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GAME RECAP: Rams Begin 2018 With Primetime Victory

OAKLAND — Playing the final game of Week 1, Los Angeles overcame a 13-10 halftime deficit to score 23 unanswered points in the second half to start the 2018 season with a 33-13 win over Oakland.

Safety John Johnson, linebacker Cory Littleton, and cornerback Marcus Peters all came up with timely interceptions — Johnson in the first half, Littleton and Peters in the second — to keep the Raiders off the board and put Los Angeles in position to score more points. Peters’ pick came toward the end of the game and was the Rams’ final score of the night.

To start the game, the Rams elected to put their defense on the field first after winning the coin toss and defeating to the second half. But the Raiders got going early with a 45-yard pass from quarterback Derek Carr to tight end Jared Cook over the middle of the field to get into Los Angeles’ red zone.

Though an illegal procedure penalty moved the Raiders back five yards, running back Marshawn Lynch went full “Beastmode” on 2nd-and-goal from the 10-yard line to power his way into the end zone — dragging much of the Rams’ defense across the goal line with him.

Down 7-0, Los Angeles’ offense couldn’t get much going on its opening drive and went three-and-out. Two of the plays went to new wide receiver Brandin Cooks — a jet sweep to the left on the first play, and an incomplete pass on the right on 3rd-and-2.

Los Angeles’ special teams and defense combined to get the club in solid scoring position, and the offense was able to take advantage. Punter Johnny Hekker boomed his first kick of the year 62 yards, and after the return the Raiders started at their own 15-yard line. Outside linebacker Samson Ebukam recorded a pair of nice plays in a row, touching down Carr — who had slipped — in the backfield for a five-yard sack, and thing tackling running back Doug Martin for a one-yard loss on a screen pass.

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Pharoh Cooper returned the ensuing punt 12 yards, putting L.A. at midfield to start its next drive. Quarterback Jared Goff then completed a pair of passes to wideouts Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, moving the Rams up to Oakland’s 19-yard line. There, reigning AP Offensive Player of the Year was able to do the rest.

On 1st-and-10, Gurley started out split out left on the formation, came in motion to the right with Goff stationed behind center in a shotgun formation. At the snap, Goff put a soft shovel pass into Gurley’s hands, and the running back continued to his right, weaving his way into the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown.

After an Oakland field goal capped a long drive that spanned the rest of the first quarter and a couple minutes into the second, the Rams used a defensive pass interference penalty to get into Oakland territory. But defensive end Bruce Irvin put the Rams in worse position when he caused a sack/fumble on Goff on 3rd-and-8 from the Oakland 20. An eight-yard loss set up a 46-yard field goal attempt from Oakland’s 28. But kicking off the infield dirt, kicker Greg Zuerlein missed the field goal wide right.

With the Raiders driving down the field and in position to get more points, safety John Johnson came up with a big takeaway. On 2nd-and-10 from the Los Angeles 21, Carr floated a ball up to Cook — who was running a fly route down the right side. With strong coverage, Johnson snatched the ball out of the air before it could get to Oakland’s tight end, downing the ball in the end zone for a touchback.

Los Angeles got back down the field efficiently — aided by a second defensive pass interference penalty drawn by Cooks that moved the offense 50 yards to the Oakland 19-yard line. While the Rams made it to the home team’s five, they would have to settle for a 20-yard Zuerlein field goal to tie the score at 10.

The Raiders scored a 48-yard field goal with 15 seconds left in the second quarter to take a 13-10 lead into halftime. At that point, the Raiders had outgained the Rams 254 to 98, ran 39 plays to the Rams’ 20, and held a 21:31 to 8:29 time of possession advantage.

Receiving the ball to start the second half, Los Angeles put points on the board with a solid sustained drive. Gurley got the drive started with a 15-yard run to the right side, and received five more carries on the possession. While Goff converted a 3rd-and-3 with an 11-yard pass to Kupp, the Rams couldn’t get the ball much further in the red zone. The club settled for a Zuerlein 28-yard field goal to tie the score at 13.

After the teams traded punts — with Hekker booming a 55-yard kick that rolled out of bounds at the Raiders’ eight-yard line — the Rams took advantage of good field position to take their first lead of the game. Goff hit Cooks for a 17-yard gain on the second play of the possession. And on the very next play, the quarterback and wideout connected again — this time for a 30-yard gain down the right side to put Los Angeles at the home team’s eight.

The Rams wasted no time from there getting into the end zone, as Goff completed an out route to Kupp on the right side and the Eastern Washington product walked about two yards into the end zone to give Los Angeles its first lead of the night.

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Up 20-13, the visitors’ defense did its job to force a punt on Oakland’s ensuing drive, and the offense then returned the favor by going down the field to get points. Gurley caught consecutive screens to begin the possession, advancing 17 yards down the left sideline on the second. Though Goff just missed a pair of deep passes to Robert Woods on the possession, Zuerlein was able to nail a 55-yard field goal on the infield dirt to give Los Angeles a 23-13 lead with 9:19 left in the contest.

Later in the fourth quarter, Carr and Cook once again hooked up for a long reception to get into Los Angeles territory. But that’s when Littleton was able to intercept a pass on the left side — a high, floating, errant ball — to give L.A. another possession.

The Rams did a good job to salt the clock in the fourth quarter, advancing down the field with the help of a 23-yard Gurley run. Running back Malcolm Brown also got in on the action, catching a 3rd-and-3 pass for eight yards and a first down.

Zuerlein would kick a 20-yard field goal to give the Rams a 26-13 lead with 3:15 left in the fourth quarter.

But Los Angeles wasn’t done — as cornerback Marcus Peters ended Oakland’s next drive to score a pick six in his hometown. The defensive touchdown gave L.A. a commanding 33-13 lead with 1:59 left in the contest.

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