Ram cornerback Todd Lyght tried to comfort quarterback T.J. Rubley after the San Francisco 49ers sacked Rubley seven times, intercepted two passes and rolled to a 40-17 victory in his first start in the NFL.
“It was rough for him coming in here against the 49ers,” Lyght said, “but I told him it’s not going to get any worse than that.”
It appears the Rams (2-6) have hit bottom, suffering their fourth loss in a row and dropping to 8-16 under Coach Chuck Knox.
“There were so many negative things going on out there it’s difficult to highlight any one spot,” Ram offensive tackle Irv Eatman said. “There were just a lot of ugly things going on.”
The Rams finished playing against the 49ers (5-3) with their third-string right tackle, who was playing in his first NFL game. They played without starting wide receiver Flipper Anderson, who was bothered by bruised ribs, and at game’s end, wide receiver Henry Ellard, was inexplicably disgusted.
“I don’t have anything to say,” he said.
The Rams lost an opportunity to take a 10-6 lead in the second quarter when cornerback Steve Israel failed to get a firm grip on a pass intended for 49er wide receiver John Taylor.
“I was thinking about the end zone,” said Israel, who had a clear field ahead of him had he hung onto the ball. “Instead it turned into six points for them.”
The ball bounced off Israel’s hands and into the arms of Taylor, who went on to score a 15-yard touchdown and extend San Francisco’s lead to 13-3.
“We’re beating ourselves to death on defense,” Ram safety Anthony Newman said. “We’re dropping footballs we need to catch . . . we’re a better football team than we have shown.”
The 49ers rolled up 374 yards in offense, converted 58% of their third-down opportunities and scored on a fourth-and-goal opportunity from the one on Marc Logan’s smash off right guard.
“The 49ers were just too much for us today,” Knox said.
The Rams started Rubley at quarterback, and in the first half, it appeared the assignment was too much for him to handle. After two quarters of play he had completed two of six passes for 20 yards and one interception.
Rubley maintained his composure, though, and finished the game, completing 15 of 26 for 158 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown pass to Todd Kinchen.
“I thought he tried hard,” said quarterback Jim Everett, whose streak of 87 consecutive starts ended. “He tried to take what was there. I’m sure there are a few things he’d like to take back, but wouldn’t we all. I think there are things he will try to improve on, but overall I thought he tried very hard.”
Everett said the coaching staff advised him to be ready at halftime after the 49ers had established a 23-3 lead, but Everett finished the game without playing, the first time since Dec. 27, 1987, when he missed a game because of an injury.
“It’s tough for me to be a spectator,” Everett said. “That was my role. It’s tough for me to digest, but I was prepared to play.”
Rubley began the third quarter by bouncing a pass off the helmet of center Bern Brostek and into the hands of tight end Troy Drayton for a six-yard gain and a first down.
“I thought his performance was shaky at the beginning and so-so overall,” Knox said. “He was respectable in the second half.”
Rubley brought the Rams back to within 13 points at 30-17 with 6 minutes 50 seconds to play. He marched the Rams 85 yards in nine plays and lofted a well-aimed pass over 49er defender Eric Davis into the waiting hands of Kinchen for his third touchdown pass in two games.
In the fourth quarter he engineered an 80-yard drive and hit Kinchen again for 17 yards to set up a one-yard touchdown dive by running back Jerome Bettis.
The 49ers, however, scored 10 consecutive points to notch their sixth straight victory over the Rams.
“I got a better feeling the more I played,” Rubley said. “I felt better in the second half, although I never got discouraged when things didn’t go our way in the first half.”
The Rams looked as if they were out of this game almost from the start. They decided not to play Robert Young, their starting left defensive end after he announced late last week that his injured knee wasn’t well enough to allow his participation.
Then, hours before Sunday’s kickoff, Fred Stokes, their starting right defensive end, returned to Orange County to be with his wife, who had gone into labor.
Forced to start Gerald Robinson and Tony Woods, they were unable to put much pressure on quarterback Steve Young, who was not sacked, and completed 22 of 34 for 245 yards.
“The Rams should probably not pay me this week, just like in the Houston situation (with David Williams), because I chose to leave, and although I tried to get back, I wasn’t here and didn’t earn my money,” said Stokes, who paid $3,300 to charter a plane to return to San Francisco. “My wife has been in labor since three in the morning, but after the doctors told me that it would be later in the night, I tried to get back to the game. I told Coach I was going to try and get back and I wanted to keep my word.”
Stokes took a 7 a.m. flight to Orange County and returned to Candlestick Park in time for the two-minute warning, and just in time to watch 49ers’ cornerback Michael McGruder intercept a Rubley pass intended for Ellard and return it for a 32-yard touchdown to cap the game’s scoring.
“I feel bad,” said Stokes, who received permission from Knox to return home, so long as he made it back for the game. “I feel I let the team down, but at the same time I was trying to take care of my family. Right now, I’m really stressed out.”
As Stokes rushed back to Orange County Sunday night to be with his wife, Regina, and the expected birth of his son, Landon, the Rams returned to regroup with the advantage of having a bye this week.
“I don’t have anymore to say,” snapped Knox, while making his way to the team buses.
Lyght understood. “What is there to say?” he said. “Some of the losses we’ve had there were breakdowns in different areas. But we haven’t gotten beaten this badly since the (opening) game with Green Bay.”