Rams and Giants Battle Today En Route to Superpower Status

Times Staff Writer

As local legend has it, gangsters used to bury their opposition in the New Jersey swamplands. The New York Giants seldom did the same.

Times have changed. It started on opening day of the 1983 National Football League season, when the Rams, under a new coach, John Robinson, met the Giants, also under a new coach, Bill Parcells.

For each team, it was a step on the road back to respectability.

The Rams won that day, 16-6. It was the beginning of a 9-7 season and a return to the playoffs. The Giants joined them a year later, winning a 16-13 wild-card game at Anaheim.


Here they are again, somewhat more mature and reaching now for superpower status. Parcells says the Rams (8-1) already have achieved it.

“This league is very, very balanced, with the exception of a couple of super-strong teams,” Parcells said. “And the Rams appear to be one of those.”

Not to be one-upped, Robinson said the Giants (6-3) are becoming too familiar.

“I think we’ll see them again in the playoffs, or somebody will,” Robinson said. “I think they’ll win the (NFC) East Division, with Dallas the wild card.”


Parcells protested.

“We’re just not a team that’s good enough not to play on an optimum level and expect to win,” he said.

But his team is favored by five points today, partly because Ram quarterback Dieter Brock was knocked out by a kidney stone and Jeff Kemp was assigned to replace him.

When these teams met in ’83, Brock was winging along handsomely but obscurely in Canada, and rookie Eric Dickerson was happy with his contract. Bill Bain, an NFL drifter, and Leonard Marshall, a rookie, were a couple of fat guys whose times had not quite come.


Then Ram offensive tackle Irv Pankey got hurt, and Bain was told to go to New Jersey and stop Lawrence Taylor. Bain stopped him so well that the Giants’ All-Pro linebacker threw a couple of tantrums.

Now in 1985, with fat “in,” Bain and Marshall are established starters.

Marshall, the Giants’ right defensive end, leads the league with 11 1/2 quarterback sacks, upstaging not only teammate Taylor but also two-time NFL sack champion Mark Gastineau of the New York Jets.

Today, Bain will be told to stop Marshall. Because of this season’s nagging injuries, Bain may alternate with Pankey, but Robinson would prefer to have Bain’s 300 pounds rather than Pankey’s 267 leaning on Marshall’s 285.


“Bill seems to play his best in big games,” Robinson said.

As for Dickerson, with 543 yards in 7 games, not only is he far from being the leading rusher in the league this season, he won’t even be the leading rusher on the field. Joe Morris of the Giants, all 5-7 of him, has 573 yards.

Parcells said of Dickerson: “It doesn’t look like he’s struggling much to me. I think what’s happened is the same thing that happened to Lawrence Taylor. His standards are so high--and he’s set ‘em himself--that when you don’t put on a spectacular performance, people think something’s wrong.

“They expect four or five sacks a week from Taylor and 150 yards rushing from Eric. It’s virtually impossible to achieve it every week.”


Morris has given the Giants a more productive running game than the Rams, who own the patent rights.

The Rams, meanwhile, will be relying on Kemp to put the points on the board, and whether it’s by the run or the pass does not matter greatly.

“If we get down there, we’ll have to get into the end zone any way we can,” Robinson said. “We’ll have to make big plays.”

The defenses may have something to say about that. The Giants’ ranks best in the league in yardage allowed (262.3 a game), while the Rams are more difficult to score against and tops at taking the ball away (33 times).


Parcells said the defenses are mirrors of each other.

The Giants, Dave Klein of the Newark Star-Ledger said, “are starting to get back to the kind of team they were years ago. They go out and look for people to punch in the mouth.”

Ram Notes Eric Dickerson, who left with a sprained ankle in the fourth quarter of last week’s 28-10 win over New Orleans, practiced without problems all week. . . . When Dieter Brock threw 24 yards to tight end Tony Hunter on the Rams’ first play last week, it was only the second time in nine games they had opened with a pass. Five weeks earlier, Brock threw for seven yards to Henry Ellard against Atlanta. Otherwise, it’s been five runs by Eric Dickerson for 17 yards and runs by Barry Redden and Mike Guman for nine and one yard, respectively. File that under tendencies. . . . Coach John Robinson hinted that if the Giants take a lead and play a lot of zone pass defense, he may switch quarterbacks from Jeff Kemp to Steve Dils. “He (Dils) doesn’t have Kemp’s arm but he’s really good at picking zones,” Robinson said. . . . Ram rookie punter Dale Hatcher shares the NFL lead with the Raiders’ Ray Guy with 22 punts inside the 20-yard line. . . . Robinson doesn’t often make predictions, but he said on KMPC radio: “I think it’ll come down to the last 30 seconds, with somebody kicking a field goal.” . . . The Giants’ 6-3 record is their best nine-game start since 1970. . . . All-Pro cornerback Mark Haynes of New York has been back two weeks from a holdout but isn’t expected to play much. . . . The Giants lead the NFL with 40 sacks, but Leonard Marshall had none in the last two games. The Rams have 35.