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Lansford kicks the Rams into playoffs

Lansford kicks the Rams into playoffs

Dec. 18, 1983: The Rams’ Mike Lansford, left, celebrates after kicking a game-winning field goal against the New Orleans Saints — getting the Los Angeles Rams into the NFC  playoffs.

The Rams’ offense had struggled all day, but with one minute and 51 seconds left, the team was only behind 24-23. From the Rams’ own 20-yard line, quarterback Vince Ferragamo led a final drive.

As Los Angeles Times staff writer Rick Reilly reported the next morning, it was a miracle the Rams even had a chance to win:

Not only had the Rams’ defense scored all 23 of their points (two interceptions returned for touchdowns, a punt return for a touchdown and a safety), but Ferragamo hadn’t completed a pass the entire second half. Wait. That’s wrong. He completed one — to Saints cornerback Greg Stemrick to set up New Orleans’ go-ahead touchdown.

So the Rams were probably out of the playoffs and Ferragamo would have six months off to digest the blame.

But Ferragamo completes several passes and works the ball down to the Saints’ 25-yard line for Lansford. Reilly continues:

0:06 — Nolan Cromwell, the holder, looks hard into the eyes of Mike Lansford.

“It looked like he had total concentration,” Cromwell remembered. “Like he’d blocked out the crowd completely.”

“You ready?” Cromwell hollered.

Lansford nodded.

He had picked out his spot in the crowd behind the goal posts, just as he always does before a kick.

“It was some really sexy girl,” he said. “She was looking real good.”

Nothing left to do but kick it.

“It’s funny, but all year long I had this felling it would come down to me,” Lansford said. “That was the biggest kick of my life.”

The snapper is Doug Smith and it is a worry, since Smith hadn’t snapped in weeks. He was forced back when regular snapper Doug Barnett went out with a knee injury in the third quarter.

Smith’s snap is inside and high, but Cromwell gets it down reasonably well.

“The ball was moving around a lot [on the hold],” Lansford remembered, “so I just tried to scoop it. Fortunately there wasn’t a right-to-left wind.”

The kick is long enough but is, indeed, hooking from right to left. It is hooking, but not enough. It sneaks inside the left upright and tucks into the net and 70,148 suddenly sounds like 70. The Rams are in the playoffs.

Deadpans Lansford: “Right through the middle.”

The Rams, with a 9-7 record, advanced to the NFC Wild Card playoff game, where they defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 24-17. They next lost a NFC Divisional playoff game to the Washington Redskins, 51-7.

This photo by Times staff photographer Robert Lachman was not published the next morning, but used Jan. 1, 1984, with a review of 1983 Orange County events.

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