It is not often a kicker gets two chances to save his team from defeat in the last seconds of a game, and botches both.
The Los Angeles Rams' Rafael Septien, a 5-foot-9 rookie from Southwest Louisiana and Mexico City, missed a 45-yard field goal with six seconds left, then, after a roughing-the-kicker penalty on the Redskins, missed a 40-yarder as time ran out. As a result, the Western Division champion Rams fell to the Redskins, 17-14, yesterday at RFK Stadium.
None of the Rams seemed too upset at the outcome, particularly Septien.
His first attempt at a game-tying kick was short and to the right. His second, after the penalty against Joe Harris, was wide to the left.
"I kicked it and it just don't go in." Septien said. "Sometimes it goes in for you and sometimes it doesn't. I just missed it.
"Was I nervous? Well.I was thinking about the situation and maybe that helped me not hit it right."
Those kicks weren't the only ones Septien didn't hit right.
With the Rams down, 14-0, early in the third period, a drive bogged down and Glen Walker's punt rolled dead at the Redskin five-yard line. Washington was offside, however, and Ram coach Chuck Knox took the penalty, which enabled Septien to try a 51-yard field goal.
Septien's longest field goal so far this season had been 45 yards and he was only two of nine from outside the 40.
"If I thought that was out of his range," said Knox. "I wouldn't have tried it."
Maybe Knox should have asked Septien.
"It was awfully long for me to kick. Septien said. "On a kick that long everything has to be just right and it wasn't."
"If we would have made that field goal, it would have been a different story," Knox said.
Instead, the Redskins took over at their 38 instead of at the give and drove to the Los Angeles 28 where Mark Moseley kicked a 45-yard field goal for the eventual winning points.
Although Knox said the Rams "were playing the game to win," they didn't have much zip until another rookie, Vince Ferragamo from Nebraska, came in to relieve starting quarterback Pat Haden late in the third period. Ferragamo completed eight of 14 passes for 66 yards and two touchdowns and drove the Rams into position for Septien's last two misses.
Haden, who went into the game as the NFC's leading passer, threw his first nine incomplete.
"It wasn't decided before the game how much I would play," Haden said. "He (Knox) made the change to Vince to give us a spark because I wasn't doing it. It was the right move."
The strong-armed Ferragamo drove the Rams 72 yards in 10 plays his first series, the touchdown coming on a 17-yard pass to tight end Terry Nelson.
On the Rams' next possession, after a Dave Elmendorf interception. Ferragamo took the Rams 62 yards in six plays, this time throwing a two-yard touchdown pass to reserve running back Jim Jodat. That score was set up by a 25-yard run by another reserve running back. Rod Phillips.
On the Rams' final possession, Ferragamo guided them 52 yards in a minute 52 seconds, with only one time-out, to set up Septien's field-goal attempts.
Ferragamo called his own plays that drive, too, including a surprising end sweep on fourth and six with 18 seconds left.
The basic pro sweep by Cullen Bryant picked up 24 yards, then the Rams called their last time-out.
"I called that play because they (the Redskins) were thinking pass," Ferragamo said. "I knew we had one time-out left, so there would be time to set up for the field goal."
The Rams' othe quarterback, Joe Namath, has a bad knee and Knox said he never thought about using him. "I wanted to give Vince some work," the coach said.
"We were playing the game to win," Knox added, and he went with his top people most of the way except the first-string running backs. Lawrence McCutcheon and John Cappalletti played only the first half.
Cappalletti hurt his rib cartilage, but should be able to play next week in the playoffs.
The Rams lost safety Bill Simpson. He tore knee ligaments in the fourth period and will undergo surgery.