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Call Ram Drama ‘Free Flipper’ : Pro football: Deep threat Anderson has been forgotten man in a forgettable season.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Rams have found it difficult to score this season. They rank 26th in the league in points, just ahead of Cincinnati and New England.

They appear perplexed by this problem, and yet they keep wide receiver Flipper Anderson, their only legitimate home-run threat, standing on the sideline on most first downs.

“We have reasons why we do things,” Coach Chuck Knox said Monday. “Sometimes it might not look like it . . . “

Case in point: Sunday’s game with the 49ers, first quarter, third and goal at the eight and the Rams pull Anderson so they can get rookie Sean LaChapelle on the field.

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LaChapelle had not caught a pass in the NFL. But trailing the 49ers, 7-0, the Ram coaches chose to let it all ride on LaChapelle.

“We had a special play there we wanted to run,” Knox said. “We wanted to run the fade. We felt like LaChapelle runs that pretty well and he could go up and get the ball. He was open and the ball was overthrown.”

As the game continued, however, Anderson retreated to the sideline on first down, while the Rams played with a pair of tight ends and wide receiver Henry Ellard.

“No particular reason, other than there are some things that Henry does, but really we could do it the other way,” Knox said.

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So why not keep the team’s most explosive weapon on the field at all times?

“I didn’t say he was our most explosive weapon,” Knox said.

Reminded that he had indeed said that during training camp, Knox said, “I might have said that. I would say he and Henry Ellard are the same.”

The Rams’ front office let it be known before this season began that Ellard was in his last season with the team, that there was no intention of re-signing him when he becomes a free agent at season’s end.

“Henry Ellard is a pretty good football player,” offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese said. “That was everybody else’s perception, that he had slipped dramatically. I think he’s proven that he hasn’t.”

Ellard leads the team in receiving with 45 catches for 656 yards and two touchdowns. Anderson, meanwhile, has been missing in action.

Anderson, who declined to be interviewed Monday, has 25 catches for 420 yards with three touchdowns. Running back Cleveland Gary, who has been relegated to backup duty, has 30 catches.

“We think some plays are run with different personnel in there and that’s why we do it,” Zampese said. “We threw three deep balls to him (Sunday) and must have had another three or four called that the coverage took away. It just didn’t work out.”

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When the Rams broke training camp the team talked excitedly about Anderson’s dedication to duty this season and the threat he presented for the opposition.

“No question about it,” Zampese said. “But we have not been successful getting the ball deep to him. However, you can’t throw the ball deep on every play.”

Anderson, who was bothered by sore ribs for a while, has not caught a touchdown pass since Oct. 14.

“He has not been as productive as we had anticipated, but I don’t think Flipper not being in there every down has anything to do with our inability to score points,” Zampese said. “There are a lot of downs where he’s in there where we haven’t scored. Right?”


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