Rams Lead Packers by 31 at Half, Need Field Goal to Escape

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

What exactly do you do with a 31-point lead? The Rams didn’t know. They looked at it, coddled it, loved it. They spat and shined it. They sat it on a couch and analyzed it.

They talked to it. It talked back. “We couldn’t really lose this thing, could we?”

Impossible. It’s halftime. The game’s over. You know it. The Green Bay Packers know it.

But what about those voices?

“Hey, they did it last week, they did it last week,” safety Vince Newsome told himself over and over.


In the therapy session that was the locker room Sunday, the Rams could talk about their 41-38 victory over the Packers before 57,701 at Anaheim Stadium.

It seemed good to get it off their chests, the same chests that were heaving by game’s end as the Packers nearly erased a 38-7 deficit completely, losing what would have been the game-tying touchdown when Brent Fullwood fumbled in the Rams’ end zone with 11:23 remaining.

Was it ever in doubt? That depends on which half you saw. The first was so one-sided you wondered if the Packers would come back out. The Rams scored 28 points in the second quarter. Greg Bell passed the 100-yard rushing mark in the second quarter on a 45-yard scoring run. Bell finished with 221, the fourth-highest total in franchise history.

Harder to conceive was that the Rams needed every last one of his yards to clinch the game; Bell’s breath-taking (his breath) 46-yard run in the final minute finally clinching it.

The Rams can all read. They knew the Packers trailed New Orleans, 21-0, last week before rallying to victory. The Pack could do it again.


“How many of you were writing your stories at halftime?” Coach John Robinson asked reporters. “So were we.”


But that was before the teams exchanged game plans.

In the third quarter, Packers became Rams and Rams became Packers. Green Bay scored 21 points. The Rams scored none. Green Bay quarterback Don Majkowksi, who had three first-half interceptions, threw two scoring passes in the third.

Ram quarterback Jim Everett, who threw two touchdown passes in the first half, had two crucial third-quarter interceptions. The Rams opened the second half with punt, interception, punt, interception, punt.

The tide was shifting and the Rams couldn’t stop it.

“I think everyone thought the game was won,” said Newsome, who returned an intercepted pass 81 yards for touchdown in the second quarter. “In the first half we couldn’t do anything wrong. Then, you could see it leaving.”

How a game was almost lost:

--38-14. The Packers scored on their first possession of the third quarter on a 18-yard pass from Majkowski to Sterling Sharpe.

--38-21. This one took only three plays after Brian Noble stepped in front of an Everett pass and returned it 10 yards to the Rams’ 22. Fullwood scored on an 11-yard run.

--38-28. On first down at the 20, Majkowski and Sharpe burned corner Cliff Hicks for 57 yards down the left sideline. With 2:34 left in the quarter, Majkowski tossed one yard to tight end Ed West for the score. The Packers have 156 yards in the quarter, the Rams minus-five.


--38-31. Ken Stills intercepted an Everett pass at the Ram 45-yard line with 56 seconds left in the quarter. Six plays later, Chris Jacke cut the lead to a touchdown with a 43-yard field goal.

Robinson pulled Everett aside and tried to calm him. “He gave me a pep talk,” Everett said of the conversation. “It was humorous. I think it was about some girl.”

Was this a time for jokes? The Rams couldn’t win. On their next possession, a third-down pass for Pete Holohan that could have extended the drive hit referee Hendi Ancich over the middle and fell incomplete.

The Packers got the ball back at the Ram 41 after a punt. Majkowski and Sharpe went after Hicks again, drawing a 40-yard pass interception penalty for first-and-goal. Green Bay was a yard from tying the score.

Robinson, expecting the touchdown, called his offensive unit together on the sidelines.

“He told the team that we were going to win the game,” Bell recalled later.

Did Robinson know something? On first and goal, Fullwood plowed up the middle, but fumbled when hit by Shawn Miller and Frank Stams. The ball rolled into the end zone and was recovered by Doug Reed, who couldn’t believe the good fortune.

It took that break to get the Rams going again. The Rams drove 52 yards on 12 plays and made the score 41-31 on Mike Lansford’s 45-yard field goal. The Rams exhaled.


“There was a little fear factor there,” center Doug Smith said of the drive. “And a necessity factor.”

Good thing, too, because the Packers, who had suddenly been transformed into an offensive machine, drove 79 yards on their next possession and cut the lead to 41-38 on a one-yard Fullwood run with 2:21 remaining.

The Packers had two timeouts and the two-minute warning to stop the clock, so the Rams needed at least one first down to keep the ball and run the game out.

With 2:13 left, Everett threw 15 yards to receiver Henry Ellard, who dragged his toes on the sidelines to keep both feet in bounds.

The Rams faced third and one at their 49 with 1:51 left when Bell took a pitch, (“It was old reliable, Student Body Right,” he said) and headed toward the line. Bell, however, cut back to the left and broke outside and down the left sideline for a 46-yard run to save the game.

It was quite a week for Bell. Tuesday night, he got food poisoning after eating Chinese take-out. The vomiting and pain were so acute he thought he needed an appendectomy. He took a few antacids but awoke at 2 a.m. and “couldn’t walk.”


Bell admitted himself to the La Mirada Hospital emergency center, where it was he was diagnosed as having food poisoning. Bell missed Wednesday’s practice and was weak all week.

But in the game’s last two drives, when the Rams needed him most, Bell rushed for 76 yards in nine carries.

Although he said his lungs were aching from the smog, Bell plunged on, putting to rest maybe forever the shadow that followed him west from Buffalo, where his will was sometimes questioned.

“I was tired,” Bell said. “But if I had to go out there and run 10 more times, I could do it.”

Robinson called Bell’s performance “outstanding,” but fell short of calling Bell one of the great backs in the league. What exactly is great these days? Bell has rushed for 417 yards in three games and is averaging 5.5 yards per carry.

“He does not fumble, and he runs hard when we really have to have it,” Robinson said.

Everett was more effusive.

“He’s the most underrated runner in the league,” he said. “He’s not flashy, he’s not arrogant in the press. . . . A lot of guys were running on empty. If he runs like that on empty . . . “


It was a day Bell will never forget, and one the Packers wish could have lasted five more minutes.

“Nobody should be embarrassed about the Green Bay Packers,” Coach Lindy Infante said.

Ram Notes

Here are the top four rushing performances in Rams history: Eric Dickerson, 248 yards vs. Dallas, 1985; Willie Ellison, 247 yards vs. New Orleans, 1971; Tom Wilson, 223 yards vs Green Bay, 1956; Greg Bell, 221 yards vs. Green Bay, 1989. . . . Dickerson’s record performance was in a playoff game. His top regular-season game was 215 yards vs. Houston in 1984. . . . No one in the Rams’ secondary could cover Sterling Sharpe. He finished with eight catches for 164 yards and one touchdown.

Where’s the D? The teams combined for 882 yards in total offense. The Packers finished with 442; the Rams 440. . . . Packer quarterback Don Majkowski completed 25 of 43 passes for 335 yards with three interceptions. . . . Jim Everett was 19 for 31 with 238 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. . . . LeRoy Irvin returns from his 30-day suspension today.

ONE-MAN SHOW: Rams’ Greg Bell goes it alone on ground. Gene Wojciechowski’s story, Page 12.