Even though Kurt Warner threw five touchdown passes for St. Louis--five more than Jeff Garcia threw for San Francisco--the NFL's hottest pair of new quarterbacks seemed reasonably similar in football ability Sunday as the Rams outscored the 49ers in St. Louis, 42-20.
The wide receivers and running backs also seemed about even on a day when the Rams' Isaac Bruce caught four touchdown passes and the 49ers' Charlie Garner led everyone in ground gaining.
At the same time, the 49ers have been quietly going backward--until this year, when new management made about as many hurried repairs as any pro leaders could in the difficult salary-cap era.
So the Rams are infinitely more powerful now than their San Francisco counterparts, except at wide receiver and in the offensive backfield. On Sunday, this meant that the 49ers couldn't pressure Warner, couldn't protect Garcia, and couldn't win.
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Rams Better Than All of Their Opponents
As of Week 6 in the NFL the 4-0 Rams, who last year had everything but an effective quarterback, have shown everything this year except how they would handle adversity.
Warner has dispatched so many first-quarter touchdown passes that the Rams, whatever their earlier 1990s history, remain untested and, curiously, untroubled.
During pro games, sooner or later, most clubs fall at least a touchdown or two behind; and when adversity of that or any other kind comes to the Rams this season, Warner can expect to be measured by what happens.
Strange as it seems, though, the Rams would be favored this week over everyone else on the rest of their schedule.
They are on course for a 16-0 season against the teams that have been lined up for them in the next three months, opponents like Cleveland, Philadelphia, Detroit, the New York Giants, and the bunch in the NFC West.
Even against such people, the Rams don't figure to go 16-0, to be sure, but it will be fun to see how close they get.
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Vermeil Learns Passing Game Just in Time
Nothing describes the present passing era in pro football more certainly than the way Ram Coach Dick Vermeil has been coping this season.
When Vermeil first came to prominence in the NFL as the 1976-82 leader of the Philadelphia Eagles, he was a solid ground-game coach in the tradition of the man he once worked for, George Allen.
In 1980, the Eagles got to the Super Bowl with a Vermeil team which, like most pro clubs in those days when a game was on the line, ran the ball to set up a few passes.
Vermeil's new team, which could hardly be more different, came out passing as usual Sunday against the 49ers, who were overwhelmed in a 21-3 first quarter when Warner, throwing on almost every down, completed nine for nine.
OATES ON FOOTBALL