By Bill Coats
Tuesday, Oct. 31 2006

Big plays were a problem all day Sunday for the Rams, with San Diego's
do-everything running back, LaDainian Tomlinson, accounting for the lion's
share in the Chargers' 38-24 victory. Yet the game turned on a big play that
occurred with Tomlinson standing on the sideline.

It started when Chargers end Jacques Cesaire knocked the ball from running back
Stephen Davis near the San Diego 25-yard line as the Rams marched crisply
toward a possible tying touchdown in the third quarter.

It ended with safety Marlon McCree cruising into the end zone, suddenly
boosting the Chargers' lead to 21-7 and crushing the momentum the Rams had
gained after trailing 14-0 in the first quarter.

And it all could have been prevented so easily.

McCree lay on the ground for a second or two after pouncing on the ball at the
21-yard line. The play would have ended there if Rams rookie Joe Klopfenstein,
who stopped dead a couple of feet away, or Torry Holt, who also was in the
vicinity, had simply tagged him down.

"I heard (teammate) Carlos Polk saying, 'Get up, get up, get up,'" McCree said.
"Nobody had touched me, so I got up and the guys made a few blocks for me and I
was able to hit the sideline."

On Monday, Rams coach Scott Linehan said: "Plays are never over until the
whistle blows. You can't assume the ball is dead because the guy's on the
ground. ... I think the assumption was, 'bad luck, we fumbled the ball, they
got it.' The problem is, we didn't finish the play."

The players "froze a little," Rams offensive coordinator Greg Olson said.
"(McCree) didn't try to make a move to get up initially, and ... before you
know it, he's up and moving. And now you're in a foot race."

One that McCree won easily, completing the third-longest fumble return for a
touchdown against the Rams since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, according to STATS

"It was a heads-up play by McCree to get up and run," Linehan said. "And it's
certainly a tough lesson for us to learn."

Tough to watch

Dislocations of his right shoulder and left elbow, plus assorted other bumps
and bruises over three-plus seasons, couldn't stop him. But a broken left hand
that couldn't be fitted comfortably into a cast finally forced linebacker Pisa
Tinoisamoa to the sideline.

"It wasn't fun, but I think it was necessary," said Tinoisamoa, who had played
in all 57 games since the Rams drafted him in 2003 before sitting out Sunday's
contest at Qualcomm Stadium.

Tinoisamoa suffered the injury at practice Wednesday. He said that by Saturday,
a "joint decision" determined that he couldn't play effectively. Veteran Dexter
Coakley started in his place at weakside linebacker.

"It looks much better that (Tinoisamoa will) be able to play" Sunday vs. Kansas
City, Linehan said. "There are no guarantees, of course, but that's the goal,
to get him more ready this week, and how much he plays will be determined by
how well he feels."

As Tinoisamoa pointed out, he couldn't feel much worse than he did as a
spectator Sunday. "I don't think I could've changed the outcome any," he said.
"It was just rough watching it."


With the NFC West going 0 for four Sunday, the Rams and Seattle remain tied for
the division lead at 4-3. ... After back-to-back wins over the Chargers and
Seahawks, the Chiefs also are 4-3.