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NFL / WEEK 9

Faulk Teaches Valuable Lesson

Pro football: Running back proves his worth with four touchdowns as Warner-less Rams defeat 49ers, 34-24.

October 30, 2000|ROBYN NORWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — Subtract the quarterback.

Kurt Warner stood on the St. Louis sideline at 3Com Park Sunday, his right hand in a cast.

Subtract the kicker, if you want.

The Rams have done that before, too. It only gave them an excuse to score more points against Atlanta.

Just keep the extraordinary Marshall Faulk on the field, and the NFL's most versatile offense seems to find a way.

"MVP, MVP," Ram fans in the old yellow and blue jerseys chanted Sunday as Faulk walked off the field after scoring four touchdowns in the Rams' 34-24 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in front of 68,109.

Warner, the most valuable player in the NFL last season, tended to agree.

"I'd have given it to him last year," Warner said. "The guy just does so much for his football team. Every week, no matter what you ask him to do, he just steps up and does it.

"When somebody decides to give him the credit he deserves, he'll definitely get the MVP."

Trent Green took over as the Rams' starting quarterback, passing for 310 yards in his debut while Warner wore a headset on the sideline after breaking his pinkie finger last week in the loss to Kansas City.

Though Green was herky-jerky at times, throwing an early interception, he hit his stride in the second half to complete 22 of 39 passes in the game.

"He missed a couple of throws early that he normally doesn't miss, but as he got going, he made some big-time throws to help us win the game," Ram Coach Mike Martz said.

But make no mistake: Faulk is the irreplaceable part of this offense.

Playing with a mild shoulder separation and a nagging bone bruise in his knee, Faulk rushed for 83 yards and two touchdowns in 19 carries and caught six passes for another 61 yards and two touchdowns, amassing 144 of the Rams' 447 yards on a day when the yards did not always come easily.

It was not a breeze for the Super Bowl champion Rams (7-1), who had to come from behind against the 49ers (2-7).

The Rams took the lead for good with 10:21 left in the fourth quarter when Green zipped a 16-yard pass to Faulk, who beat cornerback Jason Webster's tight coverage in the end zone.

This wasn't the shootout everyone expected: The teams were too busy shooting themselves in the foot, combining for 19 penalties for 170 yards.

Jeff Garcia continued his unanticipated success as Steve Young's replacement, completing 26 of 44 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns. He leads the NFL with 23 touchdown passes. Terrell Owens caught eight passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

But the 49ers lost another game that was within reach.

"We've got to find a way to win in the clutch, in the fourth quarter, when the game's on the line," said 49er Coach Steve Mariucci, whose team had a 75-yard touchdown run by Charlie Garner that would have given the 49ers a fourth-quarter lead called back because of a holding call against center Jeremy Newberry.

"Certainly that was a big, big play," Mariucci said. "It would have given us great momentum and the lead and everything. It didn't happen."

The game started eerily like the Rams' loss to Kansas City last week, as the Ram defense gave up a touchdown in the opening minutes.

This time, Travis Jervey returned the opening kickoff 68 yards. He paid for it, leaving the game with a broken collarbone after Todd Lyght tackled him at the 20-yard line.

Three plays later, Garner scored from four yards out only 1:35 into the game.

Both defenses, so heavily criticized, played better at times.

The Rams still trailed at halftime, 17-14, but on the first play of the second half, Green hit Isaac Bruce with a pass that went for 22 of Bruce's 129 receiving yards, and Green suddenly looked in sync.

"The first half I was a little tentative. I was more worried about not making mistakes instead of just going out and playing," Green said.

Martz took the blame for keeping him under wraps early.

"I just didn't let him go. Once he got going, he came out the second half, hit Isaac against the blitz, and he was off."

A former starter with the Washington Redskins, Green was at his best in the fourth quarter.

"I was in the huddle screaming at my guys in excitement. I just said, 'Look up at the score. We're tied. We haven't had the lead all day,' " Green said.

"We shut them out in the fourth quarter, 10-0. That's just a great thing for a team to be able to do--to go on the road and be able to close it out in the fourth quarter like that."

Having Faulk around helps. He set an NFL record with 2,429 yards from scrimmage last season, and he won the game Sunday by lining up in the slot and beating a cornerback one-on-one.

"A number of things coming into this game seemed to give people the controversy and things to talk about," Faulk said. "We were just anxious to get out and play and say, 'Look, Trent can do this, our defense is going to improve, our special teams are going to get better.'

"It's a dream to think you can win every game, 19-0, Super Bowl. It's tough. It's very competitive in this business. Sometimes you're not going to have your A-game. Sometimes you can win without your A-game."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Marshall Law

Last season the Rams Marshall Faulk set an NFL record for total yards from scrimmage with 2,429, breaking the mark of 2,357 yards set by Barry Sanders in 1997. While on a pace to shatter that record this season, Faulk could also put Emmitt Smith's 1995 NFL record of 25 touchdowns in jeopardy.

*--*

CATEGORY THROUGH 8 GAMES ON A PACE FOR 1999 Combined yards 1326 2,652 2,429 Touchdowns 14 28 12

*--*

Research by Roy Jurgens

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