As promised, the Rams turned over a new leaf Sunday, and for the first time since Oct. 29, 1984, they failed to score any points in Anaheim Stadium.
After taking a bye and convincing themselves they were 0-0 to open the second half of the season against Atlanta, the Rams (2-7) belly-flopped Sunday before 37,073 fans and fell to the bottom of the NFC West Division with 13-0 loss to the Falcons (3-6).
The crowd, the smallest to watch a Ram game here since a Dec. 8, 1991 contest with Atlanta (35,315), witnessed the Falcons’ first shutout on the road since a 17-0 victory over Tampa on Nov. 27, 1977.
“Obviously, it’s tough to win, or impossible, if you don’t score,” said Ram Coach Chuck Knox, who now has experienced his first five-game losing streak in 21 years as head coach.
The Falcons, who are now 3-21-2 against the Rams on the West Coast, took a 6-0 halftime lead on Norm Johnson field goals of 46 and 44 yards, and then scored the game’s only touchdown on Bobby Hebert’s 31-yard pass to Andre Rison on the opening drive of the third quarter.
“We made a point of going out and playing as hard as we could for the last eight games of the season,” quarterback Jim Everett said. “And this is a slap in the face.”
The Falcons, who were ranked No. 27 in the league with 10 sacks in their first eight games, recorded six at the Rams’ expense. At the same time they put a halt to running back Jerome Bettis, who was limited to 27 yards in 11 carries.
“As it showed, they looked like they were much more prepared than us,” Everett said. “We had opportunities and squandered them; they capitalized on the few they had.”
Everett returned to the starting lineup after being benched in favor of T.J. Rubley in the team’s last game with San Francisco, and completed 20 of 41 passes for 203 yards with two interceptions.
In Everett’s last three games in Anaheim Stadium he has directed the Rams on 26 drives and has failed to lead them to a touchdown. In that time he has completed 32 of 75 passes (42.6%) for 341 yards, has been sacked 11 times and has had four passes intercepted.
“If we had one guy we could pinpoint for all our problems, that would be great,” tackle Irv Eatman said. “If any man in this locker room can stand up and say he’s not at fault for where we are now I’ll kiss his behind.
“Nobody should lean on Everett any harder than anyone else. If it was just one or two guys you could bench them and fix it. This is just a collective screw-up.”
The Ram offense, however, was matched against the NFL’s lowest-ranked defense, a defense that had also surrendered more points than any other team in the league.
“You can’t win ballgames if you don’t score points,” said cornerback Todd Lyght, who intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble. “We didn’t make anything happen with our specials teams and they did. They blocked a field goal; we got outplayed--again.”
The Rams had an opportunity to score in the first quarter when kicker Tony Zendejas lined up for a 42-yard field goal. Ram guard Leo Goeas was penalized five yards for a false start, forcing Zendejas to retreat and attempt a 47-yard field goal.
Zendejas’ kick was good, but Ram linebacker Chris Martin was caught holding, wiping the points off the scoreboard and forcing the Rams to punt after being pushed back an additional 10 yards.
In the final seconds of the second quarter the Rams had another chance to break the shutout. The Rams, trailing, 6-0, were out of timeouts, but they had 20 seconds remaining and the ball at the Atlanta 14-yard line.
On second and 10, Everett failed to find an open receiver and heaved the ball out of bounds. After throwing the ball, Everett unbuckled his chin strap and began jogging to the sideline in anticipation of the field-goal team.
“I was coming off the field,” Everett said. “It was called upstairs (to the coaches in the press box) that we wanted another play.”
On third and 10 with 14 seconds remaining in the half, Falcon defensive tackle Jumpy Geathers sacked Everett and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Atlanta defensive end Chuck Smith.
“I thought I saw Flipper (Anderson) coming open,” Everett said. “I didn’t see the guy to the left of me and he just grabbed my shoulder. At that point I was just trying to throw the ball just to be incomplete, and they call it a fumble.”
The Rams tried to make it on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, but Zendejas’ 49-yard field-goal attempt was blocked.
With a little more than two minutes to play, the Rams advanced to the Falcons’ 17-yard line, but then tackle Darryl Ashmore was caught holding, pushing the team back to the 27. After an incomplete pass, Everett looked as if he was trying to throw the ball beyond the end zone to avoid a sack.
However, he failed to get it past a leaping Deion Sanders, who intercepted the pass. Sanders came back on the final play of the game, intercepted Everett’s desperation toss, and then drew Everett’s ire by running the interception back and lateraling it to teammate Scott Case.
“I don’t care about the pick (interception),” said Everett, who had words with Case. “The game’s over and the lateral was (bull). I told him that was (bull) and unsportsmanlike.”
The Ram defense, while unable to handle running back Erric Pegram, who gained 128 yards on 27 carries, had kept the Falcons within striking distance. The Falcons had a dozen third-down opportunities, but were stopped nine times.
“You can’t just say it’s over now,” said Sean Gilbert, Ram defensive tackle. “This is your job; I’m going to be here now and I’ll be here later when things are better.
“Adversity brings out the cowards, the guys who want to run away and be someplace else. Things are tough on us right now, but it won’t (always) be the same sad song.”
* FOUR SCORES: Jerry Rice wasn’t complaining after catching four touchdown passes in the 49ers’ 45-21 victory. C6