Cunningham, Eagles get on track against Rams, 27-21


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- One quarterback played yesterday's football game like a one-man Dance Party spotlight, spinning and ducking and whirling his way deep into the heart of the Los Angeles Rams defense.

All Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham had to explain was how it feels to perform the physically improbable on such a regular basis.

The other quarterback got slammed to the ground, blindsided and squished under the pounding of men several sizes larger than himself, feeling the fury of the Philadelphia Eagles' defense more times than is normally considered healthy.

And afterward, Rams quarterback Jim Everett, bruised of both body and mind, stood solemnly in the locker room trying to dissect what had gone so wrong.

Mostly, yesterday's 27-21 Eagles victory was a tale of two quarterbacks, one of whom is going to be a whole lot more sore this morning than the other.

"Their quarterback had a magnificent game," Rams coach John Robinson said, "and they won."

The Rams' quarterback had a painful, harried day and they lost. Pretty simple.

Cunningham, refusing to be tackled, passed for 248 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 44 yards on seven carries. When the Eagles needed him, he was there, leaving a bundle of Rams dizzy and grasping at air in his wake.

Everett, under assault from a relentless and at times overwhelming Eagles pass rush, completed only 17 of his 35 passes, threw an interception, lost a fumble, was sacked twice and was smacked on at least a dozen more occasions.

When the Rams needed a big play from him, he was running for his life and left on the ground with an Eagle sitting on top of him.

"We knew they would be coming after us," Everett said. "And they were bringing it. They definitely were bringing it.

"You know when you're playing a team like Philadelphia that it's going to be a bloodbath. That was predictable. But we just didn't do the job we had to."

In the game's crucial moments, in the third quarter and early fourth, the Rams offense simply could not muster the energy to push back the Philadelphia attack.

As the Eagles scored two second-quarter touchdowns against a suddenly malleable Rams defense, the Rams offense struggled to do anything but move backward.

"It was the inability to make consistent plays offensively that let that game get out of hand," Robinson said.

Too many times Everett backpedaled, not to scan the receivers' routes but simply for his life, throwing the ball away only an instant before Reggie White or Jerome Brown or some other Eagle came down on him. After a productive first half, Everett completed just seven of his 17 second-half passes.

Meanwhile, Cunningham was magic, dancing around the pocket, buying time and finding receivers breaking free downfield. The Eagles had struggled badly in their first two games, losing to Phoenix last week, but in Cunningham's legs yesterday, they found life.

On Philadelphia's touchdown drives, plus the kill-the-clock, eight-minute drive as the game ended, the Eagles defense gave Cunningham the ball and he made the most of the opportunities.

On the fourth-quarter touchdown drive that gave the Eagles the 13-point lead the Rams could not overcome, Cunningham made the play of the game, a scramble around Rams sack-man Kevin Greene and pass to tight Keith Jackson for a 28-yard pickup to the Rams 39.

Earlier in the game, to set up the Eagles' second touchdown in the waning moments of the first half, Cunningham deked to the left, causing the whole Rams defense to surge that way, then spun sharply the other way for a 27-yard run.

"You know, he has a way of starting somewhere, and you start that way and he's going the other direction," Robinson said. "We had some times when we felt we were chasing him and chasing him the wrong way, it looked like.

"At times, he can take the initiative away from you. There was a period there where I felt we lost our initiative. We were standing to see which way he was going to go and then chasing, as opposed to putting pressure on him and then reacting to him. I thought we got standing around, mesmerized a little bit."

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