Dieter Brock introduced himself to the National Football League Sunday. He apologizes for the wait.
For the first time this season, Brock began to resemble the guy the Rams signed from the Canadian Football League, the guy that passed for a jillion yards, the guy that could add the finishing touches to a heretofore lopsided Ram offense.
Brock finished the afternoon with two touchdowns, 16 completions in only 20 tries and 215 yards.
There are other numbers of importance. For starters, Brock didn’t complete a pass to the other guys. He entered Sunday’s game against the Falcons with six interceptions and was ranked 25th in the league passing standings.
Fittingly, the Falcons treated Brock with appropriate amounts of respect. First, they designed a defense that all but dared Brock to pass. At times, there were eight defenders crowded near the line of scrimmage. Stop the run, figured the Falcons, and you stop the Rams.
Not a bad plan by 1985 standards. Brock had yet to prove himself. And Eric Dickerson had pronounced himself fit for the game, broken hand and all.
“Eric Dickerson is a proven back,” said Atlanta safety Scott Case. “We knew what kind of player he was. Brock, well, he’s a new quarterback. He’s going to have to prove himself in this league. It doesn’t matter what he’s done in the other league.”
On Sunday, Brock handed out his resume.
With Dickerson on the bench because of a pulled hamstring, Brock began to assert himself. An eight-yard out pattern to Henry Ellard became a 64-yard touchdown pass. “A couple of times today the ball was in the air before I made my cut,” Ellard said. “I really like that.”
In the third period, on the Rams’ lone possession of the quarter, Brock used nearly 10 minutes to take Los Angeles 79 yards for a score. He ended the drive with a soft, arching touchdown pass to Bobby Duckworth.
“I felt like I needed a game like this,” Brock said. “I didn’t make any mistakes.”
“He proved he can throw the ball,” Ellard said.
Brock said he didn’t take exception to the Falcons’ defensive tactics. Maybe he didn’t know the Falcons refused to abandon their run-oriented defense even after Dickerson departed the game.
“You have to make them throw the ball,” said John Marshall, the Falcons’ defensive coordinator.
So Brock obliged. He picked his moments and then he picked on an Atlanta secondary devastated by injuries and confined to man-to-man coverages. And when the Falcons turned to a zone defense, Brock didn’t heave passes into double or triple coverage. He was patient and even efficient.
Vindication, even if it takes the form of one game, had arrived for Brock.
“Things weren’t going as great as I wanted them to go in the first three games,” Brock said. “I wasn’t pleased overall.
“I guess it’s being a perfectionist,” he said. “I could have used better judgment.”
Sunday was different. Sunday was a coming-out party of sorts. “The key thing today was that I didn’t make any mistakes.”
Brock spent 11 years in the CFL. He made his living by dropping back to pass 35-40 times each game. The Rams ask him to throw about half that much.
And he has spent his first month in the NFL answering questions about the width and length of the new field (CFL fields are longer and wider) and the newness of his surroundings. His talent has been questioned--at times, with good reason.
Still, Brock shrugs when asked about the criticism that has nipped at him. “Mostly, I can’t do anything about it,” he said. “They can say what they want about it.”
John Robinson, the Ram coach, says he never has understood the critics in the first place. “Based on my criteria, (Brock) has played solid all along.”
Sunday, much to the surprise of the Falcons, Brock proved it.