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Ron Brown Has the Rams Singin’ in the Rain

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

In an off-tune falsetto that would make Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons cringe, tight end David Hill serenaded the Ram locker room with a verse that was short on cleverness, but long on sincerity.

“It’s the Ron Brown Show,” crooned Hill in a voice meant for a loud shower, “starring Ron Brown.”

Yeah, you can really tap your feet to that one, but then again, Hill isn’t paid to be a composer. All the same, he did manage to condense an afternoon’s worth of splendid work by the star of your new Ram show, Ron Brown.

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Brown merely saved the day for a team that needed several shots in the arm to recover from a recent and distressing slump. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and added another score to his statistical package by transforming an innocent 10-yard Dieter Brock pass into a 39-yard touchdown run. By doing so, the Rams could claim a 34-17 win over the Packers and a bit more leg room in the NFC West title race.

“Ron Brown is the greatest thing God ever gave us,” said Ram guard Dennis Harrah.

Harrah also is the man who is believed to have said Silly Putty and the Weed Eater would change the course of history.

But on a chilly, drippy day, Harrah could safely claim that Brown was the Rams’ best friend and weapon. In an afternoon, Brown equaled his season reception total (five), surpassed his touchdown sum (one), accounted for 271 yards of offense, became only the third player in NFL history to return two kickoffs for scores and generally ruined an otherwise pleasant day for the Packers.

There hadn’t even been one good brawl in the Anaheim Stadium stands before Brown took the opening kickoff and returned it 98 yards for a touchdown.

He ran as if he were trying to catch a bus, moving through the collision of blockers and would-be tacklers with surprising ease. Excuse me . . . pardon me . . . so sorry.

At about the Ram 49-yard line, Brown burst from the crowd and found Al Del Greco moving to intercept. Kickers generally are regarded as poor tacklers and Del Greco did nothing to alter that reputation. He reached out and nipped Brown’s leg, but the former Olympic sprinter disregarded the attempt and soon was standing in the Green Bay end zone.

“I saw a lot of shirts going down,” Brown said. “I didn’t know if they were reaching for me or being blocked. I didn’t want to take the time to look.”

Said Del Greco: “I don’t know what happened. I didn’t hit him hard enough, I guess.”

The touchdown return was the first Del Greco has allowed. “High school, college, anywhere,” he said.

So, of course, those wily Packers, after tying the score 7-7 early in the second period, kicked to Brown again and watched him go 86 yards for another touchdown. It was as if the Packers were wearing penny loafers on the soggy turf.

“He scares you all the time,” said Chuck Priefer, the Green Bay special teams coach.

After the second touchdown return, Brown turned to the end zone audience and performed a deep bow. It was a gesture of joy and, for him, an uncharacteristic display of emotion.

By the third quarter, Green Bay had seen enough. Coach Forrest Gregg ordered Del Greco to squib a kick to the other kickoff returner, Charles White. For Gregg, that’s like saying, ‘We give up.’

“Today just happened to be my day,” Brown said. “We have 10 guys up front who want me to return it as much as much as I do.”

But how many of them can run a 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds? And how many of them have had pancreatitis this season or endured the frustration of inactivity? Or listened to the constant comparisons between being a track star and football player?

“He’s not a track man,” said Gil Haskell, the Ram special teams coach. “He’s a football player and he’s got football instincts. His career is just beginning. We haven’t scratched the surface.”

Brown’s third touchdown came after Brock noticed an impending Green Bay blitz. Brown heard the call, saw one-on-one coverage with cornerback Tim Lewis and ran a quick slant-in. Brock made a perfect throw, Lewis slipped and Brown was gone.

And, by the time composer Hill was through, Brown was no longer the Rams’ unsung hero.


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