ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Back in mid-September, after being dominated by the New Orleans Saints, 24-7, the Los Angeles Rams vowed that they would never let it happen again.
Today, against a Saints team that suffered its first loss of the season last Sunday, the Rams have a chance to keep their vow and salvage a season dying on the vine of their own inconsistencies.
"We're due," quarterback Jim Everett said, smiling. "It's our turn now -- we've just got to convince them of that."
In their last meeting, the Rams dropped to 1-2 by surrendering five sacks, gaining a total of 120 yards and converting none of their 10 third-down attempts. Their one score came on an interception return by cornerback Jerry Gray, now relegated to backup status.
With their playoff hopes darkened by last week's 31-14 loss to the Falcons in Atlanta, the Rams play today for their dignity.
"Yeah, there's a lot of pride," said Everett, who completed only six of his 17 passes in the last Saints game while under constant pressure from linebackers Rickey Jackson and Pat Swilling.
"We didn't score. They shut us down. . . . Yeah, we'd like to score a couple."
If they don't, the Rams will be 0-4 against New Orleans over two years.
Said Rams left guard Tom Newberry, who probably will play despite an ankle injury: "You play them twice every year. You know the guys across from you, your coaches know their coaches.
"It's a situation where it's a rivalry, and you don't want to take it on the chin twice in one season."
Coach John Robinson and the rest of his players pinned most of the blame for their September loss to the Saints on the Rams' injury-tattered offensive line. This week, the Rams line is physically sound, anchored by Gerald Perry and Jackie Slater, two big but agile pass-blocking tackles.
In the first Saints game, Perry was getting his first major playing time as a Ram and Slater was sidelined because of a shoulder injury.
"I think it's particularly difficult against a team with a good pass rush to have your tackles not play," Robinson said. "The last time, we were hurting so bad."
After the blowout, Robinson also suggested that perhaps the Saints weren't as dominant as the Rams made them look.
Get them away from that crowd and that fake grass, which gives their speedy rushers better footing for the charge, he implied, and the Saints would gradually fall back to the pack.
Since then, as the Rams have staggered to a 3-5 record, Robinson has had to revise his opinion of the Saints.
The Saints are 7-1, after their last-minute loss to the Chicago Bears. They have the league's No. 1 overall defense, No. 1 run defense and No. 2 pass defense; lead the league in sacks; are third in turnover ratio, and have given up the fewest first downs.
"Oh, I thought they were good," Robinson said this week. "I think they're a team comparable to the New York Giants last year. . . . "
"You play Buffalo, they score 40 points, you say, 'Wow.' The Saints tend to beat you with defense, just like the Giants do.
"You look at efficiency, physicalness, that kind of talent, that doesn't maybe wow you as much. I have a very high regard for them. I think I've said that all along."
Defensively, the Rams were not embarrassed by the Saints in September, keeping the game close until New Orleans' running game finally wore them down in the fourth quarter.
But that was with Kevin Greene as a defensive end and Jerry Gray as a starting cornerback. This time, Greene will probably spend most of his time as a linebacker and rushing the quarterback on pass downs, and Gray has been replaced by rookie Todd Lyght.
"I know that me being a rookie, I'll be tested early on in the game," Lyght said. "For us to have success, I need to have success early and gain the respect of the New Orleans Saints' offensive coordinator.
"[When] it's third down, third and long, I know where the ball's coming. It's coming to me. And that's the way I've got to think the whole game."