Having to combat significant injuries and a hot Chargers offense, the Rams performed well enough to come away with a 35-23 victory to improve to 3-0 on the season.
But even as the Rams win this one, they may have lost a starter for a significant period of time. Cornerback Marcus Peters was carted to the locker room during the second quarter after suffering what was an apparent lower-leg injury. Later on in the period, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted that Peters sustained a calf injury and would not return to the game.
Nevertheless, the Rams were able to shut down the Chargers’ offense well enough in the second half to come away with the victory.
The home team came out firing on offense, racking up 181 total yards in the first quarter alone to take a 14-6 lead. Though the Rams moved the ball well on the first drive, running back Todd Gurley fumbled after catching a pass out of the backfield to give the Chargers an extra possession.
The Chargers took over at their own 24, but the defense held strong to ensure there were no points off the turnover.
When the Rams got the ball back, they got to work and got on the board with an 80-yard drive. Quarterback Jared Goff connected with Gurley for 16 yards on a swing pass, wide receiver Robert Woods for 16 yards over the middle, and then tight end Tyler Higbee for 15 yards on the left side to put the Rams in scoring territory.
Though a 3rd-and-7 catch over the middle to wideout Brandin Cooks initially appeared as if it was a 17-yard touchdown, the play was overturned as Cooks’ knee was apparently down at the Chargers’ one. But it was no matter, as Gurley took in the next play from scrimmage to give the Rams an early 7-0 lead.
The visitors responded with a 42-yard touchdown from quarterback Philip Rivers to wideout Mike Williams — albeit with a missed extra point — the Rams came right back with another strong drive to increase their lead.
Goff connected with wideout Cooper Kupp over the middle to move the chains on 3rd-and-6 from the Rams’ 29. And then he scrambled up the middle 16 yards to take the club into Chargers territory. Consecutive receptions by Woods and Cooks moved the home team up to the visitors’ three, where Goff would connect with Woods once again on a three-yard touchdown over the middle.
That was the last drive of the first quarter, and the Rams’ ended it with 14 first downs to the Chargers’ two, and 4-of-4 in third-down efficiency. Goff also finished the first period 13-of 14 for 141 yards with a touchdown — good for a 132.4 passer rating.
Now in the second quarter, the Rams’ next offensive possession looked like it would end with at least three points. But Goff was intercepted on 3rd-and-5 from the Chargers’ 10 by safety Derwin James in the end zone.
Instead of taking a knee for a touchback, James elected to try to return it — a decision with immediate consequences. The Rams’ defense flirted with a safety on the first two plays — both runs that just got out of the end zone from running back Melvin Gordon.
After linebacker Ramik Wilson tackled Gordon for a short gain on 3rd-and-10, inside linebacker Cory Littleton blocked Drew Kaser’s punt in the end zone. Safety Blake Countess was there to fall on the loose ball for a special teams touchdown.
The Chargers responded with an 11-yard touchdown run from Gordon — on a drive where Rivers connected with tight end Antonio Gates and wide receiver Keenan Allen for big third-down conversions.
And while the home team was in position to get back on the board just before halftime, kicker Sam Ficken — filling in for the injured Greg Zuerlein — missed a 46-yard field goal wide right.
The Rams’ defense got going in the second half with a takeaway on the first drive and the offense made it worth the while. Cornerback Aqib Talib forced Allen to fumble after an 11-yard gain on the defense’s left, and safety Lamarcus Joyner recovered to give the Rams the ball at their own 45.
From there, Goff and Kupp completed a nice play to extend the Rams’ lead. On 3rd-and-8 from the home team’s 47, Goff evaded defenders in the pocket to zip a downfield throw to Kupp on the right side. Kupp kept his legs moving, breaking out of a potential tackle to run down the field for a 53-yard touchdown.
The Chargers continued to respond well, however, this time with a 20-yard touchdown from Rivers to Williams on 4th-and-2.
But as they had all day, the Rams’ offense moved down the field methodically and scored another touchdown — this time with an 11-play drive. Goff connected with Cooks for completions of 15, 16, and four yards on the possession. The signal-caller then hit Woods over the middle for a six-yard touchdown. With the extra point, the Rams picked up a 35-20 lead.
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh picked up his first sack with L.A. on the ensuing drive, taking down Rivers on 1st-and-10 from the home teams’ 35-yard line to end the third period. Despite that setback, the Chargers were able to get into the red zone. Rivers, however, threw incomplete to Allen on 3rd-and-goal in the middle of the end zone and the Chargers settled for a field goal.
The Rams’ ensuing drive got off to a promising start with Gurley runs of nine and 11 yards. But the club was derailed by penalties, with a facemask and hold giving the home team 3rd-and-30 at its own 10. Following Johnny Hekker’s first punt of the day, the Chargers took over at their own 40-yard line.
After using a big run by Gordon and a 15-yard reception by running back Austin Eckler to get into scoring position, the Rams’ defense held firm — forcing a fumble on 4th-and-7 that Suh recovered to give the home team the ball back with 4:23 left in the contest.
Getting Gurley a head of steam, the Rams used their four-minute offense to salt the clock as the Chargers used all three of their timeouts. The Georgia product’s punishing runs put him over 100 yards rushing for the second time in 2018.
Though the Rams are surely glad to get the victory, they don’t have much time to revel in it. The club will play the 1-1-1 Vikings on Thursday Night Football in four days at the L.A. Coliseum.