Rams win against Cards, September 17, 1968
September 17, 2008 | 7:54 am
Defense does job; Rams win opener
94-yard TD run starts Cardinals to 24-13 defeat.
Above, Richard Nixon campaigns in Yorba Linda in the 1968 presidential race.
By Keith Thursby
Times staff writer
There's still something not quite right about putting the Rams and the city of St. Louis in the same sentence.
On this Monday night, the Rams were the visiting team and the game was still played outside (one factor in the Rams' move to St. Louis was the use of a fancy new domed stadium). The Times' Bob Oates described the weather as a "Missouri mist resembling Los Angeles smog," but it turned out to be the perfect setting for the Rams to open their season with a 24-13 victory over the Cardinals.
Defense and special teams played key roles. Ron Smith returned the second half kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown and the Rams' defense made life miserable for St. Louis' young quarterback, Jim Hart.
Oates' game story was interesting for its length and attention to detail. At times, there was a professorial tone to his writing as he tried to explain the finer points of a sport that was becoming more complex each season.
At one point he examined the Rams' defense:
"The Rams were in what they call combination coverage -- part zone, part man-to-man -- when quarterback Hart passed to Jackie Smith both times the ball was intercepted. Hart was keying on the tight safety (Ron Smith) on each occasion. He did not see [Eddie] Meador on either play.
"NFL quarterbacks are not in the habit of watching out for free safeties when they throw the ball to the tight safety's man."
These days, Oates would probably be working at ESPN, breaking down game films on one of the network's endless football shows.
This post begins a look at two Los Angeles Rams seasons: 1958 and 1968. Both teams were led by future Hall of Fame coaches (Sid Gillman in '58, George Allen in '68). In 1958, the Rams were coming off a 6-6 season under their young general manager, future NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. The 1968 team started the season considered among the league's elite franchises after finishing the previous season 11-1-2, losing in the playoffs to the eventual NFL champion Green Bay Packers. Should be fun to retrace two very different teams in two different eras in Los Angeles sports.