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MIKE PENNER

They're Back in the Spirit

October 17, 1994|MIKE PENNER

The events of Sunday afternoon at Anaheim Stadium were enough to send a Ram nodding off right there on his locker stool.

The Rams beat the New York Giants, same as they always do, and failed to score 20 points, same as they always do, and got the ball to Jerome Bettis 30 times, same as they always do, and began talking wistfully of one day climbing back to .500, same as they always do.

Since there was absolutely nothing new under the Big A this day, postgame conversation naturally wandered, all the way to New Orleans and next week's reunion with yesterday's quarterback, Jim (Don't Call Me Chris, Don't Call Me Jittery, But You Can Call Me 2-5) Everett.

Todd Lyght promised to stop by and say hello.

"Hopefully, he'll be on his back after somebody sacked him and I'm standing over him when I say it," Lyght said, grinning at the thought. "That's how I want to do it."

Defensive end Robert Young said he "wouldn't mind running into Jim on the field. Maybe for a minus-eight, a minus-10."

And Anthony Newman, the Ram defensive captain who suffered the Everett dog days so intensely that he began turning his back to the field whenever the offense had the ball, insisted times have changed and, therefore, "Everett will be fun to face. Nothing against Everett . . . but we'll try to change some things up and try to rattle him.

"We want to try to get into the pocket and get those happy feet."

Oh, to be 3-4 and riding the crest of a one-game winning streak.

If the Rams ever figure out how to put two victories back-to-back--something they haven't accomplished since 1991--these interviews are going to become insufferable.

But back-to-back is on the Rams' agenda, especially since they now get to play a team with a worse record than their own (Cincinnati isn't on the schedule this year) and now, in linebacker Shane Conlan's words, "have something we didn't have last year--an offense that can put up some points."

Yeah. Seventeen of them.

Hoo boy, pass the oxygen mask around.

On any given Sunday, the 1994 Rams can score 17 points at the drop of a hat.

Except two Sundays ago, when they scored five.

But 17 points--17 points represent major improvement. Ten times last season, the Rams failed to reach that magic number. Conlan was new to the Rams then, fresh out of Buffalo, where 17 points were a decent 10 minutes' work for Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas.

Conlan's first season in Anaheim was culture, filled with 35-10 defeats and the first Ram quarterback controversy ever spawned by default. All year long, Chuck Knox could do nothing but shut his eyes and pick his poison. Do I lose with Everett or do I lose with Rubley?

"I was only with him one year," Conlan said of Everett. "I don't know him that well. Obviously, his leaving for New Orleans is the best thing that could have happened for both teams.

"He seems to have resurrected his career down there. You know, he dragged a little here last year.

"It'll be fun, facing him. I know a lot of the guys are looking forward to it."

To Everett and then some. Allegedly, the Rams have completed the most difficult part of their schedule--no more Atlanta, Kansas City done, Green Bay done, one of two San Francisco poundings already out of the way.

Next up, New Orleans, followed by a bye, followed by the Broncos and the Raiders, both in Anaheim. Then, after the obligatory defeats to San Francisco and San Diego, the Rams close against New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Chicago and Washington.

NFC playoffs, here they come.

"There's still a glimmer of hope," defensive end Fred Stokes assessed. "It's time to dash for the cash.

"We've played seven games and still don't have much of a playoff picture. Look at Kansas City, San Francisco, New York. Teams that were at the top last month have slipped a little. You never can tell.

"It's like running a marathon. You run a race that long and maybe somebody ahead of you passes out. You get to the finish line and they're giving the gold medal, putting the ribbon around your neck.

"You're saying, 'Oh, I won?' and they say, 'Yeah, five guys passed out.'

"So, we got to keep running."

Lyght cautioned against looking ahead. "I don't think this team is good enough to look three, four weeks ahead," he said. Yet, the wild card is out there, dangling, and even Lyght can't resist a glance or two.

"It's still early, but things are starting to shape up," he said. "There are a lot of teams right now hanging around .500. We still have a decent shot.

"What we have to do is put two wins back to back. I haven't done it, and I've been here four years. We have to start it right here. New Orleans is a team we can beat."

Everett vs. the Rams. For the first time in years, we have before us a Ram game worth planning one's weekend around.

"You know," Stokes said, "Jim and I have become pretty good friends. We used to go horseback riding together. I wish nothing but the best for him down there. I'm looking forward to seeing him again."

Pause, and then a smile that simply could not be suppressed.

"Especially up close."

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