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Rams to Face Peete and ‘Silver Stretch’

Times Staff Writer

Don’t call it the run-and-shoot, or Mouse Davis will tear your thesis to pieces.

The new look in Detroit is known as the Silver Stretch, although it’s basically the same test-tube offense Davis mixed up in various football laboratories across the continent--CFL, USFL, Arena Football, et al.

Yet, what could be crazier than a Lion offense last season that finished 28th in the league? Nothing, owner William Clay Ford said. So he fired Darryl Rogers, promoted Wayne Fontes to head coach and demanded he find someone who could build an offense that ran more smoothly than some of Ford’s Pintos.

Fontes turned to Davis, who had put up some incredible numbers, first with Neil Lomax at Portland State and then with Jim Kelly and the Houston Gamblers in the USFL.

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So here it is, making it’s National Football League debut this season--the Silver Stretch. And pulling the trigger at quarterback tonight (6 p.m.) against the Rams at Anaheim Stadium is none other than Rodney Peete, the former USC star and sixth-round draft choice.

Davis has long resented the name run-and-shoot, claiming it sounds too much like something you’d play down at the schoolyard.

So what do you think? In this offense there is no tight end, so don’t bother to draft one. The receivers, four in all, should be bullet-fast and quick as gnats. Their positions are called W,X,Y and Z and they’re in the game all the time--even on first and goal.

The lone runner is called the S-back. That’s Barry Sanders, if he ever signs.

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The offense is actually based on precision. There’s not much free lance. The idea is to stretch a defense with speed and improvise pass routes based on coverage.

OK, there are a few wrinkles to work out. Detroit is winless in three exhibition games.

“We’re struggling with it a bit,” Fontes said. “We’re moving the ball some, we’re just having trouble crossing that last white line. We’re going to stay with it, because I think we can get it done, it’s an exciting-type thing. Winning of course is the bottom line, and whatever we can do to win we’ll do, and I think this will help us win quicker than going the conventional way.”

Fontes said he thinks there’s a great misconception about the offense being totally pass-oriented, which would seem to negate the skills of a Heisman Trophy winning tailback.

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“We have Tony Paige as our starting S-back right now,” Fontes said. “He runs the 40 maybe in two days. And he’s rushed in the first game for a 100-some yards, the second for 66 in eight or nine carries. We’re averaging over four-yards a rush. You get a guy like Sanders in this thing, it adds another dimension. That’s why we’re calling it the Silver Stretch. We’ve given it a whole new name because of the running back.”

Peete started the first and third exhibition games and will get the start tonight. He’s completed only 41.9% of his passes, but so far it’s been more run-and-drop than run-and-shoot. Peete had seven catchable balls mishandled last week.

Ram Notes

The Rams and first-round pick Cleveland Gary have essentially agreed on a four-year, $1.75 million deal, but the fullback apparently isn’t close to signing. Gary wants his $700,000 signing up front. The Rams are offering $250,000 with the rest deferred over the course of the contract. “That’s not going to get it,” agent Willie Gary said Friday. In other words, the end is not in sight. “Based on my last meeting with Jay (Zygmunt), we sort of shook hands and said it’s not going to happen.”

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The Rams have listed linebackers Fred Strickland (knee) and Larry Kelm (foot) and quarterback Mark Herrmann (rib) out of tonight’s game. . . . Fullback Robert Delpino is doubtful with a shoulder injury. . . . Lion Coach Wayne Fontes and Ram Coach John Robinson were assistant coaches at USC in the early 1970s and car-pooled to work.


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