they did."

Wide receiver Robert Brooks' 85-yard punt return, the longest in the NFL this season, keyed the Packers' 21-point performance in the second half, but with 1:04 remaining in the game, the Rams had the ball in position for a tying or winning score at the Green Bay two-yard line.

"I'm already thinking about what two-point play we're going to call," said Ram quarterback Chris Miller, who threw two touchdown passes to tight end Troy Drayton in the first half. "But then we started going the wrong way."

Miller pitched the ball left to Bettis, who tried to run outside behind the blocking of Gandy, who had been inserted on the play as a tackle eligible. The Rams had run a similar play several times earlier in the game and had failed to gain any significant yardage.

"The Packers knew what was coming," Ram tackle Clarence Jones said. "As we came to the line of scrimmage, they were yelling, 'pitch, pitch.' They had read something in what we were doing and they knew it was coming."

The Packers not only got good penetration on the play to stop Bettis for no gain, but received a bonus when three penalty flags flew to the ground marking the spot where Gandy had been caught holding.

"There's no check-off on the play," Miller said. "Maybe they read it from the formation we run, or from Drayton going in motion, but we have no choice: It's a play we have to run when we call it."

The Packers limited Bettis, who had not practiced all week because of injuries after running for more than 100 yards four consecutive weeks, to 65 yards on 22 carries. Given Bettis' physical condition and lack of success against the Packers, why run the pitch to the outside, a play the Packers had consistently stopped?

"That's the coach, the coaches were seeing that and obviously they thought we could get outside and get it flanked," Miller said. "But obviously they played it pretty good."

Another five-yard penalty on Jackie Slater for a false start and an incomplete pass to Johnny Bailey left the Rams with third and goal from the 17 with 54 seconds remaining. Miller retreated to throw, had time and then lofted a soft pass into the left corner of the end zone toward wide receiver Flipper Anderson. The ball, however, was directed left, while Anderson turned right and, as a result, Green Bay cornerback Lenny McGill was able to intercept.

"If it will happen, it will happen to us," Conlan said.

After McGill's interception, Miller sat on the ground and raised his hands in disgust before jumping to his feet and running down Anderson for an explanation of what happened.

"We had a certain route called and got another route and I'll just leave it at that," Miller said. "It's just frustrating as hell. I was just trying to put the ball up and let us have a chance to make a play, and we ran something else and it got picked. That's tough to swallow."

Before choking on a 17-3 lead, the Rams had dominated the Packers. They had the hometown fans booing Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre, while Miller had his way against the Packers' fourth-ranked defense.

Miller, who took a shot in his right shoulder before the game to allow him to play pain-free, completed eight of 10 passes in the first half, with his only two incompletions coming as a result of passes dropped by Bettis.

Miller took advantage of a Darryl Henley interception, which gave the Rams the ball at the Packer 16-yard line, and threw a two-yard touchdown to Drayton for a 7-0 lead.

Green Bay responded with a 25-yard field goal by Chris Jacke, but Miller then drove the Rams 66 yards in seven plays, including pass plays of 26 and 24 yards to Anderson, to score on a four-yard throw to Drayton.

A 37-yard Tony Zendejas field goal into a 17 m.p.h. wind put the Rams ahead, 17-3, and the Ram defense went to the locker room having given up only one touchdown in the previous 10 quarters of play.

"When you get ahead, 17-3, you have to put the knife in and turn it," Ram safety Anthony Newman said. "We had them down, but didn't put them away."

The Rams opened the third quarter with the wind in their faces and defensive tackle Sean Gilbert in street clothes on the sideline because of an injured shoulder.

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