By Jim Thomas

The Rams have next to no history with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who entered the NFL in 1995 as an expansion team. The teams met in the '95 and '96 preseasons, with the Rams winning both contests. And they have met only once in the regular season - in 1996.

But that '96 regular-season contest was doozy.

Jacksonville outgained the Rams, 538 yards to 204. The Jaguars had a 36 to 8 advantage in first downs and controlled the clock for 41 minutes 36 seconds, compared with the Rams' 18:26.

The Jaguars converted on 12 of 15 third- and fourth-down plays, and had seven drives of 50 yards or more. But when all was said and done, St. Louis somehow claimed a 17-14 victory at the Trans World Dome.

Five red-zone interceptions by the Rams helped keep Jacksonville off the scoreboard. Cornerback Anthony Parker returned one of those interceptions 92 yards for a touchdown.

But the victory - Tony Banks' first as an NFL starting quarterback - wasn't assured until cornerback Todd Lyght caught Jaguars wide receiver Willie Jackson from behind at the end of the fourth quarter. What looked like a sure TD ended up as a 34-yard gain when Lyght dropped Jackson at the St. Louis 5. Time expired before the Jaguars could get off another play.

The always-glib Lyght was at his best when asked how he was able to make the play.

"I'm the man," Lyght said after the game. "A lot of people don't realize that. I don't say it that much. But I am kind of 'The Man.'"

Jacksonville wide receiver Jimmy Smith and Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce are the only players from that contest who remained with their teams for the next nine seasons.

Rams punter Bryan Barker was with the Jaguars in '96, but didn't launch a single punt that day. Jamie Martin, who will start for the Rams on Sunday, was the Rams' backup quarterback in '96, but left the team after that season and played elsewhere for five of the next seven campaigns.

Mr. V's neighborhood

Wide receiver Shaun McDonald knows interim head coach Joe Vitt a little better than many Rams players because they're neighbors.

"He lives a couple doors down from me (in St. Peters), so I've talked to him a few times," McDonald said. "He popped over to my house one time with Pisa (Tinoisamoa). We know where he lives, but I try to give him his space."

McDonald hasn't quite cracked the Vitt inner circle, because he's still waiting for his first invitation to a Vitt barbecue. Apparently, there are some lawn-care issues between the neighbors.

"He gets on me for my grass. Sometimes it gets a little bad," McDonald said.

A little?

"I told him when he starts watering his lawn and picking his weeds, I'll have him over for a barbecue," Vitt said. "He looks like he's living in the desert Southwest over there. He's got tumbleweeds all over the place."


OK, Mike Furrey. You've seen the tape. Did New Orleans tight end Ernie Conwell catch the football?

"I don't know about the tape, but I've seen the statistics where it says 'touchdown' and 'interception,'" Furrey said jokingly.

And Furrey's name is by both entries. Furrey's 67-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1 minute 55 seconds to play sealed the Rams' 28-17 victory over the Saints.