Unable to Do Any Kicking, Cowboys Take Their Licking

Times Staff Writer

If nothing else, the Dallas Cowboys are honest about a catastrophe. Then again, they've had practice.

Their most recent escapade came Saturday at Anaheim Stadium as the Rams flicked the Cowboys from the playoffs like a piece of lint with their 20-0 victory. The game goes nicely with other Dallas follies this season, most notably a 44-0 defeat by the Chicago Bears and a 50-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. "They pretty much eliminated everything we could do," Cowboy quarterback Danny White said of the Rams. "At best, we would have scored three (points)."

However, a placekicker is needed for that sort of thing, and the Cowboys were a bit short in that department Saturday. Rafael Septien injured his right quadriceps muscle while attempting a practice kick shortly before the third quarter and was rendered useless for the remainder of the game.

"On my last warmup it felt like somebody got a knife and went, riiiipppp ," said Septien, moving an imaginary blade down his kicking leg. "It was so bad, I thought my leg came off, that the muscles were severed. It felt like someone was sawing your leg off."

Septien limped toward Cowboy Coach Tom Landry.

"Coach, I can't kick off," he said.

Try a squib-kick, suggested Landry.

So Septien punched at the ball like a drunken soccer player and then watched as it bounced out of bounds 35 yards later. Septien returned to the sideline.

"Coach, I can't kick," he said on his way to the bench.

Punter Mike Saxon came on and kicked the ball to the Rams' Charles White at the Los Angeles 31. White returned the kick to the Ram 45. On the next play, Eric Dickerson scored on a 55-yard run and the Rams had a 10-0 lead.

"If I would have had a good kickoff in the beginning, I would have put them back," Septien said. "Then we would have had momentum, they wouldn't have known I was hurt and we would have still played as a team. But somehow I felt like we gave up. Some of the players went, 'Gee.' "

Then they went poof.

A lasting sight will be that of reserve tight end/linebacker Brian Salonen and White arguing over who would attempt a field goal after the Cowboys had made a rare appearance deep in Ram territory.

"No, I'm going to kick it," Salonen said.

But White convinced Landry that anything--a long pass, a sweep, a drop kick-- was better than the sight of Salonen lunging at the ball. The Cowboys called timeout and replaced the kicking team with their regular offensive team, which may not have been such a great choice after all.

White's fourth-down pass for receiver Gordon Banks fell incomplete.

Asked if Salonen could have kicked the field goal, Septien shook his head no. Could Saxon? Again, no.

You seem preoccupied. What are thinking about?

"Pain," Septien said.

It was shared. Chris Schultz, a second-year offensive tackle from Arizona, spent the afternoon playing movie usher to Ram defensive end Gary Jeter.

You say you want to sack Danny White? Sure, right this way, Mr. Jeter.

Jeter finished the day with three sacks and countless annoyances to his credit.

"It seemed like there were about 12 of them coming," said White of the Ram pass rush.

Schultz, who by day's end was pulled on passing downs and replaced by Howard Richards, couldn't explain his performance.

"Every time it seemed like we'd get something going, I'd break down," Schultz said. "I feel like I'm better than this. I feel really down about it. I felt like I let down a lot of people, including myself."

No argument from Jim Myers, the Cowboy assistant head coach who also directs the offensive line.

"He let Jeter beat him to death," Myers said. "Then I started substituting Richards. Schultz has been playing good all year, but Jeter just ate him up."

Myers took Schultz aside during the game. "I talked to him a lot, but it didn't do any good," Myers said. "Jeter's good, he's an excellent pass rusher, but nobody's that good. We made him look that good."

The Cowboys also lost right guard Kurt Petersen (left knee) early in the game. Petersen was replaced by Broderick Thompson, who has one year's worth of experience.

"Listen, our plan was to control the ball, control field position and not turn the ball over," said Phil Pozderac, who alternated at right tackle. "(The Rams) took us out of our plan."

But the Cowboys helped. And helped. And helped.

"What the hell's the use of winning the (NFC) East if you're not going to play well in the playoffs," running back Tony Dorsett said. "To me, it's no consolation winning the East. We didn't get down and dirty."

Said White: "It's embarrassing for any team. But it's been that kind of year for us."

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