After the Rams were dismantled by the Green Bay Packers, 36-6, in Milwaukee County Stadium to open the regular season Sunday, quarterback Jim Everett insisted it was not time to push the panic button.
“I think you have to watch the games and see what’s going on,” Everett said.
Here is what is going on: The Rams went winless in exhibition play, have dropped seven of their last 10 regular-season games and lost four starters during Sunday’s game because of significant injuries.
The offense, which is directed by Everett, has scored one touchdown in 32 possessions during exhibition and regular-season play. Everett, who completed 17 of 41 passes for 175 yards with two interceptions, has yet to throw a touchdown pass this summer.
Starting running back Cleveland Gary averaged 2.4 yards a carry against the Packers, and the Ram offense successfully converted only one of eight third-down attempts through three quarters of play.
“I don’t think we can fool ourselves and say things should have just picked up and taken off after we had the problems we had (in the exhibition season),” Ram tackle Jackie Slater said. “There was some carry-over, and what we have to deal with now is that these games count.
“To give ourselves a chance to win, we have to bring it all to the ballpark, physically and mentally, every Sunday, and that’s something we didn’t do today.”
The Rams’ 30-point loss was the largest margin of defeat on the NFL’s opening day.
“I’d like to score a lot more. I’d like to score,” Everett said. “I told you the thing would be slow going at the start. I see this team, hopefully, as a wheel that starts rolling faster and faster as the season goes on. We’ve got to improve, we’ve got to get more momentum, and I’ll tell you what, if we learn by our mistakes, we’ll be a much better team just next week.
“It’s one game. We just didn’t execute. You guys can press the panic button, but we’re not.”
And why not?
The Ram defense, which had been charged with the task of saving the day until the offense found the end zone, collapsed when pressed by the Packers.
Green Bay rolled up 381 yards in offense and turned the game over to Ty Detmer in the fourth quarter after Brett Favre shredded the Ram secondary during a 19-for-29, 264-yard performance, with two touchdowns and one interception.
The Rams’ special teams also faltered. The Packers’ offense started, on average, at Green Bay’s 31-yard line, while the Rams averaged 11.2 yards per kickoff return.
“Green Bay just outplayed us in every way you could be outplayed,” Coach Chuck Knox said. “Offense, defense, special teams--they made the plays. We couldn’t make a play on either side of the ball or on special teams. It was just a total team beating. That’s what it was.”
The Packers, buoyed by the off-season acquisition of defensive tackle Reggie White, took a 2-0 lead 4:12 into the first quarter. Bryan Wagner’s 40-yard punt, which was downed by Packer safety Tim Hauck on the Rams’ one-yard line, allowed linebacker Brian Noble the opportunity one play later to bottle up Gary in the end zone for a safety.
The Rams received a break on the ensuing free kick when the Packers failed to fall on the ball, and they took possession at Green Bay’s 40-yard line. They advanced to the Packers’ 13, but on third and three a scrambling Everett threw the ball away over the middle. Tony Zendejas came on to kick a 31-yard field goal.
The Packers moved ahead to stay in fluke fashion on their next possession. On third and five at the 50-yard line, Favre was flushed from the pocket. While running right, he threw deep to the end zone and a well-covered Sterling Sharpe.
Ram safety Pat Terrell leaped in front of Sharpe and touched the ball. At the same time, Ram cornerback Todd Lyght leaped in front of Sharpe and touched the ball. Instead of knocking the ball to the ground, however, they tipped it into the air and into the hands of Sharpe for a 50-yard touchdown and a 9-3 lead for the Packers.
Zendejas and Packer kicker Chris Jacke each made good on field-goal attempts during the second quarter before Green Bay started to pull away. Favre threw a four-yard touchdown pass to former Miami wide receiver Mark Clayton shortly before halftime, and on the Packers’ first two possessions of the third quarter, fullback Edgar Bennett added 11- and one-yard touchdown runs for a 33-6 advantage.
“It’s frustrating to all of us to have the kind of off day we had because we think we’ve got much better personnel,” Slater said. “We think we have a better offensive system and we think we are always properly game-planned to attack defenses, but for whatever reason we’re just not getting it done.
“We certainly didn’t get it done today. But the one thing about it is, we’re aware of where we are and I think everybody is (angry) about it. I think it’s going to take the kind of feelings we’re experiencing right now to get up off our butts and make a difference in the outcome of some of these football games.”
If the Rams were angry after Sunday’s disaster, however, they did a good job of concealing it. Instead of expressing displeasure or concern, they repeated the same theme.
Said Everett: “Half of the teams lose in this league on the opening week. We don’t like being on this side of it, but we got to accept it when we get a (butt) kicking like we got. That’s about it.”
Said Terrell: “There are 14 teams out there that are 0-1. We’ve just got to bounce back.”
The Rams might have to bounce back, however, without several key performers. Middle linebacker Shane Conlan aggravated a groin injury, took several injections for pain, and eventually was unable to continue.
Starting outside linebacker Henry Rolling left the game because of a broken right thumb, starting cornerback Darryl Henley injured his shoulder and starting tight end Pat Carter was on crutches because of an injured foot.
“We definitely can’t have another game like this,” receiver Henry Ellard said. “That’s for sure.”