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PRO FOOTBALL DAILY REPORT : RAMS : Newman Blames Mental Mistakes

November 16, 1994|MIKE REILLEY

The Rams' defense ranks 16th in the NFL, but is it stopping teams when it counts?

The answer is no, if you ask free safety Anthony Newman. The defense ranks 27th in the NFL in third-down efficiency, giving up 62 first downs in 133 attempts by opponents (46.6%). Only Philadelphia (74 of 158 for 46.8%) has a lower rating.

Newman blamed mental mistakes.

"We're not taking care of business," Newman said. "We're dropping coverage, we're not putting pressure on the quarterback. It's the whole defense."

The Raiders converted eight of 16 third-down attempts in their 20-17 victory Sunday, including a 12-yard pass to Tim Brown on third and five that set up Jeff Jaeger's game-winning 44-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

"We fight so hard to get teams in third and long, and we think we have them," Newman said. "We get lazy and we're not in it mentally. We'll get that corrected.

"These long drives are killing us, and we have them third and 12. We know better than that."

On third and long, the Rams regularly substitute two defensive backs--usually Robert Bailey and Wymon Henderson--for linebackers Shane Conlan and Joe Kelly. Is that move raising concern with Coach Chuck Knox?

"Overall, we've been playing pretty good on third-down conversion defense," Knox said. "You have to put your best cover people out there. I don't think you can attempt to cover their extra wide receiver with a linebacker.

"We did a pretty good job two weeks ago (against Denver) and Sunday (against the Raiders). A week ago, we were talking about stopping a team on fourth down that has one of the greatest comeback quarterbacks in the game (John Elway)."

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Remember Conlan's pile-driving hit on Raider running back Harvey Williams that saved a touchdown? Last season, Conlan might not have been in on a fourth-and-goal situation at the one-yard line.

Conlan, considered one of the league's best defenders against the rush, was routinely pulled out in goal-line situations by the Rams' coaching staff, who said the linebacker was too beat up to continue on a physical down.

"It was kind of puzzling," Conlan said. "That's something I do pretty well."

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The Rams are 4-6 and have lost four of their last six games by a combined 16 points. Considering the close losses, does Knox think the 4-6 record is a realistic reflection of how his team is playing?

"I think that is reality," he said. "We're playing a lot of young people, first- and second-year guys. And the other thing is that we haven't had stability at the quarterback position. That's no fault of anybody's because both quarterbacks (Chris Chandler and Chris Miller) have been injured."

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