Punchless Rams Knocked Reeling by Saints’ Pass Rush in 24-7 Defeat : Football: With offensive line bruised, Everett is battered, ineffective and still hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass this season.
The Rams, without the punch for a real match, desperately tried bobbing and dancing Sunday night but were boxed and beaten around the Superdome by a stronger, faster foe.
And one week after soaring with a victory over the Super Bowl-champion New York Giants, the Rams are plumbing a rocky bottom.
Sunday night, the New Orleans Saint defense clubbed the Rams from the first bell, kept them staggering and backpedaling all night and coasted to a 24-7 victory before 68,583.
The Rams were left with a 1-2 record, a shaken offensive line and a strong desire to put this pummeling into some kind of perspective, if possible.
“It’s a 16-round season,” said Coach John Robinson, struggling to sound as chipper as possible. “And we lost round three.”
They were battered in round three, the New Orleans pass rush exploiting their makeshift offensive line.
Jim Everett completed only six of his 17 passes for 71 yards without a touchdown pass.
This means, together with last week’s victory over the New York Giants, he has completed only 13 passes in the last two games and has not thrown a touchdown all year.
Everett had thrown for only 20 yards by late into the fourth quarter, until he had some big gainers against a blase Saints defense.
With right tackle Jackie Slater injured in last week’s victory over the Giants and his replacement, Robert Jenkins hurt in the first half Sunday with a dislocated toe, the Rams’ tackles were Duval Love, a guard at heart, and Gerald Perry, who still is recovering from a training camp knee injury. The results were predictable, if painful.
Led by outside linebackers Pat Swilling and Rickey Jackson--who combined for three sacks--flying in from the corners, the Saints sacked Everett five times and bounced him off the plastic grass at least a dozen times more.
Once the Saints--3-0 and alone atop the NFC West--proved they could stop tailback Robert Delpino, who rushed 19 times for 67 yards and did not catch a pass, and wore down the Rams defense with 260 pound-plus tailback Craig (Ironhead) Heyward and the passing of Bobby Hebert, the game was theirs.
They put the victory away with back-to-back scoring drives in the third quarter.
“It was the breakdown of the whole thing,” Everett said. “First of all, we have to stop the guys up front. We had some breakdowns there. I had some balls I wish I had a chance to throw again, and I’m sure the receivers wish they had another chance to catch some of them.”
The Rams failed on all 10 of their third-down tries, and only a 59-yard interception return by cornerback Jerry Gray in the third quarter prevented a shutout. Until late in the game, Gray had more yards on that one interception than the Rams’ pass game.
“We obviously were overwhelmed on offense,” Robinson said. “We have injuries in the offensive line, and we happened to hit a club that has two of the best pass rushers from the outside. We just didn’t block them.
“Pretty much the story of the game was their outside pass rush. They’re a good defensive team, and you’re going to have a hard time with them, whether you’ve got all your guys or not. But . . . we just didn’t adjust well enough to keep ourselves in the game.”
Said Perry: “We’re trying to find a chemistry here. It’s tough. We’re just kind of feeling our way through a tough situation.”
Everett, who had averaged 322 pass yards in his last four Saint encounters, was bothered by Swilling and Jackson on every pass, never found a rhythm, missed a few of the open receivers he had and generally could not find a way to move the ball.
“Against the Giants, we got things done just enough to beat them,” Everett said. “This time, we weren’t even close.”
Everett and Robinson suggested that they might have adjusted better to what the Saints were doing, but it was not clear if any adjustment short of importing two All-Pro tackles could have been successful.
Although the Ram defense kept the team in the game through the third quarter, eventually, it, too, folded, and two second-half plunges by Heyward cemented the game after a tight first half.
The first half was loud, if offensively uneventful. New Orleans, after airing it out on a quick touchdown drive on its first possession, spent the half vainly trying to hammer out a running game. The Saints rushed nine times for 16 yards against a Ram defense thin because of injury.
As they usually do at the Superdome, the Saints burst out the gates fast, ripping off an 11-play, 81-yard drive. Hebert completed passes of 37, 21 and 14 yards, then watched as the Saints could produce only one more first down the rest of the half.
At the end of their scoring drive, New Orleans, faced with a touchy fourth and goal from the one-inch line, went for the score and made it on a dive play by Dalton Hilliard.
Minutes into the third quarter, the Ram defense tied the game on Gray’s touchdown, but the Saints went 87 yards and 63 yards for touchdowns on their next two possessions. The Ram offense continued to get pounded.
“Sure, it’s frustrating,” said receiver Flipper Anderson, who did not catch a pass. “Their pass rush kept Jim off-balance, and we never got back in sync. I was frustrated. Jim was frustrated. Everybody was frustrated. But I don’t think anybody is worried about our offense. We just hit a barrier today.”
Although last week Coach John Robinson said tailback Cleveland Gary would play Sunday night, he did not get into the game. . . . None of the Rams three injured starters, defensive tackle Alvin Wright (shoulder), outside linebacker Fred Strickland (knee) and right tackle Jackie Slater (shoulder), dressed for the game. . . . No. 1 pick Todd Lyght dressed for the first time, seeing time on passing situations as the team’s fourth cornerback, covering slot receiver Eric Martin primarily. . . . Tackle Robert Jenkins dislocated the big toe on his right foot, cornerback Rodney Thomas sprained his right knee, and defensive tackle Mike Piel suffered a partial dislocation of his left shoulder.
* IRONCLAD RUN: Ram defenders spent an evening bouncing off Craig Heyward. John Weyler’s story. C10.
* MISSING ATTACK: It wasn’t difficult to keep track of Jim Everett’s statistics. Mike Penner’s story. C11.