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Chargers

Rams’ offense reminds Chargers of another one that gives them nightmares

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The Rams offense, led by Jared Goff (16) and Todd Gurley (30), presents some big challenges for the Chargers defense.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

They have a wide receiver who has been clocked running in excess of 22 mph — in full pads.

They have a quarterback who over his last 16 regular-season games has thrown 30 touchdowns to eight interceptions.

They have a running back who is coming off a below-average game despite the fact he accounted for 22 points — more than 17 teams scored in Week 2.

Other than that, the Rams’ offense doesn’t pose much of a challenge Sunday for the Chargers.

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“They can line up and say ‘We want to run the ball against you’ and have 150 yards rushing in the blink of an eye,” said Gus Bradley, the Chargers’ defensive coordinator. “They can also spread you out and have 400 yards passing.”

Somewhere between those two extremes, Bradley hopes his players can provide enough resistance to give quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chargers’ offense the chance they need.

Brandin Cooks, Jared Goff and Todd Gurley aren’t all the options that the Rams offense possesses. But they do represent an impressive start for a team built like something for a fantasy league.

Last week against Arizona, the Rams lost the NFL’s reigning scoring champion in kicker Greg Zuerlein because of a groin injury suffered during warmups. They responded to this sudden, jarring absence by scoring even more, converting three two-point conversions.

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See, there’s a reason — plenty of reasons, really — why Bradley called this offense “very elite.”

Two of those conversions last week came from Gurley, who also scored three touchdowns on a day when he ended up with only 42 rushing and 31 receiving yards.

He spent part of last week publicly lamenting his lack of production and openly anticipated something more grand against the Chargers.

“He can play very physical and he also has the ability to jump cut,” Bradley said. “He’s got a really good feel for it. … He can make explosive plays at any time, not only in the run game but in the pass game.”

Another facet of the Rams offense that concerns the Chargers is the varying speeds at which Goff operates the group, typically with little warning that things are about to change.

Cornerback Casey Hayward explained that when the Rams pick up the tempo, it makes identifying plays more difficult, leaving defenders scrambling and in survival mode, just hoping to make it to the next snap.

There is only one guaranteed way to slow the Rams offense, and that’s by making it stand on the sideline.

“Time of possession is going to be important because you can’t give that offense too many opportunities,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “They just have way too many weapons.”

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Though the Chargers have not seen the Sean McVay-coached Rams since the 2017 preseason, they have seen a similar offense. It was only two weeks ago, and it didn’t go particularly well.

Several Chargers likened what the Rams do to what Kansas City does. What the Chiefs did in the Sept. 9 opener at StubHub Center was use Tyreek Hill’s speed and a lot of deception to amass 38 points.

The Chargers struggled specifically with stopping the jet-sweep action orchestrated by quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Like the Chiefs, the Rams will use motion and misdirection to confuse.

“We didn’t play real well against Kansas City,” Bradley said. “We gotta play it better. It is a copycat league. If teams see that you have a weakness and you don’t get it corrected, you’re going to see it again.”

This could mean more use of dynamic rookie safety Derwin James closer to the line of scrimmage and an increased reliance on athletic rookie linebackers Kyzir White and Uchenna Nwosu.

That still leaves the Chargers dealing with Goff, who has matured faster than milk does since these teams practiced together during training camp last season.

Back then, Goff was coming off a season in which the Rams lost all seven games he started and averaged barely 12 points.

In Goff’s last 17 starts, the Rams have scored fewer than 12 points only twice and more than 30 points 11 times.

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“Hopefully, we can get some pressure on him,” Hayward said. “He’s very accurate. He’s a way different quarterback now. He’s lights out.”

jeff.miller@latimes.com

Twitter: @JeffMillerLAT


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