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Rams Don't Let Elway Drill Them : Pro football: Quarterback brings Broncos back from 21-point deficit, but rally comes up short, 27-21.

November 07, 1994|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Rams were leading by 21 points Sunday in Anaheim Stadium, and linebacker Shane Conlan admitted, "I was nervous as hell."

Time remained on the clock and John Elway was still in the stadium, pitching footballs and rallying the Denver Broncos.

"Was I nervous? What a crazy question," Ram defensive end Robert Young said. "Wouldn't you be nervous if the greatest comeback player in the game had the ball in his hands?"

The Broncos scored three times, and with 2:28 to play, the Rams were hanging onto a six-point lead. Elway had the ball at the Rams' 49-yard line with a chance to direct his 26th fourth-quarter game-winning drive.

Four times he took aim at the Ram defense, and four times the Ram defense fought off the magic, taking the ball back on downs and securing a 27-21 victory before 48,103.

"I just thank God we survived," defensive end Fred Stokes said. "They ought to present T-shirts to every team that can say, 'I survived the John Elway two-minute drill.' "

Elway's pass on fourth and seven from the Ram 46 went to a diving Shannon Sharpe at the 38, good for a first down. But as Sharpe jumped to his feet, the ball in his hands, the official ruled the pass incomplete.

"I thought I made a good catch," Sharpe said. "He (the official) was on top of the play, so he had the position to make a good call. He probably did, but I didn't feel the ball hit the ground. I'll have to see the replay."

Bronco Coach Wade Phillips, who watched the play unfold directly in front of him, protested loudly on the field, but gained no satisfaction.

"I thought he caught the ball," Phillips said. "The official told me right away that the ground can't help you catch a ball."

The Rams--whether they witnessed the play or not--were unanimous in their call: He didn't catch the ball.

"I'm not lying," safety Anthony Newman said. "I would have said, 'Aw, we got licked on that one.' But it hit the ground without a doubt."

The incomplete pass snuffed the Denver rally. The Broncos got the ball back with five seconds to play, but they were 89 yards from the end zone and out of timeouts.

"That's the first time I felt good," Stokes said. "He had five seconds, but I didn't think even he could go that far in that amount of time."

The Rams blew an opportunity to deliver a knockout punch and curtail the Elway comeback effort midway through the fourth quarter when running back Jerome Bettis was stopped three consecutive times at the Broncos' one.

"Everyone in the stadium knew Jerome was going to get the ball," said an irritated Troy Drayton, Ram tight end. "I wanted a pass called because they were packed in to stop the run."

A pass had been called on second down, but Ram quarterback Chris Chandler said the audio apparatus in his helmet malfunctioned and he misinterpreted the signal coming in from the sideline.

"I think they were ready to fold up at that point," cornerback Todd Lyght said. "But when we didn't score a touchdown there, they got momentum."

The Rams settled for an 18-yard field goal by Tony Zendejas to extend their lead to 27-14 with 8:36 to play, and Elway was back on the field.

"Today could have been very ugly," cornerback Darryl Henley said. "We could easily be sitting here, mad and talking about what we needed to do better to win next week. That's what I hate the most: coming in here and having to hear Chuck Knox's same speech: 'You didn't get it done.' "

The Rams, however, did get it done, and thanks in part to a quick start after a bye week.

The Rams (4-5) scored three touchdowns on offense for the first time in 19 games, Chandler established himself as the team's starting quarterback and Zendejas ran his streak of consecutive field goals to 12 with a pair of kicks.

Also, the Rams limited Denver to 60 yards of offense in the first half, when Elway completed only seven of 17 passes for 40 yards.

Chandler, who replaced Miller as the starting quarterback because of Miller's lingering concussion, left in the fourth quarter after suffering his own knock on the head. He completed 19 of 25 passes for 223 yards, including touchdown passes of three yards to Howard Griffith and 30 yards to Flipper Anderson.

Denver safety Steve Atwater went helmet to helmet with Chandler on the goal line on the Rams' opening series in the second half, and Chandler said he began to feel sluggish as the game continued. He played until midway in the fourth quarter, when he said he began having difficulty following the Bronco defense and throwing the ball.

Miller relieved and completed three of four passes for 21 yards, but the game rested on the battle between Elway and the Ram defense.

"We blew a chance to have three more victories by losing games like this," linebacker Joe Kelly said. "That's why this win is so important to us: We can hang in there, and we did it against one of the best in the game."

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