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MIKE PENNER

Selling Out Makes for Great Rivalry

November 11, 1994|MIKE PENNER

There are probably more appropriate sites for Sunday's Battle To Leave Los Angeles--the tarmac at LAX and the parking lot at Mayflower Moving & Storage come to mind--but the Rams and Raiders will have to settle for Anaheim Stadium and an audience of 69,000 I-was-there chest-thumpers.

"I think it will be a war," Rams radio broadcaster Jack Snow predicts.

"Any time two teams are trying to get out of town, it makes for a great rivalry."

As we all know, this game is a sellout for only one reason.

Who knows where these two teams will meet again?

St. Louis?

Baltimore?

Oakland?

Chances are, it will be anywhere but here, so the curiosity- and novelty-seekers will be flooding the freeways Sunday morning.

Heaven knows, it won't be for the football.

If this is indeed the last go-round, what a way to go out. Once, the Ram and Raider organizations represented polar opposites of the NFL experience. The Rams, with Eric Dickerson high-stepping and Jim Everett back-pedaling, played football to sip Chardonnay to. The Raiders, smashing mouths in the trenches, provided background noise for the muggings in the stands.

Today, if it weren't for the uniforms, the teams would be indistinguishable. Consider:

RECORD

Rams: 4-5, third place in the NFC West, already three games behind the more glamorous team to the north, San Francisco.

Raiders: 4-5, third place in the AFC West, already three games behind the more glamorous team to the south, San Diego.

HEAD COACH

Rams: Chuck Knox. Rumored to be on shaky ground. Former offensive lineman. Likes to draft offensive linemen in the first round. Feuded with quarterback last season. Denied/downplayed it afterward to the media. Took a while to settle on a go-to back, found one in Jerome Bettis, now can't stop pitching the ball to him. Idea of a big play is Bettis, off right tackle for nine yards. Idea of a keenly executed game plan is Rams 17, Giants 10.

Raiders: Art Shell. Rumored to be on shaky ground. Former offensive lineman. Likes to build his teams around offensive linemen. Feuded with quarterback last month. Denied/downplayed it afterward to the media. Took a while to settle on a go-to back, found one in Harvey Williams, now can't stop handing the ball to him. Idea of a big play is Williams, around right end for 11 yards. Idea of a keenly executed game plan is Raiders 17, Houston 14.

QUARTERBACK

Rams: Chris Chandler. Former career backup, signed with Rams as a free agent before 1994 season. While suffering from a concussion and a malfunctioning headset in his helmet, recently changed a play that was sent in from the sideline and was promptly pulled from the game.

Raiders: Jeff Hostetler. Former career backup, signed with Raiders as a free agent before 1993 season. While suffering from impatience and a malfunctioning offensive playbook, recently changed a play that was sent in from the sideline and was promptly pulled from the game.

RUNNING BACK

Rams: Jerome Bettis. Averaging 3.5 yards per carry, has scored three touchdowns, still gets the ball two plays out of every three. Typical Ram offensive possession: Bettis run, Bettis run, incomplete pass, Sean Landeta punt.

Raiders: Harvey Williams. Averaging 3.8 yards per carry, has scored three touchdowns, still gets the ball two plays out of every three. Typical Raider offensive possession: Williams run, Williams run, incomplete pass, Jeff Gossett punt.

RECEIVERS

Rams: Flipper Anderson and Jessie Hester have caught a total of 43 balls, averaging 17 yards per catch. Potentially most dangerous receiver, Troy Drayton, spends his time either run-blocking or running downfield, turning around and waving his hand.

Raiders: Tim Brown has caught a total of 50 balls, averaging 15 yards per catch. Potentially most dangerous receiver, James Jett, spends his time either pacing the sidelines or running downfield, turning around and waving his hand.

DEFENSE

Rams: Good enough to be 6-3. Held Green Bay to two offensive touchdowns and Atlanta to eight points in games the Rams lost.

Raiders: Good enough to be 6-3. Held Miami to two touchdowns and Kansas City to 13 points in games the Raiders lost.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Rams: Kicker Tony Zendejas, team MVP.

Raiders: Kicker Jeff Jaeger, team MVP.

LAME DUCK STATUS

Rams: See you in St. Looie. Or Baltimore. Next year, Anaheim gets Arena ball.

Raiders: Back to Oakland a 60-40 proposition and growing stronger by the week. Next year, if Raiders leave, L.A. gets Dallas-San Francisco on the tube.

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