The final was Los Angeles Rams 17, Philadelphia Eagles 6, and as many of the 60,920 customers left Veterans Stadium hissing today, Rams running back Charles White was smiling pretty and saying, "Seems like old times, doesn't it?"
With his passing game gone bust, Rams Coach John Robinson reacted as though he were playing against UCLA. The former Southern California coach turned to a simple offense: White pitch left, White pitch right, White like gangbusters up the middle.
And White, a Heisman Trophy winner at USC, responded with a club-record 36 carries for a personal-high 144 yards. This included the twisting 17-yard touchdown run that iced it for the game's final points with 9:39 to play.
This was supreme production for White, a guy who was pulled back from the league waiver wire two weeks ago and who hadn't rushed for 100 yards in a single game in four previous pro seasons. (He had 100-yard games 30 times at USC.) White is replacing record-breaker Eric Dickerson, who just ended his 46-day holdout Friday and therefore had to watch from the sidelines in street clothes today.
As Dickerson ran off the field, he stopped for a postgame television interview. He was then hit in the head by a Toronto Blue Jays batting helmet thrown from the stands.
Some fans chanted obscenities about Dickerson's holdout, which ended with the Rams agreeing only to discuss the contract extension Dickerson has been seeking. (He has two years left on his current contract.)
"(The holdout) was something I had to do," said Dickerson. "I don't think it hurt me. I missed two games, but it's business first."
Then again, Eagles fans get angry when their team commits seven turnovers to fall to 0-2, with the Redskins next up at RFK Stadium. Philadelphia, which is missing three defensive players who are contract holdouts, has not scored a touchdown in two games.
For those expecting passing pyrotechnics today between rookie quarterbacks 12 years apart in age -- the Eagles' Randall Cunningham in his NFL starting debut and the Rams' Dieter Brock in his second NFL start -- it didn't materialize.
Cunningham looked raw, throwing four interceptions and missing two easy touchdown passes by badly underthrowing open receivers.
Cunningham did rush for 90 yards on 10 carries in performing a one-man wishbone offense. This represented more rushing yardage in one game than benched veteran Ron Jaworski ran for in full seasons in 1978, 1982 and 1984.
Poor Dieter Brock. Here is a guy who threw for nearly 20 miles in 11 seasons in Canada and today he completed only 11 of 26 passes. He didn't throw for any touchdowns. Throwing three-quarters sidearm as always, he had three passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.
When the Rams had the chance to break open a 10-6 game late in the third quarter, Brock fumbled the third-down snap and the Eagles recovered at their own 15.
Some Veterans Stadium cynic howled that Brock, 34, is the most overrated Canadian import since Molson beer. Brock, who has completed 27 of 54 passes for one touchdown in two Rams victories, said, "The key thing is I have got to be patient. It's a little frustrating."
Cunningham said, "I saw receivers open, but I was throwing too late."
Philadelphia Coach Marion Campbell said, "We didn't want (Cunningham) to run that many times, but he's just a kid. He won't be like that down the road, I guarantee that."
Cunningham's 14-for-34 completion total accurately reflects an erractic debut. One moment, he would let rip a laser-beamed 20-yard completion to receiver Herman Hunter on a third-and-18 play. The next moment, he would underthrow Hunter by 10 yards, as he went streaking -- wide open -- down the left sideline.
Campbell said Cunningham, brother of former NFL running back Sam Cunningham, will start against the Redskins next Sunday. "Without question, no hesitation," Campbell said.
And what of Jaworski? The 34-year-old, 12-year veteran was not happy after being benched following a 21-0 loss to the New York Giants.
When a reporter approached him after today's game, Jaworski said, "My freedom of speech has been taken away. Freedom of speech is not allowed around here. I've got nothing to say."
The Rams led, 10-0, less than seven minutes into the game. Henry Ellard returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown. Moments later, Cunningham threw an interception that was clearly a rookie mistake. With defensive end Reggie Doss shaking him from the shins, Cunningham threw anyway, short and over the middle.
Linebacker Jim Collins intercepted at the Philadelphia 48. This led to Mike Lansford's 33-yard field goal for a 10-0 edge with 8:23 left in the first quarter.
By the end of the half, Eagles kicker Paul McFadden converted field goals of 50 and 45 yards.
The Eagles were still within 10-6 at the start of the fourth quarter. Real live hope sprang forth when Cunningham completed a 54-yard pass (this, too, was underthrown badly) to wide receiver Kenny Jackson. The play took the ball to the Rams' four, but when Jackson felt the need to give the ball a jubilant spike, a five-yard penalty was assessed. Back to the nine.
On the next play, blitzing linebacker Mike Wilcher sacked Cunningham, causing a fumble. Doss recovered at the 16 and the Eagles never again threatened. With hardly any support from his line, Cunningham was sacked five times.
Brock then followed with a delicate, feathery 37-yard pass play to Ellard. This spawned White's 17-yard game-breaker.