Quarterback Jim Everett, hounded by criticism and suggestions that he surrender his starting job, propelled the Rams to a 28-13 victory over the Houston Oilers at the Astrodome on Sunday.
Everett, drafted by Houston in 1986 and then traded to the Rams, was matched against Buddy Ryan’s blitzing defense. But Everett held his ground and became the first quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards against Houston in 31 games.
“He came up to me before the game,” said Tom Newberry, Ram guard, “and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to stand in there today and take the hits. Don’t you guys get down . . . I’m not going to get down no matter if I get hit 20 times. We’re going to go out and beat these guys.’
“And he did exactly what he said he was going to do.”
Everett, who came into the game as the lowest-rated passer in the NFL, threw three touchdown passes and completed 19 of 28 passes for 316 yards, the first time he has topped the 300-yard mark since last year’s early December victory over Tampa.
“It was crucial for him to come out and have a good game,” said wide receiver Flipper Anderson, who caught a four-yard touchdown pass on the Rams’ opening drive, the first score against the Oilers’ defense in nine quarters. “You (reporters) were on him a lot and rightfully so, because the offense hasn’t been doing much.
“We had to come out today and prove ourselves.”
The Oilers (1-3) trailed by 14-0 before scoring 13 points, including quarterback Warren Moon’s 80-yard touchdown pass play to wide receiver Ernest Givins with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.
“The Oilers made me look bad on that touchdown bomb to Givins,” said Anthony Newman, Ram safety. “But Jim Everett came to me and said, ‘Don’t even worry about it. We’re going to score on them.’ ”
Houston’s rally inspired the crowd of 53,072, but the noise and excitement disappeared after a nine-play, 66-yard drive that ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Everett to Travis McNeal with 1:21 left in the third quarter.
The Rams (2-2) opened the game with a similar drive. Everett took the Rams 65 yards in 12 plays, throwing a four-yard touchdown pass to Anderson for a 7-0 lead.
“It was just good to come out and win and show that the type of stuff that we’re doing can be effective,” Everett said. “To run it effectively is always gratifying.”
Everett kept the scoring drive alive moments earlier on third and five with a quarterback draw for a 14-yard gain.
“I was guaranteed to get six yards by (offensive coordinator) Ernie Zampese,” Everett said. “I did a little better than that.”
Said Ram tackle Irv Eatman: “The Buddy Ryan philosophy is to put the onus on the quarterback to win the game. We needed to get a win like this, on the road, in the House of Pain, against Buddy Ryan and his Houston defense.”
A one-yard run by Jerome Bettis in the second quarter gave the Rams their 14-0 lead. Everett finished the Ram scoring in the fourth quarter by rolling right and throwing on the run to wide receiver Henry Ellard. Safeties Bubba McDowell and Marcus Robertson collided while trying to tackle Ellard, who broke free for a 48-yard score, his 47th career touchdown reception. Ellard caught six passes for 132 yards.
The Ram defense, which is directed by a group of former Seahawk coaches who enjoyed great success against the run-and-shoot attack of Houston and Detroit in 1990, kept Moon under pressure.
“We had been hearing all week how it was a big game for them,” Ram Coach Chuck Knox said. “It was a big game for us, and our guys answered the challenge.”
The Rams employed six defensive backs in an effort to slow down the run-and-shoot, one linebacker--Roman Phifer--and four pass rushers.
Defensive end Robert Young moved to tackle and instead of getting down in a three-point stance, he stood and used his quickness to beat Oiler guard Doug Dawson. Young had one of four Ram sacks, defensive end Fred Stokes had another, and tackle Sean Gilbert had two. Gilbert also stopped running back Lorenzo White for no gain on fourth and one at the Ram six-yard line with 3:31 to play.
“Defensively, we were outstanding,” Knox said.
Moon completed 19 of 42 passes for 310 yards and was intercepted twice. After Robert Bailey returned an interception 41 yards in the closing minutes, he climbed to his feet, ran to the middle of the field and taunted the Oilers with a dance.
“I was giving Givins back his little dance . . . he did it on us (after the 80-yard touchdown),” Bailey said. “We said before the game if we get an interception on him we we’re going to do it back on him.”
* MISSING PERSON: The Jim Everett whom fans had criticized all week vanished in the Astrodome. C8