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Rams’ Greene Lives Up to His Word : After Promising a Wild Time in San Francisco, He Delivers With 4 1/2 Sacks of Montana

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Ram linebacker Kevin Greene would like to thank his National Football League peers for the events of Sunday evening, which included his 4 1/2 sacks, an unexpected Ram victory and an unlikely playoff berth.

Greene also sends his warmest regards to the Bay Area Ram fan who sent him a package of local newspaper clippings earlier this week. And while he’s at it, Greene wants to wish the very best to San Francisco 49ers center Randy Cross, Ram senior citizen Gary Jeter, cornerback LeRoy Irvin, the rest of the Ram secondary and, of course, the New York Jets, the Rams’ new pals.

Without them, Greene said, none of his sweet Sunday would have been possible.

First, the reasons for Greene’s postgame frenzy:

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Well, a 38-16 Ram victory over the 49ers didn’t hurt. Not only did the win ensure the Rams a wild-card appearance next Monday against Minnesota, but it confirmed Greene’s earlier predictions, which, like Greene himself, had all the subtlety of a sucker punch.

You remember, don’t you?

“We’re going up to Frisco and we’re punching them in the mouth,” Greene said a week ago. “How’s that? I don’t want to be inflammatory. We’re going to go up there and we’re going to get after them. We’re going to do the wild thing.”

The 49ers didn’t take kindly to Greene’s comments, which may explain that Federal Express package he received at Rams Park earlier this week. Inside it was a note from a Ram well-wisher who resides in San Francisco.

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“Thought you would be interested in what they’re saying about you,” wrote the Ram fan.

According to Greene, what they were saying wasn’t very nice. Among other things Greene recalled reading that day was a special quote from Cross, a 49er statesman and Pro Bowl man.

"(Cross) said he enjoyed pounding the Rams-- pounding the Rams! --and it’s too bad he only plays us twice a year,” Greene said.

Long, dramatic pause.

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“Ha ha!” Greene said.

There are certain things you don’t do to Greene. You don’t criticize the Armed Forces (he’s a captain in the Army reserve). You don’t speak harshly of his alma mater, Auburn University. And you don’t challenge him to a fight, which is exactly what Cross may or may have not done in this mysterious newspaper story.

Greene plays with a glazed look in his eyes to begin with. Ridiculing his team only riles him more.

So, uh, enthusiastic was Greene Sunday night that teammate Irvin had to resort to a different dialect when communicating with the outside linebacker. Ram defensive huddles began to resemble scenes from old war movies.

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“I talk to Greene in Army talk,” Irvin said. “I have to. I tell him we’re going to charge the hill, or we’re shooting napalm, or we’re going to throw grenades. That sort of thing.

“Now, Mike Wilcher (the Rams’ other outside linebacker), he’s calmer. I can talk to him in layman’s terms.”

Greene charged, all right. In one memorable 10-minute period in the first quarter, Greene introduced himself to the 49er quarterback four times. Four.

One sack sent Montana back 3 yards. Another one cost Montana 1 yard. Later, with the 49ers on the Ram 43, Greene dashed into the San Francisco backfield and wrestled Montana down for a 7-yard loss. On the next play, he did it again, this time causing a 4-yard loss. And on the play after that, Jeter sneaked in to toss Montana 9 yards back.

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Three plays, three consecutive sacks.

Greene and Jeter later split another sack. It was an important one, too, since it enabled Jeter, who finished the season with 11 1/2 sacks, to surpass his previous career best (11).

Meanwhile, Greene completed the year with 16 1/2 sacks, which pushed him ahead of New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor (15 1/2) and left him only 1 1/2 sacks short of NFL leader Reggie White of the Philadelphia Eagles (18).

“All I can say is that the good Lord upstairs really blessed my life,” Greene said.

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About the only things that weren’t blessed were the Pro Bowl ballots sent out earlier last week. Greene didn’t make the team.

“Yeah, I’ll be honest with you, I was a little upset,” he said.

It showed. Greene pestered Montana the entire game. He credited some of the sacks on blown 49er assignments, some on the airtight pass coverage of the Ram secondary and some on the rest of the defensive line, especially Jeter, who turns 34 in January.

Jeter nearly quit at the end of last season. The Rams had lost to the 49ers, 48-0, and there was talk that Jeter was this close to retirement. Only an off-season chat with Coach John Robinson helped change his mind.

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But as he prepared for Sunday evening’s game, Jeter said he once again considered the implications of another Ram season-ending loss. In short, possible retirement.

Instead, Robinson said Jeter played one of his best games of the season, an opinion seconded by Jeter himself.

“At 34, well, almost 34, I thought I’d be wearing a suit and tie (by now) and going to work,” he said.

Not so quick, said teammate Doug Reed.

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“He might be 47 years old, but he still gets up the field a little bit,” said Reed, laughing. “We might have to talk to him a little bit. He ain’t that old.”

Reed said he thought it was Greene and Jeter and the rest of the defensive line that may have made the difference in this game. Nine sacks, seven in the first half, will do that.

“As the game went on, it kind of seemed that (the 49ers) seemed satisfied in being in the position they were,” Reed said. “They didn’t challenge us. We’ve always had a tougher time than that.

“Usually (when the Rams play the 49ers) it’s one of those games where you go home and have to go to sleep,” he said. “But tonight . . . I’m going to party tonight.”

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