The Rams lose by 30 one week, win by 27 the next. So which team will show up today to play the unbeaten New York Giants?
“If I really knew, I’d be the head coach of this unit,” quarterback Jim Everett said.
“I don’t know,” Coach Chuck Knox said.
The Giants, under new Coach Dan Reeves, have dispatched the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and have the opportunity to go 3-0 for the first time since 1990, when they went on to win the Super Bowl.
“The Rams are a very capable football team,” Reeves said. “I’m sure that Chuck has been frustrated many times because of the peaks and the valleys they have had. But they are a young football team, so I don’t think that’s unusual.
“I think Chuck’s building, and building the right way. They were an impressive football team last week. That has to give them the confidence to move up. I’m sure the first game of the season was a big disappointment, but Green Bay is one of those teams that doesn’t show a whole lot in the preseason and I’m sure they did some things that caught the Rams by surprise.
“With a young club, that makes it more difficult. But they bounced back (against the Pittsburgh Steelers) and I think that’s what you look for. The sign of a great team is one that is able to bounce back.”
But which way will the young Rams bounce this week?
“A football game is a football game and a lot of things happen that determine which team shows up,” Knox said.
“You have one guy fumble the ball three times and lose all three and somebody says, ‘They weren’t ready to play.’ And you can have 21 other guys playing their buns off. So you don’t know. It’s too hard to say.
“I know we had great effort the week before we went to Green Bay. We had great effort in the game, but we didn’t make the plays. As a result, we got beat pretty soundly. We practiced well this week, but then I’d feel better if our running backs were healthier.”
The Rams have been nagged by injuries since training camp opened. This week they practiced without knowing who would start at running back.
Cleveland Gary has been unable to run because of a thigh bruise and Jerome Bettis has had trouble breathing because of a bruised breastbone.
Tim Lester and Russell White took most of the carries in practice, although Bettis returned Friday in practice and appeared to run without difficulty.
“This is the fifth-ranked defense in the National Football League that we will be playing against,” Knox said. “This will be a tough test.”
The Giants’ defense still features outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor, but defensive end Keith Hamilton--a former University of Pittsburgh teammate of Ram defensive tackle Sean Gilbert--leads the team in sacks with 3 1/2.
“They play a lot of zones, rely a lot on their linebacking crew and they’ve got three huge guys on the defensive line that gobble up a lot of people,” Everett said.
On offense, the Giants have handed the ball to quarterback Phil Simms, the most valuable player in Super Bowl XXI, and he has completed 36 of 60 passes, three for touchdowns, with one interception.
“They have new life in New York,” Ram safety Anthony Newman said. “Simms is playing the best I have ever seen him play. His arm seems stronger than it has been in the past.
“As you get older, you’re supposed to get a little weaker and slower. He’s gotten slower, but he’s still throwing deep comeback outs, and most quarterbacks can’t do that.”
Running back Rodney Hampton rushed for 134 yards in 29 carries last week. He has gained more than 100 yards seven times in his career, six times in Giants Stadium.
“He’s a good back on grass, but he’s a great back on artificial turf,” said Robert Young, Ram defensive end. “I played against him in college, and let me tell you, this guy is good. You got to stop him or it’s going to be a long day.”
The Rams, however, will have linebacker Shane Conlan back. He sat out last Sunday’s game because of a groin injury. The Ram defense limited Steeler running back Barry Foster to 50 yards in 15 carries without Conlan, and Conlan’s forte is stopping the run.
The Rams have a 5-1 mark against the Giants since 1988, including a 38-17 victory last season in Anaheim Stadium.