Rams hold off Chargers 35-23 in LA’s crosstown showdown
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jared Goff passed for 354 yards and three touchdowns, and Todd Gurley rushed for 105 yards and another score, leading the Rams to a 35-23 victory over the Chargers on Sunday in the franchises’ first meeting since their relocations to Los Angeles.
Cory Littleton blocked a punt in the end zone and Blake Countess recovered it for an early touchdown for the Rams (3-0), who racked up 521 yards and remained one of the NFL’s four unbeaten teams.
Two seasons after the Rams kicked off professional football’s return to the nation’s second-largest market after 21 years away, two NFL teams based in Los Angeles met on the field for the first time since Nov. 13, 1994. The teams put on an uncommonly entertaining show for a Coliseum crowd of 68,947 containing a surprisingly significant turnout of Chargers fans, but the Rams’ offensive brilliance kept them ahead all day.
“Coming out, they were kind of loud, but I think we quieted them up,” Rams receiver Robert Woods said. “At the end of the game, you knew whose house it was, who is LA’s team.”
Philip Rivers passed for 226 yards and hit Mike Williams with two touchdown passes for the Chargers (1-2), whose two losses have come against the powerhouse Chiefs and Rams without injured pass-rusher Joey Bosa. Melvin Gordon rushed for 80 yards and a score .
“(The Rams) are good in all areas, but I feel like we had a lot of opportunities to make plays,” Williams said. “We know the talent that we have in the locker room. We’ve just got to put it on the field.”
Despite their prolific offensive performance, the Rams never got comfortable in front of a lively LA crowd. They lost starting cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib to injuries during the game, and the Chargers twice drove deep into Rams territory in the fourth quarter, only to come away with three points.
The Rams racked up 313 yards and held the ball for almost 20 minutes in the first half, but also committed two red zone turnovers that allowed the Chargers to stay close. Gurley fumbled on the Rams’ opening drive, and Derwin James picked off Goff in the end zone for his first career interception in the second quarter.
Williams’ diving 42-yard TD reception was the Chargers’ biggest offensive highlight of the first half, but they also made a methodical 80-yard TD drive capped by Gordon. The Bolts’ defense simply couldn’t get the ball back, with Goff and the Rams holding it for nearly 20 minutes.
Kupp and Goff put the Rams up 28-13 early in the third when Goff evaded pressure and slung a perfect, long throw to Kupp, who shook off Trevor Williams’ tackle and ran away.
The Rams didn’t punt until they led 35-23 with 7:38 to play, but the Chargers couldn’t get into the end zone in the final 23 minutes of the game.
James, the Bolts’ stellar rookie safety, went out of bounds at the 1 after his pick, and the Chargers eventually had to punt out of their end zone. After a Bolts blocking mistake, Littleton easily blocked the punt to give a 21-6 lead to the Rams.
“Everything went perfectly for us, and that was the result,” said Littleton, who is still playing special teams even after becoming a starting inside linebacker this year. “It was wide open. You don’t get those very often.”
Chargers: P Drew Kaser injured his leg when Littleton rushed in to block his punt in the first half. Rivers replaced Kaser as a kick holder in the first half, but Kaser returned for the second half. … WR Travis Benjamin missed his second straight game with an injured right foot.
Rams: Peters injured his leg during the first half and had to be helped off the field. The Pro Bowl selection didn’t return. Talib then left in the second half. … Kick returner JoJo Natson injured his hand in the first half and didn’t return. He was signed two weeks ago to replace injured Pro Bowl returner Pharoh Cooper.
Chargers: Host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Sept. 30.
Rams: Host the Minnesota Vikings this Thursday, Sept. 27. With only three days to prepare, the players were already doing recovery exercises in the locker room after the game. “Recovery process starts now!” receiver Brandin Cooks yelled.