Quarterback T.J. Rubley had given Ram fans hope for better days ahead, but down in the locker room, an angry Jim Everett lashed out at Coach Chuck Knox and his offensive coaching staff for letting him down.
“That’s the type of faith he’s (Knox) showing in me,” Everett said. “We didn’t score any points until we went to the two-minute drill. . . . Besides that, our other offensive (game plan) was obsolete.”
Knox lifted Everett from Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions in the third quarter and inserted Rubley, who rallied the Rams from a 13-0 deficit with two touchdown passes to Ernie Jones to tie the score with 1:52 to play.
A breakdown in special teams allowed former Ram Vernon Turner to return the ensuing kickoff 45 yards and eventually led to Jason Hanson’s 18-yard field goal with four seconds to play, giving the Lions a 16-13 victory.
It was the third consecutive loss for the Rams (2-5), but a crowd of 43,850 in Anaheim Stadium, who had loudly booed Everett earlier in the afternoon, left cheering for Rubley.
“God answered a lot of my prayers,” Rubley said after completing 12 of 17 passes for 151 yards in his NFL debut. “There were some tight seams in there where the ball got through to the receivers that I don’t know how it could have. I know the receivers don’t know how they got through there, so it must have been divine intervention.”
While Rubley’s performance had obviously sparked the Ram offense, Everett said he had been wronged. He said the coaching staff had assembled a game plan to feature the run against the Lions (5-2), and in doing so it had shortchanged his passing opportunities.
More than that, he said, he had been set up for a fall by people “outside the organization.”
“I’m irate about this,” Everett said. “I think this thing has been brewing for a while. Without naming names I think that there are some people who have been trying to instigate something like this, and here it is. They get what they ask for.”
Everett completed two of nine passes for 12 yards, fumbled while being sacked and was intercepted once in the first half. Each time Everett ran onto the field, the booing grew louder.
“Our game plan is to win football games,” said Ted Tollner, Ram quarterback coach. “We felt this was a team we could run the football on and we did. In the course of that, we wanted to make some plays with the pass, and we didn’t.
“When we got behind by 13, the game plan changes. We went into a two-minute offense, and that’s not a matter of planning. That’s the situation.”
The Lions took a 3-0 lead into halftime and the Ram coaching staff used intermission to discuss a possible change at quarterback.
“I was frustrated because we weren’t moving the ball,” said Tollner, who has been one of Everett’s staunchest defenders. “I thought we needed to go and give him (Everett) another opportunity in the second half. That’s what Chuck decided to do, but I also felt like somewhere in there he felt if we don’t get it going, we have to look at our alternative choices.”
The Rams took possession to open the third quarter and running back Jerome Bettis, who ran for 113 yards in 23 carries, gained three yards on two carries. On third and seven from his 23-yard line, Everett was sacked for a seven-yard loss.
When Everett reached the sideline, Knox informed him that he was making a change. Everett took exception with Knox’s decision and said so before retreating to the bench.
“He’s just like anyone else,” Knox said, while declining to choose a starter for next week’s game at San Francisco. “No. 1, if you’re told you’re going to be replaced, certainly he’s going to be disappointed. Of course he’s not going to like it.
“Have you ever been on a sideline? There’s not a lot of room for discussion. There’s no time for discussion. He was disappointed, and I respect him for it.”
While Tollner readied Rubley on the sideline, the Lions put another field goal on the board to take a 6-0 lead.
With 6:01 to play in the third quarter. Rubley made his first appearance in an NFL regular-season game. Rubley, a ninth-round pick from Tulsa a year ago, handed off to Bettis on first down for five yards and then again on second down for three more yards.
After calling a timeout, Rubley retreated in the pocket, took a quick look up field and then took off. Rubley, who had excited fans in exhibition play with his scrambling ability, gained six yards and a first down.
His first drive ended with the Rams punting, and the Lions went 94 yards, scoring on Barry Sanders’ five-yard run for a 13-0 lead with 7:59 to play.
But then Rubley got hot. He completed seven of eight passes, overcame a holding penalty that wiped out a 27-yard touchdown pass to Henry Ellard and completed a four-yard scoring strike to Jones with 4:19 left.
Rubley accomplished what he did with starting right tackle Jackie Slater (torn shoulder muscle) and starting wide receiver Flipper Anderson (bruised ribs) out of the game.
“I thought he did an outstanding job,” Tollner said. “When you look at the situation and how we were scrambling around to find people to play, he made plays. He gave receivers an opportunity to catch the ball, and they made plays.”
Rubley, who was promoted to backup quarterback last week, also had to perform holding duties for kicker Tony Zendejas. Rubley dropped the snap from center on his first attempt, but gathered the ball in time to allow Zendejas to successfully add the extra point, making the score 13-7.
After the Ram defense shut down the Lions, Rubley moved the offense 68 yards in six hurry-up plays for the tying touchdown. He threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jones with 1:52 to play, and while his teammates celebrated, he prepared to hold for the go-ahead point.
Rubley caught the snap and appeared to set the ball down properly, but Zendejas, who had made 56 consecutive PATs dating to 1991, kicked the ball off the left upright.
“I just missed it,” Zendejas said. “I hooked it.”
The Lions had 1:52 and one timeout remaining and were without their top kick returner, Mel Gray, who left the game in the first quarter because of a sprained ankle.
The Lions turned to Turner, who had been released by the Rams last season. He gave Detroit the ball at the Ram 44 with a 45-yard return.
A short pass to Sanders gained 13 yards, and a run by Sanders picked up five more before quarterback Rodney Peete found tight end Rodney Holman wide open at the one for a 25-yard gain.
The Lions used their third timeout with six seconds to play, called on Hanson and ended a 12-game losing streak on the West Coast.
“We’ve dug ourselves a big hole and we’re trying to crawl out,” Ram safety Anthony Newman said. “We’re just killing ourselves with mistakes, but it’s still not too late to come back.”
Good First Impression
Quarterback T.J. Rubley, a ninth-round draft choice from Tulsa in 1992, has been sitting on the Rams’ bench for 1 1/2 seasons. He passed his first NFL test Sunday, replacing Jim Everett and sparking the Rams to two fourth-quarter touchdowns against Detroit. Here’s how he did after taking over for Everett with 6:01 left in the third quarter: FIRST DRIVE: Rams trailing, 6-0
Comp. Att. Yds Rush Yds Result 2 4 12 1 6 Punt
SECOND DRIVE: Rams trailing, 13-0
Comp. Att. Yds Rush Yds Result 6 8 77 1 11 TD, four-yard pass to Ernie Jones
THIRD DRIVE: Rams trailing, 13-7
Comp. Att. Yds Rush Yds Result 4 5 62 1 7 TD, 21-yard pass to Ernie Jones
Comp. Att. Yds. TD Int. Rush Yds. 12 17 151 2 0 3 24
Quarterback T.J. Rubley passed his first major NFL test Sunday, replacing Jim Everett and sparking the Rams to two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Rubley replaced Everett with 6:01 left in the third quarter but failed to move the Rams on the first drive. They trailed, 13-0, early in the fourth quarter when Rubley got the offense going.
Down-To Go Yard line Play 1-10 Ram 20 Rubley 6 pass to Cleveland Gary 2-4 Ram 26 Rubley incomplete pass, intended for Travis McNeal 3-4 Ram 26 Rubley 7 pass to Todd Kinchen 1-10 Ram 33 Rubley around right end for 11 yards 1-10 Ram 44 Rubley sacked by George Jamison for 8-yard loss 2-18 Ram 36 Rubley 8 pass to Henry Ellard 3-10 Ram 44 Rubley 16 pass to Kinchen 1-10 Lion 40 Rubley 13 pass to Kinchen 1-10 Lion 27 Rubley 27 TD pass to Ellard nullified by penalty 1-21 Lion 38 Rubley 23 pass to Troy Drayton 1-10 Lion 15 Rubley up middle for 7 yards, plus holding on Detroit 1-G Lion 4 Rubley 4 touchdown pass to Ernie Jones
Down-To Go Yard line Play 1-10 Ram 32 Rubley 13 pass to Ellard 1-10 Ram 45 Gary 6 run 2-4 Lion 49 Rubley 4 pass to Ellard 1-10 Lion 45 Rubley 24 pass to Kinchen 1-10 Lion 21 Rubley incomplete to Ellard 2-10 Lion 21 Rubley 21 touchdown pass to Jones
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* STERLING SHARPE: Green Bay receiver has four touchdown catches in Packers’ victory over Buccaneers. C5