Bucs crumble to Rams 35-3
John Luttermoser, The St.Petersburg Times ,published 1987

Eleven weeks ago there was a bang, and Sunday there was a thud. In a manner of speaking, Ray Perkins' first season as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended here Sunday when the Los Angeles Rams ground the Bucs into the Anaheim Stadium grass, 35-3.

It ended with four games to play, with the Bucs having slipped to 4-7 overall and 2-6 excluding the strike replacement games, because of a decision Perkins announced after the game. It's a vague decision that will take shape as the week wears on, leading up to next week's game at New Orleans. ``Beginning next week we'll start preparing for next year,`` Perkins said.

That doesn't mean the remaining games will be treated as exhibition games. ``We're going to try to do things as soundly as we can to win games,`` Perkins said. ``If we can do that and still get some people into the game that we'd like to play a little more, so that they can get experience for next year, we'll do so. If it's going to hurt our chances to win a game, I will not do it.``

He didn't say exactly what that means with respect to quarterback or any other position. ``I'd like to have a little time to think of specifics,`` he said. But Perkins did say that Vinny Testaverde played in the fourth quarter Sunday because Steve DeBerg's back was sore - not because of DeBerg's performance in the game or because the time has come for the first draft choice, Testaverde, to lead the team.

Testaverde came into a hopeless and somewhat perilous situation with 10:44 to play, the Bucs trailing by 32 points and the Rams' pass rush in high gear. He threw for a couple of first downs, gave the ball up on an interception, fumbled a snap but recovered it himself, and got sacked once. He wound up 4-for-6 for 33 yards. ``I don't expect anything to be different,`` Testaverde said. ``I hope I get some more playing time next week. Right now all I know is that Steve is the No.1 quarterback.``

``I'm not going to try to read his mind or put words in his mouth,`` DeBerg said of Perkins. ``He'll let us know what he wants to do.``

DeBerg said he suffered a hyperextended back when he was sacked for the third time, late in the third quarter. He ended that play under a pile of three Rams, sitting on the ground with his head pushed down around his knees. DeBerg played one more series before being replaced. ``I told him (Perkins) that I was injured, but I would play if I had to,`` DeBerg said. He said he doesn't know if the injury will affect his preparation for New Orleans.

This was the first time this year that the Bucs have been run off the field. But it also was their fourth straight loss, and the taste of that day 11 weeks ago when they opened the season by thrashing Atlanta 48-10 has long since washed away. The Rams are also 4-7 overall but are headed in the opposite direction, having won three straight and raised their non-strike record to 3-5. ``I was looking at this and it seemed like the old Bucs - the ones who could screw up all kinds of good things,`` said DeBerg, who completed 13 of 28 passes for just 124 yards and threw one interception.

Such as third-and-long situations for the opposing team. Rams quarterback Jim Everett has had a poor second season, but Sunday he tore through the Bucs for 208 yards and two touchdowns on just 19 attempts, completing 14. He completed first-down passes on third-and-14, third-and-11, third-and-8 and twice on third-and-7. ``We're still running the ball well and now our passing game is coming around,`` Everett said.

The Rams ran for 213 yards, taking advantage of injuries that caused the Bucs to go with an infant defensive line. Seventh-round draft choice Curt Jarvis started at right end in place of Ron Holmes, who has a shoulder injury. Jarvis was a four-year starter for Perkins at the University of Alabama but hadn't played in so much as an exhibition game as a professional. Free-agent rookie Tom McHale, who also was in his first regular-season game, played extensively at defensive end because John Cannon missed parts of the game due to a rib injury.

Jarvis sacked Everett twice, but overall the Bucs seemed to pay a price for starting three rookies on defense and using five more off the bench. ``We found out today what it's like when you put a bunch of boys on the field with a bunch of men,`` Perkins said.

Rams running back Charles White had his third straight 100-yard game, running for 137 yards and two touchdowns on 29 attempts. Besides Holmes, the Bucs were also missing his usual backup, Kevin Kellin, who is on injured reserve due to a knee injury. The offensive line is still smarting from a knee injury that ended tackle Rob Taylor's season three weeks ago. It's not much of a wave of injuries, but the Bucs don't have many capable reserves. ``This team absolutely could not afford injuries at this stage of its development,`` DeBerg said.

So without depth, the Bucs got buried. Los Angeles drove 69 yards to score a touchdown on the first series of the game, with Everett hitting a wide-open Henry Ellard on a 19-yard scoring pass. The game got out of hand quickly at the start of the second quarter. On the third play of that period, DeBerg tried to throw to Gerald Carter in the right flat. Rams outside linebacker Mel Owens intercepted at the line of scrimmage and ran 26 yards before Carter caught him at the Tampa Bay 15-yard line. White scored four plays later on a 2-yard run to make it 14-0.

It only took the Rams six more plays from scrimmage to make it 21-0. The Bucs lost 12 yards on three plays before punting, mostly because outside linebacker Mike Wilcher sacked DeBerg for an 11-yard loss. On the Rams' second play after the punt, Everett threw to Ellard for 33 yards to the Tampa Bay 7, and White scored again on the play after that. The Bucs had one chance to make a game of it, triggered by Jeff Smith's 46-yard run on the second play of the second half. That put the ball on the Los Angeles 23, but the Bucs had to settle for a 33-yard Donald Igwebuike field goal that made it 21-3.

Then Perkins called for an onside kick and the Rams were caught by surprise, but the Bucs fumbled and dribbled the ball out of bounds without being able to gain possession. After that the Tampa Bay offense didn't even cross midfield. ``You're going to get beat sometimes, but I'd like to think that we've got enough pride that we don't get our heads beat in,`` said Perkins, who again bemoaned the absence of leadership on the team.

Perkins recalled an instance during his playing career when Baltimore linebacker Mike Curtis made a halftime speech and threatened to beat up any teammate who loafed on any play in the second half. ``We don't have anybody like that,`` Perkins said. ``I want somebody that if it means enough to them, will come up and slug me. That's fine. We don't have anybody like that. We're too nice.``