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Rams Claim a Big Victory Against Giants

Pro football: St. Louis, playing without Warner and Faulk, has little problem defeating the NFC East leaders, 38-24.

November 13, 2000|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — If the St. Louis Rams could limp into Giants Stadium on Sunday with two losses in their last three games, play without injured quarterback Kurt Warner and running back Marshall Faulk and yet still shred the New York Giants in a 38-24 rout, does that speak well for the Rams' resilience and depth?

Or does it speak poorly for the Giants, supporting the theory their four-game winning streak was padded by a soft schedule and shouldn't have launched the New York media into a frenzy?

Yes.

And yes.

"They did a lot of talking in the papers this week," said Ram receiver Isaac Bruce, who caught a 34-yard pass from Trent Green with 2:24 left in the third quarter for the Rams' final touchdown. "We didn't want to talk while we were in St. Louis. We would rather talk on the field, and that's what we did."

The defending Super Bowl champions' solid defense and imaginative offense spoke volumes.

"What we do is take a more pragmatic approach," Ram Coach Mike Martz said. "We try to move the ball any way we can. If it's not a conventional approach, I don't care."

By scoring 14 points in the first quarter against a team that had given up an NFC-low 12.8 points a game, the Rams (8-2) had four more points than the Giants' previous two opponents had in both games combined.

The Rams, who scored a season-low 24 points in losing at home to Carolina last week, also scored eight more points than the Giants (7-3) had given up in their previous four games.

The Rams never fumbled, pulled off a fake field goal to prolong a drive that led to their third touchdown, and protected Green well enough for him to complete 27 of 45 passes for 272 yards and four touchdowns.

Since replacing Warner, who broke the pinkie on his throwing hand Oct. 22 at Kansas City, Green has 1,218 passing yards and 12 touchdowns in 3 1/2 games. He has also developed a running game: He gained 56 rushing yards Sunday, the most by a Ram quarterback since Roman Gabriel gained 57 in a 1967 game.

"It's always been there. It's just kind of been on the rehab table the last 15 months," Green said, referring to the knee injury he suffered in an exhibition game before last season, which enabled Warner to step in and transform the Rams into a Cinderella story.

"It's good to get out of the pocket. I don't think New York expected that."

Said cornerback Dexter McCleon, whose fumble recovery on the Giants' first possession--unsuccessfully challenged by New York--put the Rams on the Giants' one-yard line and set up Green's touchdown pass to Roland Williams: "We feel that with the people we have left, we can win our division. I don't know why people aren't picking us to win. They shouldn't be doubting us."

The Giants, who had hoped to prove their mettle against Washington and Tennessee and failed, again inspired more questions than answers.

They have beaten one team (the Philadelphia Eagles) with a winning record.

They were outrushed by the Faulk-less Rams, 141-135, and gave up a total of 385 yards, more than the Eagles and Cleveland Browns had combined to gain in their previous two games.

"To lose the way we lost today is real hard to swallow right now," Giant offensive tackle Lomas Brown said.

"They recognized that we had to throw the ball to catch up with these guys, and they were bringing guys from everywhere. Linebackers, corners off the ends, they were trying to do everything they could to rile us, and they did."

The tone was set early, when the officials ruled McCleon had recovered a fumble by Amani Toomer on a 22-yard pass from Kerry Collins. The Rams scored on the next play; two possessions later, Green found Torry Holt open in the end zone for a 14-0 lead.

The Giants halved that 2:18 into the second quarter, but after Keith Lyle gained two yards on the faked field-goal attempt, Green capped the 12-play, 71-yard drive with an eight-yard pass to Ricky Proehl.

Green lunged into the end zone on an 18-yard play for a 28-7 lead with 2:41 left in the half, the 26th consecutive game in which the Rams have scored at least 20 points, but the Giants scored on their first two possessions of the second half. Collins connected with Ike Hilliard on a 46-yard pass play on third down, and the Giants regained the ball seconds later when Green, under pressure from Cedric Jones, threw the ball into the hands of Ryan Phillips, who returned it 10 yards and set up Brad Daluiso's 20-yard field goal.

However, Jeff Hall, who replaced Jeff Wilkins when Wilkins pulled a muscle kicking the first point-after, connected on a 50-yard field goal--his first NFL field goal--to stop the Giants' momentum and give the Rams a 31-17 lead.

Sabotaging their comeback hopes again, the Giants got to the Ram 38 before Collins' pass for Hilliard was intercepted by London Fletcher. The Rams took over on their 41 and scored again, a sequence capped by a 34-yard pass from Green to Bruce in the right corner of the end zone with 2:24 left in the third quarter.

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