The Los Angeles Rams are still dizzy from the fall they've taken, a free-fall tumble so far and so fast that the team should play the rest of its home games on Wall Street.

Less than three months ago, the Rams were being touted as Super Bowl contenders. They had Eric Dickerson, the best running back in football; LeRoy Irvin, perhaps the best cornerback in football, and young Jim Everett, potentially the team's best quarterback since Roman Gabriel.

But the case can now be made that the Rams are the worst team in the National Football League. Their union players were the last in the league to win a game -- last week at St. Louis.

And even so, the Rams are only 2-7 coming into Monday night's game with the Redskins at RFK Stadium.

Dickerson became embroiled in a contract dispute and was traded to Indianapolis. Irvin was kicked off the team, only to return when he couldn't be traded. Everett can't complete even 50 percent of his passes. And instead of being in contention for the Super Bowl, the Rams are dangerously close to having the first pick in the college draft.

"It's hard to believe," veteran safety Nolan Cromwell said, "that we've gone from such high hopes to being 2-7, and all we want to do is win one ball game, just one game. It's been very tough, very draining. Traditionally, the Rams are one of the top teams in the league. And now this."

The Rams needed a whole lot of luck and one of the most bizzare game-ending drives in recent years to beat St. Louis. In the rain of Busch Stadium, the Rams held the ball for the final 11:01, moving 94 yards to set up a short field goal for a 27-24 victory as time ran out.

There were so many sighs of relief, the Rams' dressing room was like a wind tunnel. John Robinson, the normally upbeat head coach, looked at the ground after the victory and said, "Well, at least we can stop saying to ourselves, 'God, will this never end?' "

Don't ask the Rams for exact explanations of what's gone wrong. Sure, there are statistical indications, like the fact that the Rams defense has allowed opponents to complete 57 percent of their passes. The defense, which ranked fifth overall in the league last season, has dropped to 25th. But that hardly addresses the entire issue.

The Dickerson/Irvin controversies, both involving contractual matters, surely didn't help. Charles White, who rushed for a career-high 213 yards against St. Louis, does lead the league in rushing (703 yards). But he is not Dickerson.

"A lot of Rams miss Eric Dickerson and they seem to be searching for something," New Orleans linebacker Rickey Jackson said after the Saints trounced the Rams two weeks ago. "They're definitely a different team without him. They lack speed. There were a couple of holes out there today that Dickerson would have gained 60 or 70 yards and maybe even scored on. But without him, they only gained three or four yards."

The Rams don't necessarily agree with that, or any single theory. Cromwell says, "This team is trying harder than a lot of teams I've been on {in 11 years} that have been more successful."

Nose tackle Greg Meisner said, "I've just got no clue. It's the most frustrating situation I've ever felt other than a life or death situation. We're getting our faces rubbed in the dirt. We're already at the bottom of the well, but we keep getting kicked down farther and farther."

Robinson is a cerebral sort who likes to be able to put his finger on everything. That's why the Rams must really be in trouble when he is forced to say, "If I knew {what was wrong}, I'd tell you. I wouldn't try to hide it . . . I would tell you . . . I'm the guy coaching the team. Part of what's wrong has to relate to me . . . It's embarrassing what's going on."

Losing the opener to the Houston Oilers was bad enough. Dickerson and Irvin played in that one, and the following week's home loss to Minnesota. After the replacements lost to the Saints, they did manage to beat Pittsburgh in Week 5, but lost to Atlanta the next week.

By the time the veterans got back, the Dickerson controversy had about reached its limit. The Rams lost to Cleveland, with Dickerson in and out of the lineup, then to the 49ers to drop to 1-6. Irvin was suspended for one game after calling in "sick" during the height of the Dickerson mess. Then came the loss to the Saints.

"The whole thing has just been incredible," Gary Jeter, the veteran defensive end, said. "People were trying to kick mud in your face. Nobody wanted to talk to you. You'd go in a restaurant and those drinks you used to get for free were double the price and the meals were cold.

"I remember saying every week, 'Something good'll happen. Dickerson's gonna break a long one and then we'll play.' But now he's gone, and we have to look around this room and ask, 'Okay, who's going to take the stage?' "

White seems to be there, and clearly that's important because the Rams, from the way the offensive line blocks to the offensive philosophies of Robinson, are a running team.

There are those who doubt White, who won the Heisman Trophy for Robinson's USC team in 1979, can carry the load week after week. Robinson indicated White will carry 30 times or more per game, as he did against St. Louis. But Everett's problems, and those on the defensive side of the ball, may be difficult to work out.

Even after the first nonreplacement victory of the season, it was clear the Rams were still a desperate, embarrassed team, looking to find a way out of a mess the team doesn't even know how it got into.