It's kind of crazy how Los Angeles pro football was non-existent for 20 years, but now the city sports two teams (who are still waiting for permanent stadiums). Kind of shows you how quickly things can change when an owner is looking for a way to make more money! The Rams new $2.6 billion stadium should be ready to open by summer of 2020, but in the meantime, they're stuck in the Coliseum where the USC Trojans play. The Chargers, on the other hand, are holding down their turf at the Stubhub Center in nearby Carson, California, where MLS's LA Galaxy hold court.
The relatively newly named LA Chargers paid their crosstown rivals a visit in a Sunday afternoon matchup that pitted two solid squads against each other. The Rams with their menacing defense and burgeoning offense versus the veteran savvy of Philip Rivers and company. This was a test of mettle for both the Rams and Chargers. It was the first decent team that the Rams played in this young season, while for the Chargers it was another crack at one of the NFL's better teams (they lost to the Chiefs by 10 in Week 1 38-28).
It was an exciting back-and-forth pretty much up until the very end as the Rams held an early lead while the Chargers looked good and stayed within striking distance the entire time. Jared Goff threw 29/36 for 356 yards to go with three TD's and an interception, while Philip Rivers completed 18/30 passes for a total of 226 yards to go with two TD's. The Rams receiver core trifecta of Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Brandin Cooks caught collective fire as they accumulated 226 yards on 21 catches for all three of Goff's touchdowns. Todd Gurley had a great day on the ground with 105 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, while Melvin Gordon had a decent day for the Chargers himself with 80 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Gordon and Philip Rivers almost made a rally at the end, but the Rams defense stifled their hopes as they pulled away for a 35-23 victory.
In the first quarter, both offenses were flowing like an LA freeway on a quiet Sunday afternoon. The telecasters remarked that during the initial quarter there were 14 total first downs, the most in a first quarter since 1991. The Rams got themselves a pair of first-quarter touchdowns. The first was a goalline Todd Gurley rush which was followed by a Robert Woods catch. Philip Rivers of the Chargers snuck in a 42-yard touchdown of his own to Mike Williams(who had an amazing diving catch) in between Rams scores, but the Chargers missed the extra point. Our score sat at 14-6 after the first quarter of the ballgame.
Jared Goff proceeded to march down the field to start the second quarter. It felt like the Rams were poised for another celebration, but Derwin James of the Chargers secondary took those hopes away with an endzone interception. The Chargers got the ball back at their own goal line, but the Rams defense came out vicious in four quick plays to bring it to fourth and ten, with the Chargers punting in their own goal. Suddenly, the punt was blocked and there was a scramble on the ground, to which the Rams recovered for a surprise touchdown of their own. 21-6 Rams lead.
The Chargers responded well to the strife brought on them by the Rams defense and got up to the Rams 30 yard line to get into scoring position. After a big gain by tight end Antonio Gates, Rams star cornerback Marcus Peters got up limping, being helped off the field by Rams training staff. It was an unsettling sight to see Peters get up hobbled like that. Philip Rivers took advantage of the thinned out secondary a couple plays later with a long ball to Keenan Allen.
A few moments later, the sideline reporter chimed in with an update on the Marcus Peters injury. We learned that Peters suffered from a calf injury, and he wouldn't return to the ballgame. That was somewhat of a relief because there was talk of it being an Achilles injury as he departed the field.
Not much long after that, Chargers runningback Melvin Gordon ran it wide left for their second touchdown of the day. They got the extra point this time so we were at 13-21, Rams still ahead with 3:12 to go in the first half. The Rams pushed up into field goal possession on their final drive of the first half, but their replacement kicker Sam Ficken missed wide right. The scoreboard rested at 21-13 Rams heading into the second half.
At the start of the third quarter, the Rams came out blazing on the defensive end. Aqib Talib avenged the damage that Keenan Allen did on the Rams defense by stripping the ball from the man's very hands. A few plays later, Jared Goff threw a fantastic throw in the shotgun formation under pressure to Cooper Kupp, who broke a tackle and took it all the way for a 52-yard touchdown. The Rams still ahead 28-13.
Philip Rivers wasn't intimidated by any of that though. He showed excellent control and focus under pressure in a series of plays that led to a 20-yard Mike Williams touchdown along the left sideline. The Chargers got 75 yards on 8 plays in around the span of four minutes. The extra point was good and the Rams were still up 28-20, but it felt like the Chargers could change that lead at any moment if the Rams started slacking.
Todd Gurley responded sharply for the Rams with a huge run up the middle for what looked like 30 yards. A Robert Woods holding penalty pushed them back ten yards, but the offense was able to push it to first and goal, and ultimately a short Robert Woods reception for another touchdown. Same pivot route from the first quarter that got Woods his first score of the day. Rams up 35-20, and that score stayed the same heading into the fourth quarter.
The Chargers were still within striking distance down by 15 with a full quarter to play. The defense looked like they were up to the challenge. The Chargers managed to get close enough to knock in a 26-yard field goal to make whittle it down to a 12-point lead, 35-23.
Jared Goff got the ball back but the offense started to get lackadaisical. They incurred a bunch of penalties to bring it to third down and 30, which ultimately led to a punt. Philip Rivers and the Chargers came back in about five minutes left and the game still within reach. They picked up a quick 19 yards off another Mike Williams catch. The Rams defense locked in on the next series and made the Chargers go for it on 4th and 5, and that resulted in a Rams recovered fumble. Chances were officially looking slim for the chargers with less than five minutes to go. Sean McVay smartly decided to run the clock out for the rest of their plays, and they picked up enough first downs to bring this Rams victory home, 35-23.
The Rams defense is still learning how to play together with all their new personnel, so they're giving up a lot more yards and points than you'd expect. The possibility of losing Marcus Peters for an extended amount of time is a major blow to their defense. He was spotted leaving the Rams locker room in a walking boot. He has led the NFL in interceptions since 2015, with 20 big takeaways.
The walking boot isn't a great sign, but if this was an Achilles injury things would be in a much worse place for Marcus. Thankfully the Rams signed a ton of other defensive forces in the off-season to give teams headaches, but this loss to their cornerback brigade leaves them way more vulnerable to pass-happy teams. Aqib Talib did suffer from an ankle injury of his own though, so Peters wasn't the only one suffering on Sunday. No timelines for returns just yet.
The Chargers were totally capable of stealing this road game coming into the afternoon, and they showed flashes of it with the excellent play of Rivers and Gordon. They'll get a much easier game next Sunday when they host the San Francisco 49ers, who just look like they lost Jimmy G for an extended amount of time due to a knee injury. New 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman incurred an ankle injury of his own, so this might be an opportunity for second-year wideout Mike Williams to continue with his breakout performances. The Chargers will probably pull out that victory to bring their record to an even 2-2.
The Rams will be facing Kirk Cousins and the Vikings next week, who had an awful performance against none other than the Buffalo Bills. The Vikes came into this season with lofty Super Bowl expectations and were heavily favored in this Bills game, but they fell embarrassingly 27-6 (even going down 27-0 after the first half!). The Rams defense should be a-ok unless Kirk Cousins turns into Aaron Rodgers on Thursday night. Check out highlights of the Week 3 Rams / Chargers matchup below