THE LAMBS LIE DOWN
"I don't have any answers," says Ram coach John Robinson about his team's 0-3 fade after its 5-0 start. But he surely knows what's wrong.
1) The running game has no rhythm. Back in early October, it seemed that no team could stop Greg Bell. Now Bell has slowed. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry during the 5-0 start; since then that stat has dropped to 2.7. The Rams may have to start giving the ball to rookie Cleveland Gary or versatile Robert Delpino in the second half of the season.
2) Jim Everett has happy feet. Everett was a confident 65% passer in the first five games. Now he's jittery; he's throwing off his back foot and is not seeing all his receivers. During the slump he has completed only 46% of his throws. The key to beating Everett is pressure, even if that means single coverage on wide receivers Henry Ellard and Flipper Anderson.
3) The Eagle has crashed. The Eagle is the Rams' defensive scheme of two linemen and five linebackers, but key linebackers Larry Kelm and Fred Strickland are out with injuries. So the defense has been playing traditional 3-4 and 4-3 fronts of late, and outside rushers Frank Stams and Mel Owens have had to play on the inside for the first time in their pro careers. The D has given up 83 points in the swoon.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
Pete Rozelle spent the final weekend of his exactly 29� seasons as commissioner lying low, watching the Oilers-Browns and 49ers-Jets games on TV in his Manhattan hotel room because he wanted Paul Tagliabue to have the spotlight. Rozelle officially leaves office at 12:01 a.m. this Sunday. On Monday he introduced Tagliabue to the NFL staff. Rozelle planned to spend the rest of the week cleaning out his Park Avenue office. He hopes to be settled into his Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., home by Thanksgiving. He said his last weekend in power felt anticlimactic. "I have no strong feelings," he said. "You just think, Thank God it's over."
DEAD TO WRIGHT
How perfectly improper: After 759 straight pass attempts without being sacked, Dolphin quarterback Dan Marino was dropped by a backup nosetackle named Jeff Wright in the Bills' 31-17 victory over Miami. As he set up for the next play, Marino stared across the line at Wright and winked congratulations. "He's a class act," said Wright.
STAND BY, CANTON...
As San Diego quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver prepared to make the first start of his NFL career Sunday at Seattle, NBC announcer Charlie Jones said on the air: "I predict 15 years from now you'll remember this moment. I think he's Hall of Fame material." Tolliver led the Chargers through three quarters and nine series, completed six of 17 passes and never entered Seattle territory. The Chargers lost 10-7. "I fell flat on my face," said Tolliver, who nonetheless stayed around afterward to try to explain the loss.
STATS OF THE WEEK
?In the Jets' last five games, including Sunday's 23-10 loss to the 49ers, their offense has scored one touchdown. Over that same span, New York safety Erik McMillan has scored three TDs.