Rams Do What They Have to, Beat Packers : Pro football: L.A. takes 23-7 lead, then struggles during fourth quarter again before winning, 23-21.
Still off-rhythm offensively, still retreating during the fourth quarter, still barely better than a 1-4 team, the Rams on Sunday still won the game they had said they could not afford to lose.
They will save the apologies for later.
It took help from the struggling Green Bay Packers, a touchdown from the Rams’ kick-off coverage team, a lineup switch for Kevin Greene and one final drive by the maligned offense, for the Rams (2-3) to win, 23-21, before 59,722 at Anaheim Stadium.
“This was a must-win situation,” quarterback Jim Everett said.
“We’ve all talked about the scenario. We needed this victory badly, and we did just enough to get it. We tried to mess it up, but we did just enough to win it.”
Enough meant taking a 23-7 lead, knocking starting quarterback Don Majkowski out of the game because of a shoulder injury, then watching backup quarterback Blair Kiel produce two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Enough meant Everett completing an 11-yard pass to Henry Ellard that ended the Packers’ hopes.
“Somewhere in my mind, I guess I always know where Henry is,” Everett said.
Somewhere in their minds, the Rams are still a better team than they showed by narrowly defeating a Packer team in deep trouble. And now the Rams have two weeks to heal.
By Oct. 13, against the San Diego Chargers, the Rams should regain the full-time play of four starters lost to injury.
“I don’t know that we’re ready to be a winning football team just yet,” Coach John Robinson said, “but I think this week off now will give us a real chance to get any number of players back, a chance to suddenly come out of the doldrums offensively.
“And we can get back in the hunt. (San Francisco is) 2-3, I think Atlanta’s 2-3 and we’re 2-3, and we’re tied for second in our division.”
All three teams are three games behind the undefeated New Orleans Saints.
Said Greene, who was switched from the right side to his old left side position and got his first sack of the year: “It’s good to know when we play San Diego in a couple of weeks that we’re coming off a win, and we have a chance to make it 3-3. Things are looking up, at least, I hope they are.
“One and four, it’s like more of a depressing thing. Two and three, I think everyone’s going to be happy with that going into vacation.”
The Rams’ happiness is a product of three consecutive second-quarter scores: one 11-play, 65-yard drive for a 32-yard Tony Zendejas field goal; one two-yard Robert Delpino dive for a touchdown after Ram defensive end Karl Wilson forced an Allen Rice fumble deep inside Packer territory and one play that defies a one-line description.
On the Rams’ kickoff after Delpino’s touchdown, Vai Sikahema took in the ball on the left side of the field, ran past a tackler to about the Packer 15, then was hit by Paul Butcher, a linebacker who had recovered Rice’s fumble.
The ball popped out of Sikahema’s hands into those of the Rams’ Anthony Newman.
“My eyes got as big as tennis balls, I think,” Newman said. “I couldn’t believe the ball was right there. Then I caught it, and I really couldn’t believe there wasn’t anybody in front of me.”
Newman ran 17 yards into the end zone, and suddenly the Rams had turned a 7-6 deficit into a 20-7 lead.
But the fact that the Rams could have been ahead by much, much more was something Robinson did not fail to notice. The Ram offense was inside the 20 three times in the half, but scored only the Delpino touchdown, and lost an interception and a fumble by Aaron Cox.
Everett, still without a touchdown pass, had his best game of the season, completing 18 of 29 passes for 241 yards.
“We’ve got to start making progress,” Robinson said. “We can’t keep making the errors that we’ve made. I think we will be a much better football team from here on than that.”
At the end of the third quarter the Rams again got inside the Packer 20, again failed and Zendejas kicked a 28-yard field goal, his third on three tries Sunday and his eighth of eight tries this season.
Then came the Kiel comeback. He took them 76 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown on their first drive of the quarter, then came back with a four-play, 60-yard touchdown drive less than five minutes later.
With 4:49 to play, the Rams needed two first downs to close out the game. They got them, first on a two-yard run by fullback Buford McGee, then on the Everett-to-Ellard pass.
That last play protected a defense that had played well until the fourth quarter, which is becoming a pattern. They now have been outscored, 48-6, in the final period.
The Rams put pressure on Majkowski early, lining up Greene from the left end and moving backup Gerald Robinson, their next best pass-rusher, to Greene’s old right-side position. Karl Wilson, the former starting left end, moved inside to left defensive tackle, putting the Rams’ best three pass-rushers in the game at once.
The Packers, not a good running team to begin with, had 88 yards rushing, but that included a 26-yard run by Kiel late in the game. They had fewer than 100 yards passing before the fourth quarter and Kiel’s last two drives.
“It’s major,” cornerback Darryl Henley, who started the Rams’ three-turnover day by intercepting a Majkowski pass early in the first quarter, said of the victory.
“If we had lost, it would’ve been tough to stay competitive chasing New Orleans with them 5-0. We had to win today.”
The Rams, as expected, deactivated wide receiver Flipper Anderson and guard Bern Brostek. . . . With Doug Smith back at center, the Rams used the shotgun formation for the first time this season, in the first quarter. . . . Although both linebacker Brett Faryniarz and tailback Robert Delpino suffered concussions, neither is believed to be seriously injured. Delpino returned to the game.
Henry Ellard broke a Ram record by catching at least one pass in his 69th consecutive game, breaking the record held by Jim (Red) Phillips (1958-1963).