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Whatever It Is, It Continues to Mean Defeat for Struggling Rams

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Their fumbles take strange twists into opponents’ hands. Their extra points bang into the uprights at pivotal moments. The turnovers they seem to force end up being overturned by officials.

Their quarterback suffers blindside, football-jarring sacks only when it’s late and he is about to get the Rams back into the game.

The Rams are 3-7 after Sunday’s 27-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and cannot help wondering if their season is haunted by things that go bump in the night.

“I don’t know what it is, and . . . you can say whatever you want,” Coach John Robinson said Monday. “You can just fill in the blank: We’re snakebit, we’re unlucky, we’re choking, we’re doing whatever. . . . Whatever you want to say. We’re just not making the plays.

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“We feel like we’re going through some things that I don’t know how to explain. But we’ll get through it.”

But Robinson said that last week, when the Saints stripped the ball from quarterback Jim Everett to preserve a Ram defeat. And Robinson said that three weeks ago, when Everett had two passes intercepted in the fourth quarter to turn a potential upset of the Raiders into another defeat.

And Robinson has had to say that basically all season long, as the Rams kick away games time and again, either because they are the unluckiest talented team in the league or the one suffering the worst crunch-time jitters imaginable.

Robinson is hesitant about saying is that his team is flat-out unlucky.

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“I don’t know what that would give me,” Robinson said. “We have to fight our way through it. I think you have to say (that) when things are going poorly that you can do something about it.

“Somehow if you concentrate more, work harder, do this, do that, put your pants on different, do something, that you can do that’ll make the situation you’re in improve.

“When you begin to say the officials are against us, it’s bad luck, it’s injuries, it’s . . . whatever excuses you make, you begin to lose your sense of saying, ‘Hey, I can control the situation I’m in.’ ”

But Robinson cannot ignore the fact that the list of Ram-killing oddities is piling very high after Sunday.

Against the Chiefs, the Rams appeared to force back-to-back turnovers that could have stopped a Kansas City field-goal drive, but the turnovers were overruled by the officials.

Then there was the play on which the Chiefs were awarded a touchdown that Robinson says should not have counted, and Ram kicker Tony Zendejas missed a crucial extra point after he had converted 29 consecutive kicks.

“There’s a lot of stuff falling on us right now, and if it doesn’t stick, we’ll be OK,” Robinson said. “If we stop and let it stick, then we’ve got some problems.”

Robinson’s most glaring example was the fourth-quarter fumble by tailback Robert Delpino--who fumbled twice Sunday after not fumbling all year--that seemed to head straight for the sideline before pausing just long enough to enable Chief linebacker Derrick Thomas to scoop it up and run 23 yards for the game-winning score.

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“You can say anything you want,” Robinson said. “Bobby fumbles the ball, it starts rolling out of bounds and within a yard of the boundary it just kind of . . . turns back in. You know, just that alone . . . that’s . . . that’s weird stuff.

“But I prefer just saying we will get through this. And I think we will.”

Not counting their 31-14 blowout loss in Atlanta, the Rams have now played five decent games out of six--and have only two victories to show for it and four consecutive losses.

The Rams’ offense has come alive--Everett and the passing game are averaging 263.5 yards a game in the last six weeks. And the outmanned defense with its tattered line is for the mostpart keeping the team in the game.

Does Robinson sense that the team, after so many fourth-quarter folds, is getting tense once that quarter arrives?

“Nope, I don’t notice it in myself, either,” Robinson said.

“I mean I didn’t feel tense when Tony kicked the ball. I thought it would go through. And I didn’t feel tense when Bobby was running.”

But tense or not, come the fourth quarter, the Rams have collapsed. Opponents have outscored them, 75-40, in the final quarter.

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“With what’s happening,” left tackle Gerald Perry said, “you’re saying to yourself, ‘What in the heck is going on? Is it me? Is it the team? What’s wrong?’

“But still, as hard as it is to do, you’ve got to take one game at a time, try to win one game at a time.”


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