Rams rack up big numbers to beat Bolts in 1st fight for LA

Los Angeles Rams linebacker Cory Littleton blocks a punt by Los Angeles Chargers punter Drew Kaser in the end zone during the first half in an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

By GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jared Goff made pinpoint throws and Todd Gurley pounded away on the ground behind their dominant line. The Rams’ offense racked up more than 500 yards for the first time since 2006.
And Los Angeles’ first crosstown NFL showdown in nearly 24 years still wasn’t decided until the final minutes, when the Chargers just couldn’t catch up to their prolific counterparts.
The Rams essentially proved they’re the best team in LA with a 35-23 victory Sunday, but they don’t think the Chargers are far behind. These future Inglewood roommates left their first meeting since relocation with mutual respect and plenty of work to do.
“You could tell it was an emotional game,” Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “It meant a lot to LA. I don’t know about bragging rights. I think that will come when a team has a great season and does something great with their talent.”
After three games, the Rams (3-0) appear poised to do something very big indeed.
Cory Littleton blocked a punt in the end zone and Blake Countess recovered it for an early touchdown before the Rams piled up 521 yards in the most abundant game of coach Sean McVay’s remarkable tenure. The Rams are one of four unbeaten teams left in the NFL, winning their three games by a combined 66 points.
“It felt like a good rivalry,” said Goff, who went 29 of 36 for 354 yards and three touchdowns in perhaps his most impressive pro performance. “I think you could feel the crowd. You could tell there were two sides in here. Ultimately I think we had a little bit more, being at home, but you could definitely feel it. I think they are a great team, we’re a great team, and hopefully that can continue for a long time.”
Two seasons after the Rams kicked off professional football’s return to the nation’s second-largest market after 21 years away, they got their first meeting with the Chargers, who moved last year. Both teams put on an 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.
These teams are likely to have a friendly coexistence in LA instead of a real rivalry, since they’ll only play each other roughly once every four years while they share a multi-billion-dollar stadium complex in Inglewood starting in 2020.
“Is it a rivalry?” mused Gurley, who rushed for 105 yards and a score. “The fans usually (decide) what’s a rivalry.”
So while neither side ascribed much cultural significance to this win, the Rams were thrilled to defend their turf.
“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.”
Robert Woods caught two TD passes and Cooper Kupp made a 53-yard scoring catch from Goff.
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.
“Two of the best offenses in the league, from what I’ve seen so far,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said of the Chiefs and Rams. “We have to figure out a way to get pressure on the quarterback. That’s what’s missing right now.”
Despite their prolific offensive performance, the Rams never got comfortable. 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.
Chargers rookie safety Derwin James got his first career interception in the end zone to kill a likely scoring drive, but he blamed the defense for the loss.
“We couldn’t get a stop,” James said. “We made them punt one time. Offense put up enough points.”
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.
STRONG START
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 James picked off Goff in the end zone in the second quarter.
BIG BLOCK
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.”
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