Saint Rematch a Question of Pride : NFC: After losing to New Orleans in September, 24-7, the Rams will try to avoid another series sweep.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Back in mid-September, after being dominated by the New Orleans Saints, 24-7, the Rams vowed that they would never let it happen again.

Today, against a Saint team that suffered its first loss last Sunday, the Rams have a chance to keep their vow and salvage a season dying on the vine of their own inconsistencies.

"We're due," quarterback Jim Everett said, smiling. "It's our turn now. We've just got to convince them of that."

In their last meeting, the Rams dropped to 1-2 by surrendering five sacks, gaining 120 yards and converting none of their 10 third-down attempts. Their one score came on an interception return by cornerback Jerry Gray, now relegated to backup status.

With their playoff hopes darkened by last week's 31-14 loss to the Falcons in Atlanta, the Rams play today for their dignity.

"Yeah, there's a lot of pride," said Everett, who completed only six of 17 passes in the last Saint game while under constant pressure from linebackers Rickey Jackson and Pat Swilling.

"We didn't score. They shut us down. . . . Yeah, we'd like to score a couple."

If they don't, the Rams will be 0-4 against New Orleans over two years.

Said Ram left guard Tom Newberry, who probably will play today despite an ankle injury: "You play them twice every year. You know the guys across from you, your coaches know their coaches.

"It's a situation where it's a rivalry, and you don't want to take it on the chin twice in one season."

Coach John Robinson and his players pinned most of the blame for their September loss to the Saints on the Rams' injury-tattered offensive line. This week, the Ram line is physically sound, anchored by Gerald Perry and Jackie Slater, two big but agile pass-blocking tackles.

In the first Saint game, Perry was getting his first major playing time as a Ram and Slater was sidelined because of a shoulder injury.

Chaos resulted.

"I think it's particularly difficult against a team with a good pass rush to have your tackles not play," Robinson said. "The last time, we were hurting so bad."

After the blowout, Robinson also suggested that perhaps the Saints weren't as dominant as the Rams made them look.

Get them away from that crowd and that artificial turf--which gives their speedy rushers better footing for the charge--he implied, and the Saints gradually would fall back to the pack.

Since then, as the Rams have staggered to a 3-5 record, Robinson has had to revise his opinion of the Saints.

Coming into today's game, the Saints are 7-1, after their last-minute loss to the Chicago Bears. They have the league's No. 1 overall defense, No. 1 run defense, No. 2 pass defense, lead the league in sacks, are third in turnover ratio and have given up the fewest first downs.

"Oh, I thought they were good," Robinson said this week. "I think they're a team comparable to the New York Giants last year. . . ."

"You play Buffalo, they score 40 points, you say 'wow!' The Saints tend to beat you with defense, just like the Giants do.

"You look at efficiency, physicalness, that kind of talent, that doesn't maybe wow you as much. I have a very high regard for them. I think I've said that all along."

Defensively, the Rams were not embarrassed by the Saints in September, keeping the game close until New Orleans' running game wore them down in the fourth quarter.

But that was with Kevin Greene as a defensive end and Jerry Gray as a starting cornerback. This time, Greene probably will spend most of his time as a linebacker, rushing the quarterback on pass downs, and Gray has been replaced by rookie Todd Lyght.

"I know that me, being a rookie, I'll be tested early on in the game," Lyght said. "For us to have success, I need to have success early and gain the respect of the New Orleans Saints' offensive coordinator.

"(When) it's third down, third and long, I know where the ball's coming. It's coming to me. And that's the way I've got to think the whole game."

Ram Notes

Marcus Dupree probably will get more playing time today at tailback as the Rams try plays suited more to him than to starter Robert Delpino. Tailback Cleveland Gary is questionable because of a knee injury.

The Rams' Tony Zendejas is still the only NFL kicker without a miss. He is nine for nine on field goals and 15 for 15 on extra points, but even he has to admire the leg of the Saints' Morten Andersen. Andersen kicked a 60-yard field goal last week, tied for the second-longest in league history. "It's funny. Sometimes like that, you have a gut feeling," Saint Coach Jim Mora said, "and I just had a good feeling. He came up to me he says, 'Hey Coach, give me a shot, I feel good.' . . . I just kind of saw a look in his eye."

Floyd Turner is developing into the Saints' most dangerous offensive weapon. He caught nine passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Bears. . . . Saint quarterback Bobby Hebert suffered an injured right shoulder against the Bears but threw in practice this week and is expected to play. Linebacker Vaughan Johnson has a sprained knee and is listed as doubtful.

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