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Cowboys Tough Act for Rams to Follow : Pro football: San Francisco, coming off big victory over Dallas, hasn't lost to L.A. since 1990.

November 20, 1994|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Early last week, a Ram publicist said the team's prospects for today's game against the San Francisco 49ers in Candlestick Park were not so bad.

"Did you know," he said, "that of the last nine teams to beat Dallas, eight of them lost the following week."

Emotional letdown: The Rams' best hope at 4-6.

The 49ers, 8-2 and winners of five consecutive games, defeated the Cowboys a week ago in the biggest game of the season and prepares to play a team it has defeated eight times in a row.

"I hope they have an emotional letdown, but I won't count on it," said Jim Erkenbeck, Ram offensive line coach.

The 49ers not only knocked off the Cowboys, but they come into this game having already whipped the Rams this season, 34-19.

"I think the 49ers believe they are going to have an easy game," Ram tight end Troy Drayton said. "They pretty much had their way with us the past few years and so they will come out cocky."

The last time the Rams beat the 49ers, Irv Pankey, Doug Smith, Duval Love, Buford McGee, Jerry Gray and Vince Newsome were in the starting lineup: Nov. 25, 1990.

"Let me tell you something about the 49ers," Ram assistant Joe Vitt said. "This is a great organization, filled with great players with absolutely the best offensive philosophy probably in the history of the National Football League. They have Pro Bowl players and Hall of Fame players at the wide receiver and quarterback position. Players like that don't let down. Teams like this don't let down.

"We have to play the best football game we have played this year. We're not going to let down, and we're not expecting them to let down. You're going to see the best we have and we're going to see the best they have."

The 49ers conducted a brief players-only meeting on the practice field Friday to remind themselves not to slack off against the Rams.

"If I had a choice of any team to play after a bye or an emotional game, it would be the Rams," Harry Edwards, sports psychologist and special consultant to the 49ers, said in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News last week. "With them, it's like a bull staring at a red flag. . . . As one player told me these are the . . . Rams."

The Rams will start Chris Miller at quarterback, although Chris Chandler played well the last three games. Chandler, the backup when the season began, led the Rams to victories over the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos, and was playing well against the Raiders a week ago when he was forced out because of an ankle injury.

Miller suffered a serious concussion Oct. 23 and says he is still bothered by headaches but has thrown the ball well in practice. With Miller at quarterback, the Rams and 49ers were tied, 10-10, with 1:30 to play in the half. Quarterback Steve Young then completed six of seven passes to move the 49ers to the Rams' one-yard line with four seconds remaining in the half. Young ran the ball into the end zone for a 17-10 lead, and the 49ers went on to score 10 unanswered points in the first 18 minutes of the second half.

"I made a bad defensive call in the two-minute drill and they got it down to the one, where they scored," Vitt said. "It's 17-10 at the half and the game remains virtually that way until the fourth quarter when we make a call, they hit Jerry Rice with a bomb and it's over.

"Take away those two defensive calls and all of a sudden it's a game. I don't see a big gap between these two teams. After two years of building this defense there shouldn't be a gap there. We should line up and play these people tough."

The 49ers have averaged 31 points a game in their domination of the Rams the last four years, and in six starts against the Rams, Young has completed 70% of his passes, passed for 10 touchdowns with two interceptions, and rushed for four touchdowns.

Wide receiver Rice has caught 55 passes in his last nine games against the Rams for 860 yards and six touchdowns.

"I don't know of any team that's invincible," Ram linebacker Joe Kelly said. "San Francisco has Rice and Young, but their defense gave up 478 yards (actually 408) when they beat Dallas and everybody says they're great. You give up 478 yards and who are you kidding? That's not a great defense.

"When you play them, you can slow down their offense at times, but the main thing is to keep them out of the end zone. Force them to take field goals. If we can get big No. 36 (Jerome Bettis) rolling and get our offensive line going, then we can control the ball. Teams that can control the ball, and keep their own defense off the field, usually have the best records. That's what San Francisco's offense does, it controls the ball."

Bettis, who carried 10 times for 13 yards in last week's 20-17 loss to the Raiders, has averaged 103 yards in three starts against the 49ers. However, after gaining more than 100 yards in four consecutive games this season, Bettis has averaged only 62 in his last five.

"We have to keep their offense off the field," Bettis said. "They can do so many things, they can kind of undress a defense, so it's up to us to play a game of keep-away with them.

"I know no one gives us a snowball's chance in hell of beating them in their place, but you know what? We think we can beat them."

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