Brooks ends St Louis blues

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The Independent Online
American football

When the St Louis Rams replaced Chuck Knox with Rich Brooks in February, the immediate reaction was to wonder why they had appointed a country music singer as their new head coach. Further investigation revealed that Brooks did know more about cornerbacks than key changes, but the impression given was that the Rams, who had just left Los Angeles, had also lost their marbles.

Brooks had spent the last 18 years in Oregon, hardly one of the powerhouses of college football, and the general feeling was that he would be out of his depth in the NFL. Four games and four victories later, the question is whether he is the new Jimmy Johnson.

Given that the Rams have finished bottom of their division in each of the last four seasons Brooks's achievement is already considerable. The latest victory, 34-28 over the Chicago Bears, came thanks to three touchdown passes from Chris Miller.

While taking nothing away from Brooks, the Rams' record does, in part, reflect the league's policy of giving losing teams easier schedules. None of the four wins have been against genuine heavyweights, and a glance at their remaining fixtures shows that only two games, against San Francisco and the visit of Miami, look insurmountable obstacles. Which is not to say they will win the rest, but a place in the play-offs already looks a realistic possibility.

As the Rams have made their way to the top of the NFC West, they may have noticed the New Orleans Saints dropping down the lift shaft in the opposite direction. Winners or runners-up of the division for the last five years, the Saints have lost all four games in 1995, the most humbling being Sunday's thrashing at the previously winless New York Giants.

Like the Rams, the Raiders are finding life a lot healthier away from Los Angeles. Their third win in four was at the expense of Philadelphia, whom they trailed 17-0 before reeling off 48 unanswered points. Randall Cunningham, the Eagles quarterback, was benched for the second time this season.

With four clubs standing at 1-3, already two adrift of the Cowboys, the NFC East could set an unofficial record by being the first to be effectively decided before the end of September.

NFL (home teams first): St Louis 34 Chicago 28, NY Giants 45 New Orleans 29, Tampa Bay 14 Washington 6, Pittsburgh 24 Minnesota 44, Atlanta 13 NY Jets 3, San Diego 17 Denver 6, Cincinnati 28 Houston 38, Cleveland 35 Kansas City 17, Dallas 34 Arizona 20, Oakland 48 Philadelphia 17, Jacksonville 14 Green Bay 24, Did not play: Buffalo, Carolina, Indianapolis, Miami, New England, Seattle.

NFL STANDINGS

AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

East

W L T Pct PF PA

Miami 3 0 0 1.000 95 27

Buffalo 2 1 0 .667 58 45

Indianapolis 1 2 0 .333 62 68

New England 1 2 0 .333 23 62

NY Jets 1 3 0 .250 68 102

Central

Cleveland 3 1 0 .750 85 47

Cincinnati 2 2 0 .500 97 100

Houston 2 2 0 .500 72 79

Pittsburgh 2 2 0 .500 91 104

Jacksonville 0 4 0 .000 44 85

West

Kansas City 3 1 0 .750 94 79

Oakland 3 1 0 .750 102 55

San Diego 3 1 0 .750 65 54

Denver 2 2 0 .500 87 86

Seattle 1 2 0 .333 44 69

NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

East

W L T Pct PF PA

Dallas 4 0 0 1.000 123 58

Arizona 1 3 0 .250 66 109

NY Giants 1 3 0 .250 68 98

Philadelphia 1 3 0 .250 75 115

Washington 1 3 0 .250 72 79

Central

Green Bay 3 1 0 .750 79 61

Chicago 2 2 0 .500 108 81

Minnesota 2 2 0 .500 95 88

Tampa Bay 2 2 0 .500 47 59

Detroit 0 3 0 .000 47 63

West

St Louis 4 0 0 1.000 99 65

San Francisco 3 0 0 1.000 93 35

Atlanta 3 1 0 .750 73 88

Carolina 0 3 0 .000 39 85

New Orleans 0 4 0 .000 88 113

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