Neil Lomax, the Phoenix Cardinals' rifle-armed quarterback, and his arthritic left hip have made it through another game's worth of abuse, this time against the Rams in Anaheim Stadium on Sunday.
And as Lomax heads back to Arizona, he takes with him something to help ease the pain--the memory of the Cardinals' unexpected 41-27 victory over the Rams and their newfangled Eagle defense.
Lomax ignored the hurt of his hip much like he ignored the heretofore potent Ram rush: he passed. He passed to 9 Cardinal receivers during the course of the game, good enough for 2 touchdowns and 342 yards. And he passed on thinking about the arthritis that has crept into his hip. His only concessions to the lingering disease have been a lone cortisone shot, doses of anti-inflammatory drugs and a rubberized pair of shorts he wears during games to keep the hip warm and loose.
And don't bother inquiring about his hip condition. Mum's the word during the postgame show.
"I'm tired of talking about it," Lomax said. "It's been doing OK."
OK? What happens if they find a cure? Then what? As it was, Lomax played as if he had never heard of the disease, much less been afflicted with it.
Time and time again, he stood calmly in the Cardinal pass pocket and zinged stilettos in the Rams' back. A 33-yard touchdown pass play to Roy Green in the first period . . . an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jay Novacek in the second period . . . assorted clutch passes throughout the remainder of the game.
"Lomax did the things today that he does best," Ram cornerback Jerry Gray said. "He is able to throw underneath and then hit the big plays."
Biggest of all, according to those concerned, was a fourth-quarter, third-and-12 situation at the Cardinal 3. A failed conversion meant fourth down and a punt from the end zone. With the Cardinals clinging to a 27-20 lead, it was the last thing they wanted, especially because the Rams had partially blocked an earlier punt and turned it into a touchdown.
Lomax called the play "Double Cross." Offensive coordinator Jim Shofner said the proper name is "89 Double Dig." Novacek said the play doesn't have a name, mainly because it was invented on the sideline during the game.
Whatever its title, it worked. Green ran one way, J.T. Smith another, which left Novacek open for a 26-yard gain and a first down. Twelve plays later, the Cardinals scored.
"I think that's the play, mentally, that broke their back," Lomax said.
Lomax was sacked just twice, far below the Ram average. That left him plenty of time to pick out Cardinal receivers. Novacek had 9 catches, Green had 5, Smith had 4, Stump Mitchell had 3. Lomax completed 28 of 43 attempts.
"A couple of seconds," Cardinal center Derek Kennard said. "The way (the Rams) come at you, that's all Neil needed."
Actually, Lomax needed something other than time; he needed a semi-healthy hip. Already this season, Lomax has had to leave a game because the arthritis became to painful to bear.
Not Sunday. Against the Rams, Lomax appeared positively cured.
"We didn't self destruct," he said.
Was he talking about him and his hip, or the Cardinals?
Lomax hasn't suffered alone. Almost to the man, the Cardinals made mention of Lomax's effort Sunday.
"He'll be guaranteed to have a miserable night (Sunday night) and he'll have a bad tomorrow," Shofner said, glancing at Lomax. "Bless his heart. Probably right now, it's starting to get to him."
"I'm fine," Lomax said, a forced smile on his face.
Not to worry. The Rams believe him.