OK, so it took the Rams a few months to warm up. OK, a year.
The Rams swore all along they were good, that all they needed was a little time to ease the pain. Monday night, they finally proved it with a 30-26 win over the Washington Redskins before a crowd of 53,614 at RFK Stadium.
To say the Rams held on, well, check out the fingernail marks in the Washington end zone.
The potential winning touchdown pass, with 24 seconds remaining, left the hand of Redskin quarterback Doug Williams and met the hands of Art Monk in the end zone. The ball was there, Monk was there. But so was Ram safety Johnnie Johnson, who gave Monk one to the lower diaphragm, separating him and the ball, the tip safely landing in the hand of Ram cornerback LeRoy Irvin.
It was as easy as that. The Redskins had taken the ball from their 30-yard line with no timeouts and had driven down the field as though on a walk in the park.
Williams to Kelvin Bryant, nine yards. Williams to Clint Didier for nine, and then for eight. Williams goes deep to Gary Clark, incomplete, but Johnson is called for pass interference, giving Washington new life at the Ram 40.
But's there are only 40 seconds left. Williams throws for 17 yards to Clark, and he gets out of bounds at the 14.
On first down, Williams first goes to Monk, and he drops it. Twenty-four seconds left. Williams throws again to Monk, but this time, wham, Johnson removes the wind from Monk's lungs. And Irvin is there.
The Rams wish the season had started last week. But as far as reality goes, they improve only to 3-7 while the Redskins are 7-3.
"Doug fought his guts out," Redskin Coach Joe Gibbs said of Williams, who completed 24 of 46 passes for 308 yards. "He had some big plays. It's too bad the last one got away."
Williams aside, the Rams seemed intent on salvaging some pride.
"Every time they did something to us, we responded immediately and came right back," Ram Coach John Robinson said.
The Rams moved out to a 23-9 lead. The Redskins cut it to 23-16 by halftime and then 23-19 early in the third quarter on a 29-yard field goal by Ali Haji-Sheikh.
Early in the third quarter, wide receiver Ron Brown dropped a sure touchdown pass from Jim Everett.
The drive seemed dead, but that was before Washington linebacker Mel Kaufman kept the drive alive with a crucial third-down holding penality.
This time, the Rams wouldn't let it slip away. With 3:38 left in the quarter, Everett hit Brown over the middle on a 26-yard touchdown pass play to put the Rams ahead, 30-19.
The Redsins drove 80 yards early in the fourth quarter before scoring on a five-yard pass from Williams to Monk, cutting the lead to four points.
The Rams then used 12 plays and 6 minutes to drive to the Washington 12.
On third down, Everett tried to ice the game with pass to Damone Johnson but instead threw an interception to Redskin safety Alvin Walton.
The defense then hold on.
The Rams needed help from everyone to win the game, including:
--Charles White, who started slowly but finished with 112 yards and a touchdown in 35 carries.
Robinson: "Charlie White again proved what I think our team can do. We can run the ball on anybody, really, if the game is even."
--Jim Everett, whose numbers weren't good (7 of 13 for 106 yards, 1 touchdown), but who was cool under pressure.
Robinson: "He's too young a quarterback to play it from behind. But anytime we can stay even in a game, Jim can really develop and do the things he can do."
--Brown, who returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter (his first), then caught his first touchdown pass of the season.
--The defense. The Cardinals a week ago made Swiss cheese of the Ram defensive front. Monday night, the Redskins were held to 66 yards rushing.
Robinson: "Our defense played like it always can play and has not played up until this week. The last two weeks we have gotten our stuff back."
The Rams used some of their stuff early, escaping the first quarter with a 14-9 lead without the benefit of an offensive first down.
Early in the quarter, defensive end Gary Jeter pounced on Williams, the ball popping loose into the waiting arms of Ram linebacker Mike Wilcher, who went 35 yards for a touchdown.
Jerry Gray's roughing penalty on punter Steve Cox gave the Redskins the ball back at the Ram 46, and from the Ram 17 a few plays later, Williams found Monk wide open in the end zone for a touchdown.
Journeyman kicker Haji-Sheikh blew the extra point, and the Rams were still ahead, 7-6.
The Sheikh soon made up for his blunder with a 22-yard field goal to put the Redskins ahead, 9-7.
What ensued on the kickoff was the NFL's "Fastest Man" contest that never was held.
Brown, who has been trying to break free for what seems like years now, finally did, zooming through the parting of the Redskin sea down the left sideline.
The only football player in the league with a chance at Brown was Darrell Green.
Green won the league's fastest-man title in 1986, Brown in 1985. Green, though, didn't participate this off-season because of injury, Brown winning back the title.
Green will always be remembered by Ram fans for dragging down Eric Dickerson in the open field in last year's wild-card playoff game, saving a sure touchdown. But Green couldn't come through again, as Brown flat out-ran him for the go-ahead 95-yard touchdown.
The Rams took a 14-9 lead despite just six yards of offense in the quarter.
Something would have to give, but not before Everett's knee would. The Ram quarterback had to leave the game with 7:44 left in the first half after being hit by Redskin linebacker Rich Milot. Everett missed the rest of the half.
The Ram offense turned to its special teams for aid, the relief coming when safety Nolan Cromwell's blocked his second punt in two weeks, the ball falling at the Redskin two-yard line.
From there, White went over the top for the touchdown, giving the Rams a 23-9 lead with 4:06.
The Redskins made it close before halftime, scoring with 1:15 left on a one-yard sweep by Williams, his first touchdown since his days at Tampa Bay in 1982.
The credit for setting up the score, though, goes to Monk, who took a short pass from Williams and ran 62 yards to the Ram five.
Ram Notes Inside linebacker Jim Collins was knocked out of the game in the first half with a knee injury. The Rams' 23-16 halftime lead was the first lead for the team since the strike game vs. Atlanta Oct. 18. . . . Ram punter Dale Hatcher was subbing for Mike Lansford on kickoffs because of Lansford's bad back. Hatcher hadn't done kickoff work since high school, and it showed. His first kick went to the Redskin 15. Lansford, bad back and all, handled kickoffs in the second half.