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Rams : Robinson Makes Pass at Daring, It Backfires

Times Staff Writer

It’s time for You Make The Controversial Call:

There were 27 seconds left before halftime in Sunday’s game against the Phoenix Cardinals. The Rams were trailing, 17-14, with 2 timeouts left and the ball at their 32-yard line.

If you’re the coach, do you cut your losses and run out the clock or gamble for more points?

John Robinson, in a complete departure from past years, let his offense loose. Monday, it was a decision he was still debating.

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In the worst of all possible scenarios, quarterback Jim Everett had the ball knocked from his hands by Phoenix end Rod Saddler, who returned it 16 yards for a touchdown with 5 seconds left in the half.

“What I did is I took some momentum in with me at halftime,” Robinson said.

Instead of trailing by 3, the Rams went to the locker room down by 10.

It was a critical swing for the Rams, who ended up losing, 41-27.

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Two years ago, with Eric Dickerson in the backfield, Robinson admitted he would have let the half expire.

“I wouldn’t have had any expectation of getting the ball down the field 2 years ago,” he said. “Now I have the expectation that we could actually do it. I sat there and said, we can actually get this thing down there. It’s a philosophical question.”

For Robinson, a football conservative at heart, it marked a change in his own philosophy, born, he said, from an improving pass offense and the presence of quarterback Everett.

“The odds of us getting the ball down the field were probably 1 in 15 or 20,” he said. “And the odds of that play happening where they got the ball and scored were 1 in 200, something like that. But if you sit on the ball, you choose not to play the game. Interesting.”

Robinson was so curious about his decision that he polled media members at his weekly luncheon. In a show of hands, only 1 reporter out of 7 said he would have let the clock expire.

“One of the things about us before was that we set a state of mind that said ‘Don’t gamble.’ We kept the expectation level on the ability to make the big play.”

These days, expectations are up. Risks, too.

Tailback Charles White is due to return from his 30-day substance suspension this week. Technically, White can’t return until Friday, but last week the National Football League allowed other suspended players back a few days early to prepare for upcoming games.

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Robinson said he hopes White will be able to return Wednesday, which would give the tailback 3 practice days before Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

However, Jim Heffernan, a spokesman for the league, said each decision is made on an individual basis by Commissioner Pete Rozelle and NFL drug adviser Dr. Forest Tennant.

“I know others have come back earlier,” Heffernan said. “But it’s up to the commissioner. I’m sure they (the Rams) will be notified as soon as possible.”

The Rams will receive a 1-week roster exemption for White.

Look who’s leading the Atlanta Falcons these days. It’s quarterback Steve Dils, who has taken over for the injured Chris Miller and will start against the Rams on Sunday.

Dils spent 4 years with the Rams before his release on Aug. 29, a cut that really wasn’t supposed to happen. Remember, the Rams released Dils with the intention of recalling him after he cleared waivers. As you know, he cleared out his locker instead.

Dils, the opponent, poses another problem. He knows the Rams’ playbook better than most Rams.

“He’ll understand quite a few things about us,” Robinson said.

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Does Dils know enough to steal signals?

“We’ve changed them as we’ve gone along,” Robinson said. “But we’ll have to pay attention to that this week, how we’ll do that.”

Dils completed 18 of 32 passes for 266 yards and 2 interceptions in the Falcons’ loss to Seattle on Sunday.

Ram Notes

Jim Everett’s quarterback rating actually went up after Sunday’s loss, from 104 to 106.2. He completed 25 of 33 passes for 300 yards. He remains the NFC’s top-rated passer. However, Everett fumbled twice against the Cardinals and, in the last 2 weeks, 2 of his errors have been converted to touchdowns, “which is disturbing,” Coach John Robinson said. . . . So is the novelty of the rush-happy Ram defense finally wearing off? Are opponents, such as the Cardinals, finally catching on? “This is the 10th game we’ve played this year, and we’ve played the defense all 10,” Robinson said. “It’s not a novelty. The Cardinals played the defense. The Giants played the defense, the Raiders, Green Bay and Detroit played the defense. Eagle defense has become a buzz-word you all are involved with.” Still, the Rams’ philosophy about rushing the passer has come full circle since last year, when the Rams were a zone team. “People are always going to counter the moves you make,” Robinson said. “But Green Bay was prepared to counter us in the first game. I don’t think there’s any question that part of playing us is making sure you get the right play called against the defense. I think Phoenix was successful at that.” If success is measured by yards, the Cardinals were successful 519 times.

There’s still been no decision whether the Rams will sign Marc Wilson as a third quarterback. “I’m still thinking about it,” Robinson said.


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