Bettis' Pounding Runs Haven't Rescued Rams : NFL: Rookie running back is gaining yards and attention, but the offense remains ineffective because of a shoddy passing attack.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ram running back Jerome Bettis has rushed for 248 yards in the last two games, and has had the opposition reaching for the aspirin by game's end.

Phoenix defensive back Robert Massey, who injured his shoulder while trying to tackle Bettis, called him "a modern-day Earl Campbell." Phoenix cornerback Aeneas Williams was asked what it felt like to go helmet-to-helmet with Bettis. "Your eyes get wide. You just try to hold on and cry for help," he said.

Reporters have rushed to Bettis in the Ram locker room. Roy Firestone summoned him for an ESPN interview Tuesday. The team's public relations department has begun pushing him for Pro Bowl consideration.

Much ado about nothing.

Bettis has run for 248 yards and the Rams have lost the last two games by a total of 53 points.

Sure, reporters rush to talk with a smiling Bettis. What's the alternative? Talk to a grumpy Henry Ellard or Flipper Anderson? A happy-go-lucky Jim Everett? An all-too-predictable Chuck Knox? How many times can someone ask Wymon Henderson why he was beaten deep again for a touchdown?

Jerome Bettis has rushed for more than 100 yards four times this season, and in each of those games he has failed to score a touchdown and the Rams have lost.

"Sure, it's definitely all for naught because we're not putting the points on the board," Bettis said. "But I also think it gives us something to start with, and then at some point we have to build up the passing game.

"We can run the football on anybody; I think we've pretty much proved that. But now what we have to do is pretty much focus on the other parts of the offense."

Ground Chuck, however, was going to elevate the Rams beyond the .500 mark this season and into the playoffs.

The defense was better than ever, and if the Rams could run the ball effectively it would take the heat off Everett. Bettis has run for 891 yards--4.8 yards a carry--and the Rams are 3-9.

"The threat of the run should really help the passing game," Knox said. "When you have a running back like (Bettis) you should be able to hit some play-action passes. But we just couldn't hit them.

"That's one of the big concerns, because one thing we're doing well now is running the football even though we're starting two new people in our offensive line. You saw the way he was running; that's a force, and not just inside. He averaged about 10 yards per carry to the left side."

Obviously, the Rams lack an effective quarterback.Bettis has become productive and the offensive line, with the help of fullback Tim Lester, has excelled in carving him a path.

Bettis ranks fifth in the NFC in rushing behind Barry Sanders (Detroit), Emmitt Smith (Dallas), Ricky Watters (San Francisco) and Erric Pegram (Atlanta).

"I was kidding with Jerome and telling him I've never been with a back that gets up and gives it to the other team since the days when I was blocking for Kelvin Bryant in the USFL," said Irv Eatman, Ram tackle. "That really pumps me up. He goes in there, knows he's going to get hit hard and is telling them after the play, 'I'll be back.'

"From a defensive standpoint I would think it would be kind of disappointing. You think you have knocked the hell out of a guy and then he gets up and says, 'That's the best you can do?' That's really impressive coming from a young guy."

Bettis has been impressive, but the Rams have been anything but.

"You can't blame him for that," Eatman said. "Here's the thing: If you can't run the ball you know you're not going to win. And because you can run the ball doesn't guarantee you are going to win. I mean we've got other problems.

"He's a running back and he's running the ball and doing it real well. So there's nothing hollow in that. He might not get the attention he deserves had we been winning more, but he's running as well as anyone out there, and you can't take that away from him."

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