The Los Angeles Chargers have been in the shadow of the Los Angeles Rams since, oh, 1960. This has been especially true since they moved into the same, gaudy, SoFi Stadium. But for at least one week, the Bolts outshone The Other L.A. Team.
Whereas the Rams got spanked 28-16 by the Tennessee Titans in Inglewood before a national TV audience and fell into second place in the NFC West, the Chargers pulled out a dramatic last second 27-24 victory to move into a tie for the lead in the AFC West.
Against the Titans, the heavily favored blue-and-gold offered up an uncharacteristic brew of penalties and interceptions. The home team went from being the least-penalized team in the NFL to one that was whistled 12 times for 115 yards, which more than made up for the fact that they outgained the visitors 347 yards to 194.
The real crushers were the two interceptions thrown by Matthew Stafford. They both ended up as touchdowns for the Titans and Tennessee led 21-3 at the half.
Things got better for Rams’ fans after halftime, but not better enough. This underwhelming performance underlines what we have often said: execution beats potential.
As for the Chargers, they snapped a two-game losing streak and won a battle of wits and clicks as they ran the clock down to two seconds before Dustin Hopkins kicked a 29-yard field goal that won the game.
Justin Herbert was superb, completing 32 of 38 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a score.
Sunday’s time-draining drive by the Chargers showed that mental discipline can be as crucial as physical prowess. “It feels like we just took over,” said wide receiver Keenan Allen. “That’s pretty much what it was. That’s when games are won.”
Who’s up and who’s down?
All things considered, the L.A. football scene is either grim or giddy depending on which part you are looking at. The pro teams – Rams and Chargers – are on the path to the playoffs. But USC andUCLA, well, the only salvation for them is which team wins their annual battle on Nov. 20 at the Coliseum. The Trojans have already fired their coach; the Bruins may be thinking about doing the same, especially if USC wins their traditional dustup.
Now that the so-called “winter” sports of basketball and ice hockey are well underway, the hottest team in the “cold” months is the Anaheim Ducks.
With a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues at Honda Center on Sunday, the Ducks have won four games in a row and moved into third place in the NHL Pacific Division. The Kings, currently in sixth place, will have to do without home cooking for quite a while with a four-game, weeklong trek across Canada,
In the pro basketball world, the Lakers – predicted by Sports Illustrated to win another NBA crown – are tied for last place in the Pacific Division, but 5-5 is hardly cause for panic. Yet. It takes a while for all that high-price talent to gel.
The Clippers are just a half-game ahead at 5-4. As the season unwinds, expect to see both teams nearer to the top.
Calendar for the week ahead
- Los Angeles Rams visit the San Francisco 49ers on Monday, Nov. 15
- Los Angeles Chargers host the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday
- UCLA football hosts Colorado on Saturday
- USC football visit California on Saturday
- Anaheim Ducks visit Vancouver on Tuesday and Seattle on Thursday. and then host Vancouver on Sunday.
- Los Angeles Kings visit the Toronto Maple Leafs today (Monday) and then the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, the Ottawa Senators on Thursday and Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.
- Los Angeles Lakers host the Charlotte Hornets today (Monday), the Miami Heat on Wednesday, the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday and the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.
- Los Angeles Clippers host the Portland Trailblazers on Tuesday, the Miami Heat on Thursday, the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday and the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.
- Second round CIF-SS football playoffs on Friday.
Final out: That heart-breaking interception thrown by Rams’ QB Matthew Stafford while he was in the shadow of the goalposts didn’t have to be. He made a desperation pass to avoid a safety, but video showed his forward progress put him outside the end zone. So, in trying to avoid two points, he gave up seven. As we like to say, no good deed goes unpunished.
“Sports Monday” is written by Pete Zarustica.