There were smiles, pats on the back and happy talk, but Jim Everett missed it all, his locker standing empty.
T.J. Rubley, who was the people's choice Sunday with a crowd of 45,546, stood in the media spotlight after engineering a fourth-quarter rally in relief of Everett, and ended a five-game Ram losing streak with a 10-6 victory over the Washington Redskins (2-8).
"We were bleeding badly," offensive tackle Irv Eatman said, "and this was a needed transfusion."
For the fourth consecutive game in Anaheim Stadium, spanning 34 possessions, Everett failed to lead his team to a touchdown. And after being booed in pregame introductions and throughout the game, he was sent to the bench with 35 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
"I'm frustrated because I think the guy has more ability and production in him than we've seen," said Ted Tollner, Ram quarterbacks coach. "Whether he's at the end of road? I still believe the guy can play. He hasn't done it, though, and we went to somebody else and we won a football game."
The boos turned immediately to cheers when the fans noticed Rubley warming up on the sidelines. The increased noise appeared to motivate the Ram defense and unnerve the Redskins.
Washington quarterback Rich Gannon threw three consecutive incomplete passes from the Redskin 12-yard line, and after a Reggie Roby punt, Rubley brought the fans to their feet by running onto the field.
Four plays later he had the Rams in the end zone for the first time since Oct. 31, on a 25-yard screen pass to tight end Troy Drayton.
"The good thing about T.J. is that sometimes in this business the less you know, the better off you are," Eatman said. "When he comes in he's wide-eyed and ready to go and I think his youthfulness brings something to the game."
Rubley brought the Rams back from a 13-point deficit earlier this season against Detroit, and although the Lions went on to win, 16-13, he earned his first NFL start the next week against San Francisco.
Will Rubley start against the 49ers next week?
"We haven't made any decision on that," Coach Chuck Knox said. "I told our football team, 'Listen, we've been struggling. It feels nice to win . . . I want every man in here to enjoy this win.' "
Everett, however, was a no-show for the Ram victory party. He left Anaheim Stadium quickly and without comment after completing 12 of 20 passes for 102 yards. Rubley completed five of six for 120 yards.
"The times we had a chance to make plays we didn't make them, and that's what is disappointing," Tollner said. "I don't have an answer for that."
While Everett's play continues to confound the Rams, Rubley's performance stirred his teammates.
"I think this win is a boost to our morale," running back Jerome Bettis said. "We really needed this win to put some fire back into us."
The Rams lost cornerback Todd Lyght in pregame warm-ups because of a knee injury, and were already set to play without starting tackle Jackie Slater, starting guard Tom Newberry, starting defensive end Robert Young, and No. 1 nickel back Robert Bailey.
Lyght will have arthroscopic knee surgery today. Wide receiver Todd Kinchen, injured in the first quarter, is expected to undergo major knee surgery, also today.
"We picked up a little adversity today," Knox said, "and still found a way to win a football game."
The Redskins took a 3-0 lead on Chip Lohmiller's 19-yard field goal in the first quarter and then appeared content to take it with them into halftime. Although they had a first down at their 24-yard line and more than a minute and half remaining in the second quarter, the Redskins ran out the clock.
"I thought that was a little strange," Ram linebacker Shane Conlan said.
The Redskins added a 34-yard Lohmiller field goal in the third quarter for a 6-0 lead. The Rams, meanwhile, produced only 29 yards in offense in the third quarter before turning the ball over to Rubley.
"I thought it was the right thing to do (switching to Rubley)," Tollner said. "Every snap he gets we find out more about him, and he determines his future by how he performs."
The Redskins put a heavy rush on Rubley when he came into the game but he completed a one-yard pass to running back Tim Lester. After being sacked, he scrambled on third and 17 and appeared to step across the line of scrimmage about the time he was passing to tight end Pat Carter.
The officials made no call, and the 38-yard gain gave the Rams the ball at the Redskins' 25. On first down, offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese called for Rubley to roll right and then throw back left to Drayton, the same play that had gone for Drayton's first NFL touchdown against Pittsburgh earlier this season.
"Ernie caught them being aggressive," Drayton said. "All I had to do was follow my blocks . . . it was easy."
Rubley put the Rams in position to extend their lead later in the quarter with a 29-yard pass to Flipper Anderson that bounced out of cornerback Tom Carter's hands.
After failing to score a touchdown, the Rams called on Tony Zendejas, whose NFL-record streak of field goals of 50 yards and longer had ended at 11, to kick a 23-yarder.
The Redskins had 3:10 to come back and win the game, but after advancing to the Rams' 27, Gannon tried to force a pass to Art Monk at the four. Safety Anthony Newman stepped in front of Monk for an interception opportunity, but as he got his hands on the ball, he was hit by teammate Deral Boykin.
"I got hit so hard I was dazed," Newman said. "But then I looked up and saw Michael Stewart running with the ball and I felt just great."
After the ball bounced off of Newman's hands, Stewart grabbed it and returned it to the Ram 34 to preserve the victory.
"There's nothing like a win," Conlan said. "You get paid and all that, but there's nothing like a win."