By Risking Idiocy, Rams Make Brooks Look Like a Genius : Pro football: Anything goes in St. Louis, which has a one-game lead in the NFC West and can make a serious statement by beating the 49ers today.


He called for a reverse on third and one, stunned Green Bay, gained a first down and sealed the victory. He had his team fake a punt, shocking New Orleans and allowing the Rams to run out the clock for a victory. He shunned a field-goal try on fourth down, went for it and scored a touchdown against the Bears. He ordered his team to lateral the ball across the field on a punt return--not once, but two weeks in a row.

Coach Rich Brooks will do anything--that's anything --to win, and, surprise, surprise, the Rams are 5-1 and in position to go two games up on San Francisco in the NFC West Division with a victory over the 49ers here today.

"I went to him a few weeks back when we had the ball on our own 20, and as a joke said this might be a good time to run the fake punt we had been working on," said Wayne Sevier, Ram special teams coach. "He goes, 'Really? You think it might work?'

"I was just kidding, but that's the way he is. He'll take the risk. He's let this team know that he will do whatever it takes to win. He's not going to sit back and try not to lose . . . but I will have to watch out what I suggest--he might do it."

General Manager Steve Ortmayer, who hired Brooks, has not been surprised.

"A lot of people would say this guy is a riverboat gambler, but what this guy has done is take a 4-12 team and figured out things he needs to do to win games," Ortmayer said. "I don't see it the way other people see it. If you're the Cowboys and winning and taking these kind of risks, you're a gambler.

"The No. 1 task he had coming here was to convince this team that they were a better team than they thought they were. We got lucky in Green Bay, beat a good team and these players started thinking maybe we can win. Ever since we've been on a roll. It's been a damn roll."

The Rams, beaten to a quivering pulp the past few years in Anaheim, have become excited because of Brooks' willingness to let it all ride.

"They appreciate me not taking the game out of their hands," Brooks said. "Now, if they don't make the play I'm going to look like an idiot, but I've been there before and it doesn't bother me, like some people, to be called an idiot. The most important thing is, they believe I wouldn't be making those calls if I didn't think we could execute them."

Brooks came to the Rams well prepared to bolster sagging self-esteem and tackle teams with more talent. For 18 years he coached at the University of Oregon--and survived--against schools loaded with better players.

"He was probably tested in every way possible at Oregon in trying to compete with the bigger powers," Sevier said.

Brooks has had the Rams throwing on first down. And he has given quarterback Chris Miller, whom he coached in college, the opportunity to establish himself as one of the game's premier players.

Miller, who irritated teammates a year ago by passing blame to them for his poor play, has thrown 11 touchdown passes and three interceptions. He's coming off consecutive 300-yard performances and has thrown a touchdown pass in every game.

"In my opinion our success is two-fold," Ortmayer said. "It's Brooks and it's Chris Miller. The players have bought everything Brooks has said, and Miller has been phenomenal."

And the Rams, so far, have been real good. They are one game up in the NFC West, and San Francisco will be playing today without Steve Young, who is out because of a shoulder injury.

"In my mind this is a huge game," Brooks said. "What we need to do if we want to be taken as serious contenders is beat the 49ers--pure and simple."

Now that will be some trick to pull off.



Houston (2-4) at Chicago (4-2) Channel 4, 10 a.m.: How about that public outcry for Steve Walsh? Who? Erik Kramer, who was a bust in Chicago a year ago only to be replaced by Walsh, is having a Michael Jordan-like season. Everything he throws up results in a score. His 14 touchdown passes tie Steve Bono for the NFL lead.

Name the top two: Which two receivers have scored the most touchdowns in the NFC? San Francisco's Jerry Rice, of course. And Curtis Conway of the Bears.


San Francisco (4-2) at St. Louis (5-1) Channel 11, 10 a.m.: Elvis Grbac, who has completed 40 of 59 passes for 442 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions, in his three-year NFL career, will start for the first time. The Rams figure this is another sign that they are destined to be in the playoffs. Reality check: The 49ers have defeated the Rams nine times in a row. Rice, whose single-game high of 241 yards came against the Rams in 1985, needs 94 yards to become the NFL's all-time reception yardage leader.

Comeback player of the year: Miller.


Indianapolis (4-2) at Oakland (5-2) Channel 4, 1 p.m.: The Raiders will be without Jeff Hostetler, and would you want to take on the mighty Colts without your best? The mighty Colts? They knocked the Rams from the ranks of the unbeaten, then savaged the Dolphins before whipping the 49ers. Talk about hitting the trifecta. Vince Evans, 13-23 as a starter, replaces Hostetler. Jim Harbaugh, the leading passer in the NFL--and that's no mistake--directs a team that has gone 6-2 over its last eight games.

Awesome: The Colts' success over the Rams, Dolphins and 49ers marks the first time since 1964 that they have beaten three winning teams in succession.


Atlanta (4-2) at Tampa Bay (5-2): The Buccaneers have a better record than the 49ers and hell reportedly has not frozen over. Quarterback Trent Dilfer has gone four games and 93 passes without an interception. And yet, pigs still do not fly. The Falcons have won 13 games in a row when limiting opponents to 20 or fewer points. They also have the worst pass defense in the league, which allows teams to score at will.

Run and shoot grounded: The Falcons prefer to throw the ball, but when they have fed Craig Heyward the ball 15 or more times in a game they have gone 13-4.


Detroit (2-4) at Washington (2-5): The Redskins are looking for their 17th consecutive victory over the Lions. Hmm, didn't realize Wayne Fontes has been coaching that long in Detroit. Washington wide receiver Henry Ellard needs five more catches to become the sixth receiver in NFL history to hit the 700 mark. Detroit's Brett Perriman and Herman Moore are on pace to catch 106 and 104 passes, respectively. That's with Scott Mitchell throwing the ball.

Mr. Impressive: Barry Sanders still tops all running backs with more than 100 carries this season and a 5.4-yard average.

New Orleans (1-5) at Carolina (1-5): Both won their last game. New Orleans quarterback Jim Everett now has a record of 54-73 as a starter. And the Saints' defense ranks 29th. Now you know why everybody in New Orleans gets so excited about Mardi Gras--it's a long year between celebrations.

Stuck in place: Carolina's offense is last in first downs and third-down efficiency.

Jacksonville (2-5) at Cleveland (3-3): Get this, the Browns may be looking ahead to next week's showdown with Cincinnati. That's what has happened to this AFC Central Division: a showdown between the Bengals and Browns. The winner of this division might not be .500.

Two away: Two more victories for the Jaguars and they become the NFL's winningest expansion team in its first year.


Kansas City (6-1) at Denver (4-3): Desperate Denver ripped Oakland and tries to bring the Chiefs back to the AFC West pack and make a statement of its own. The Chiefs are off to their best start since 1969, and so why didn't they dump Joe Montana sooner? Kansas City quarterback Bono has thrown two touchdown passes in each of the last five games, the team's longest streak since Len Dawson in 1965-66.

Thin air: The Broncos are 11-1 against Kansas City since 1983 in Mile High Stadium and 17-3 since 1975.


Miami (4-2) at N.Y. Jets (1-6): Imagine the Houston Rockets taking on the CBA's Rockford entry. The Jets will start Bubby Brister again, and that has to have the fans in New York all excited about their Sunday entertainment. The Dolphins have the No. 1 passing game--with Dan Marino and Bernie Kosar at quarterback--and their defense ranks No. 1 against the rush in the AFC.

No. 500: Miami running back Keith Byars needs one more catch for his 500th, and linebacker Bryan Cox needs one more tackle for his 500th. Both should be well on their way to 1,000 against the Jets.


Minnesota (3-3) at Green Bay (4-2): The Vikings have won five of the last six games against the Packers, but Minnesota lost to Tampa Bay last week, so Green Bay doesn't figure to be overwhelmed. The Vikings have the NFC's third-best rushing defense, and the Packers have the NFC's third-best overall defense. First field goal wins.

Nothing special: In his last three games against Green Bay, Minnesota quarterback Warren Moon has thrown only two touchdown passes and six interceptions and has been sacked seven times.


San Diego (3-4) at Seattle (2-4): The Chargers consider this a must victory as they head into the bye hoping to regroup for a second-half run. The Chargers are 6-1 against the Seahawks under Bobby Ross, but struggled at home earlier this season to top Seattle, 14-10. Quarterback Stan Humphries has become essential to the Chargers' cause, considering that the team would have been better off going with 10 players on offense rather than suiting up Gale Gilbert a week ago.

Run, run, run: The Chargers have the leading rusher in the AFC in Natrone Means, and every reason to protect Humphries by running Means again and again.


Dallas (6-1), New York Giants (2-5), Philadelphia (4-3) and Arizona (2-5) do not play this week.

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