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NFL Week 1: Chargers fall to Broncos 24-21 in opener

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The Chargers are in Denver tonight for the second game of Monday Night Football doubleheader.

Chargers’ wild rally comes up just short against Broncos

Casey Hayward was all over the play.

The Chargers cornerback saw where Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian was going with the football. As he wound up to throw to C.J. Anderson on the sideline, Hayward broke on the ball with the instincts that helped him lead the NFL with seven interceptions a year ago.

But in what turned out to be the first big miscue on a night with a handful of them, Hayward had the ball – and almost a sure touchdown – slip right out of his hands.

It was the start the Chargers needed, a proclamation that they were ready to be players in Los Angeles, ready to challenge in the AFC West. Instead, it was the same almost-good-enough stuff that defined their final season in San Diego.

Whether it was nerves, too much excitement or more worrisome causes, the Chargers opening act as one of Los Angeles’ teams was a dud, saved only by a fourth-quarter comeback that came up just short.

Kicker Younghoe Koo’s 44-yard field goal was blocked by Denver defensive end Shelby Harris, allowing the Broncos to hang on for a 24-21 win.

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Chargers fall on a missed field goal after a timely timeout by the Broncos

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Chargers strike again, Travis Benjamin’s hauls in a 38-yard touchdown

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Keenan Allen scores, Chargers trail Broncos 24-14

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What a pick: Adrian Phillips comes up big in the third quarter

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Broncos kick a field goal to go up 24-7 on the Chargers

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Broncos’ Fowler catches his second touchdown pass of the night

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Trevor Siemian scores on a quarterback keeper to give Broncos a 14-7 lead

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Melvin Gordon goes airborne to give the Chargers their first touchdown

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Broncos take early lead over Chargers 7-0

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A pregame chat with The Times’ Chargers coverage team tonight in Denver

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Rain in the forecast for the Chargers and Broncos?

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Rams open season with 46-9 rout of Colts

Rams quarterback Jared Goff and head coach Sean McVay celebrate with safety Lamarcus Joyner after Joyner intercepted a Colts pass for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The first game of Sean McVay’s NFL coaching career included a little bit of everything – and nearly all of it was encouraging for the Rams.

Quarterback Jared Goff passed for 306 yards and a touchdown, receivers Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and rookie Cooper Kupp came up with big plays and defensive backs Trumaine Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner returned interceptions for touchdowns in the Rams’ 46-9 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at the Coliseum.

McVay, at 31 the youngest coach in NFL history, called plays for an offense that amassed 373 yards and showed the capability to attack on the ground and through the air.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips oversaw an opportunistic unit that capitalized on mistakes and surrendered only one touchdown.

Next up: The Washington Redskins, McVay’s former employer.

McVay helped develop Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins into an efficient passer, and he showed early signs of doing the same with Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft.

Goff completed 21 of 29 passes without an interception.

Running back Todd Gurley rushed for 40 yards and a touchdown in 19 carries and also caught five passes for 56 yards.

Kupp caught four passes, including a touchdown, and fellow rookie Gerald Everett also showed he could stretch the field with a 39-yard reception.

The Rams defense was without lineman Aaron Donald, who ended a holdout Saturday but did not play.

After sitting out the entire preseason so they would be physically sound for the opener, the game also marked the first time that linebacker Robert Quinn and Mark Barron and cornerback Kayvon Webster played in a game with other starters.

It didn’t matter against a Colts offense devoid of quarterback Andrew Luck.

Johnson picked off Scott Tolzien’s first pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. He also recovered a fumble.

The Rams still have room for improvement: Multiple offensive linemen were called for holding penalties, and Tavon Austin fumbled a punt.

But that did not stop the Rams from recording an easy win.

The Rams led 27-3 at halftime, and Greg Zuerlein’s third field goal and Joyner’s interception return for a touchdown started the rout.

The Rams offense was effective from the outset.

On the first drive, Goff connected with Watkins and Woods but missed on a short third-down pass to Kupp. Zuerlein kicked a 50-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

That set the stage for Johnson.

The sixth-year pro was disappointed that the Rams did not offer him a long-term contract. He is playing under the franchise tag for the second consecutive season, and last week teammates voted him a team captain.

On the Colts’ third play, Johnson stepped in front of a receiver, grabbed Tolzien’s pass and raced down the Colts sideline to the end zone for a 10-0 lead.

Tolzien appeared to bounce back from the pick six, completing several passes to tight end Jack Doyle and running back Marlon Mack as the Colts drove down the field. But Joyner saved a touchdown with a tackle on Mack at the two-yard line, and the Rams stuffed two runs before an incomplete pass, forcing the Colts to settle for a field goal.

The Rams increased the lead early in the second quarter with key plays from rookies. Goff found Kupp for 24 yards and, two plays later, he lofted a pass to Everett for a 39 yard gain that helped set up Gurley’s short touchdown run for a 17-3 lead.

After Rams linebacker Robert Quinn snuffed a possession with a sack and a third-down stop, Goff increased the lead with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Kupp.

The Rams closed out the first half with a drive that included a 12-yard run and 23-yard reception by Gurley on consecutive plays. The drive stalled at the 17 and Zuerlein came on to kick his second field goal for a 27-3 lead.

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They’re still playing: Rams’ Malcolm Brown scores on a three-yard carry

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Rams keep pounding, come up with a safety to go up 39-9

Rams linebacker Cory Littleton stripped Colts running back Marlon Mack on the first play of Indianapolis’ drive.

The ball bounced free and was recovered in the end zone by quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who laid down on the ball. Morgan Fox was credited with the safety.

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Colts score first touchdown, miss PAT, trail Rams 37-9

The Colts finally benched Scott Tolzien and gave former Patriots third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett his turn.

Running back Marlon Mack got things going with a 24-yard carry to open the drive, followed by a five-yard gain by Robert Turbin.

Then, on Brissett’s first pass of the game, he connected with receiver Donte Moncrief for a 50-yard gain to the Rams 5.

Turbin and Mack then traded carries before Mack finally punched the ball in from three yards out.

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Rams lead Colts 37-3 after three quarters

The Rams lead the Colts, 37-3, at the end of the third quarter.

No, that’s not a typo.

A team that last season was hardly able to find the end zone has made multiple trips to it today — on offense and defense.

Safety Lamarcus Joyner made a bad day for Colts backup quarterback Scott Tolzien worse when he intercepted a pass from Tolzien and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown.

Kicker Greg Zierlein also made his third field goal of the game, this time from 44 yards out.

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Lamarcus Joyner steals a Colts pass for a pick-six, Rams lead 37-3

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Greg Zuerlein makes a 44-yard field goal to give Rams a 30-3 lead over Colts

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Colts miss field goal, Rams still lead 27-3

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Rams take 27-3 lead over Colts into halftime

Rams running back Todd Gurley dives into the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams’ offense is unrecognizable from last season (And that’s a really good thing).

Rookies Cooper Kupp and Gerald Everett caught passes for 24 and 39 yards, respectively, before running back Todd Gurley rushed five yards for a touchdown, to give the Rams a 17-3 lead.

Kupp, from Eastern Washington University, later caught an 18-yard pass for a touchdown, the first of his career, for a 24-3 lead.

Greg Zuerlein made a second field goal, this time from 35 yards, to put the Rams up, 27-3.

Quarterback Jared Goff is 13-of-19 passing for 195 yards, and a touchdown.

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Rams injury alert: Kayvon Webster suffers shoulder injury

Defensive back Dominique Hatfield is being evaluated for a concussion.

-- Lindsey Thiry

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Cooper Kupp’s first NFL touchdown gives Rams a 24-3 lead over Colts

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Rams lead Colts 17-3 in the second quarter

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Seahawks’ Jeremy Lane gets ejected and a pick-six against Aaron Rodgers gets called back

The Seahawks picked off Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and returned it for a touchdown only to have the score called back and cornerback Jeremy Lane ejected from the game.

While rookie defensive tackle Nazair Jones was galloping down the field after intercepting a pass intended for tight end Lance Kendricks, Lane and Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb were mixing it up in the backfield.

Jones scored, but Lane was ejected for the scuffle and defensive end Cliff Avril was flagged for an illegal block above the waist.

The touchdown was then waived off, though the interception stood.

Ultimately, the Seahawks failed to capitalize on their good fortune and are now down a starting cornerback.

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Rams lead Colts 10-3 after the first quarter

Rams defensive end Robert Quinn sacks Colts quarterback Scott Tolzien during the second quarter.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams lead the Indianapolis Colts 10-3 after the first quarter. The Rams offense has shown signs of improvement from last season: Four players caught a pass in the first quarter, including Sammy Watkins.

Kicker Greg Zuerlein made a 50-yard field goal to give the Rams a quick 3-0 lead after their first series.

The Colts started quarterback Scott Tolzien in place of Andrew Luck, who is sidelined because of a shoulder injury. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson intercepted Tolzien’s third-and-10 pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown to give the Rams a 10-0 lead.

And the Rams defense, playing without star defensive lineman Aaron Donald, made a three-down stand at their one-yard line. The Colts kicked a field goal.

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NFL Week 1: Schedule and results

Today’s schedule

at Denver 24,CHARGERS 21

at Minnesota 29, New Orleans 19

Thursday’s result

Kansas City 42, New England 27

Sunday’s results

at RAMS 46, Indianapolis Colts 9

at Detroit Lions 35, Arizona Cardinals 23

Atlanta Falcons 23, at Chicago Bears 17

Baltimore Ravens 20, at Cincinnati Bengals 0

at Buffalo Bills 21, New York Jets 12

Pittsburgh Steelers 21, at Cleveland Browns 18

Jacksonville Jaguars 29, at Houston Texans 7

Oakland Raiders 26, at Tennessee Titans 16

Philadelphia Eagles 30, at Washington Redskins 17

at Green Bay 17, Seattle Seahawks 9

Carolina Panthers 23, at San Francisco 49ers 3

at Dallas 19, New York Giants 3

*Tampa Bay at Miami, postponed to Week 11

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Colts settle for field goal, trail Rams 10-3

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Rams lead Colts 10-0 after a pick-six by Trumaine Johnson

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Bengals’ Andy Dalton commits five turnovers in loss to Ravens

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton’s stat line from Week 1: Interception, interception, interception, fumble, interception.

Well, he did slightly more than that, but those turnovers doomed Cincinnati in a 20-0 shutout loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

Dalton had passes intercepted by Brandon Carr, C.J. Mosley on consecutive drives. Lardarius Webb then picked off a pass intended for Brandon LaFell two drives later.

To add insult to injury, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs then collected a strip-sack on Dalton in the red zone.

Dalton capped off his terrible day with the ball with a final intercepted pass by Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith.

Dalton finished 16-of-31 passing for 170 yards.

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Video: Rams VP of football operations Kevin Demoff joins The Times for a pregame chat

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Watt, T.J. not J.J., comes up with an interception for the Steelers

There’s something in those Watt genes.

T.J. Watt, previously famous for being the brother of Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, picked off a throw by Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer in his NFL debut.

The younger Watt (6-foot-4, 252 pounds), who also played for Wisconsin before becoming a first-round draft pick, had seven tackles, two sacks, two quarterback hits and pass break up before his first game was over.

It took seven games for J.J. (6-foot-6, 290 pounds) to collect his second sack of his career, but he turned out all right.

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Deshaun Watson in, Tom Savage out: Texans make quarterback change

The Tom Savage era in Houston is already in trouble.

After two quarters of scoreless Texans football, while trailing the Jaguars 19-0, Houston coach Bill O’Brien pulled his starter in favor of rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Savage had completed just 7 of 13 passes for 62 yards and lost two fumbles.

Watson came in and led the Texans on a 75 yard, 14-play drive that ended with a four-yard touchdown toss to receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

Watson completed five of eight passes for 37 yards.

Watson, selected with the 12th overall pick out of Clemson, helped guide the Tigers to back-to-back College Football Playoff national championship games, winning the second against Alabama 35-31.

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Can’t-miss-play: Redskins’ Thompson breaks all the tackles for a touchdown

Redskins pass-catching running back Chris Thompson just came up with one of the best tough touchdowns of the season.

The Washington receiver caught a short pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins and proceeded to bounce off the Eagles’ short-handed secondary to go 29 yards for a touchdown.

Thompson had eight career scores (three rushing and five receiving) in four seasons prior to his gem today.

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Notable injuries: Ronald Darby, David Johnson, Allen Robinson all hurt

Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson (15) walks off the field after suffering an injury during the first half of a game in Houston.
(Eric Christian Smith / Associated Press)

The following notable players have suffered injuries:

Allen Robinson, receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars
Robinson suffered a knee injury and was ruled out for the rest of the game against the Saints.

David Johnson, running back, Arizona Cardinals
Johnson suffered a wrist injury late in the third quarter of a game against the Lions.

J.J. Watt, defensive end, Houston Texans
Watt suffered an apparent hand injury during the first half of a game against the Jaguars

Ronald Darby, cornerback, Philadelphia Eagles
Darby suffered an ankle injury and was carted off the field during a game against the Redskins.

Kevin White, receiver, Chicago Bears
White suffered a wrist injury in the fourth quarter of a game against the Falcons.

Benny Cunningham, running back, Chicago Bears
Cunningham was carted off the field with a knee injury during a game against the Falcons.

Danny Woodhead, running back, Baltimore Ravens
Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury and was carted off the field during a game against the Bengals.

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Video: Discussing Aaron Donald’s holdout and return to the Rams

The Times’ Gary Klein and Lindsey Thiry discuss the return of Rams star defensive lineman Aaron Donald and preview their opener against the Colts.

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More punters with issues: Lions punter drops ball in end zone

The Cleveland Browns aren’t the only ones dealing with special teams issues.

Lions punter Kasey Redfern had the unenviable task of attempting a punt out of his own end zone against the Arizona Cardinals during the first quarter of a game in Detroit.

Forced to stand at the very back of the end zone, Redfern dropped the snap as the Cardinals defenders came flying in.

He picked up the ball and maybe had a chance to get the kick off, but instead opted to go for the carry out of the end zone to avoid a safety or a touchdown.

Redfern, playing in his first regular season game, was an undrafted punter out of Wofford and has spent time on the practice squads of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Chargers, Carolina Panthers and Browns.

Ultimately, his mistake only cost the Lions a field goal.

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USC Trojans sighting: Eagles’ Nelson Agholor scores on a 58-yard catch

Former USC receiver Nelson Agholor is in his third season with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Prior to today’s game, he had collected 59 catches for 648 yards and three touchdowns.

He was drafted by the Eagles in 2015 with the 20th overall pick.

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Watch this block: Cleveland Browns appear in midseason form

Things are going about right for the Cleveland Browns.

After rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer and company failed to get anything going on their opening drive, Cleveland was forced to punt.

As Britton Colquitt wound up for his punt, the Steelers defense broke through the line to block the attempt.

Pittsburgh linebacker Anthony Chickillo then recovered the ball in the end zone, putting the Browns in their first hole of the season.

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Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald marks his 196th consecutive game with a catch

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Listen to J.J. Watt’s deafening introduction in Houston after raising more than $30 million for hurricane relief

J.J. Watt received a hero’s welcome to NRG Stadium in Houston on Sunday when he was introduced to the crowd.

The All-Pro defensive end has raised more than $30 million in relief money for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Watt appeared in just three games last season before suffering a season-ending back injury.

Check out these cleats too:

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Video: Fifteen hot topics with Rams receiver Robert Woods

Rams receiver Robert Woods answers 15 questions from The Times’ Lindsey Thiry about his return to Los Angeles, what he last searched for on Google, the defensive back he most wants to face and much more.

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Who’s in, who’s out: NFL inactives

Defensive lineman Aaron Donald only just reported to the Rams on Saturday after holding out of training camps and preseason. He is not expected to play today.
(Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

Inactive player lists are announced 90 minutes before kickoff. The following players will be unavailable today:

Indianapolis at RAMS, 1:05 p.m.

Carolina at San Francisco, 1:25 p.m.

Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers, 1:25 p.m.

New York Giants at Dallas, 5:30 p.m.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Detroit Lions

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins

Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

New York Jets at Buffalo

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans

Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans

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Ask Farmer: How can a team script its first 15 plays?

Bills coach Marv Levy enters Rich Stadium before a game against the Chicago Bears on Aug. 2, 1997 in Orchard Park, N.Y.
(Bill Sikes / Associated Press)

Have a question about the NFL? Ask Times NFL writer Sam Farmer, and he will answer as many as he can online and in the Sunday editions of the newspaper throughout the season. Email questions to:sam.farmer@latimes.com

How can a team script out their first 15 plays when they have no idea of the game situation? If any and all options are considered based on the game situation, why script out any plays? Just refer to your play sheet for the situation.

Steve Shaevel, Woodland Hills

Farmer: I posed your question to a couple of coaches who got to Super Bowls and they both agreed with you. Hall of Famer Marv Levy didn’t script plays when he was coaching the Buffalo Bills, and neither did Mike Martz when he was coaching the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams (although Martz did earlier in his career.).

Said Levy: “I agree with Steve 100%. We never scripted out our first plays. We might have had a first play, but that was if we thought there was something where we were trying to find out how they were going to defend against it, or what personnel combinations they’d use. But there are too many adjustments that have to go on during the course of the game. My feeling is, to be a good coach, you’ve got to have three things: You’ve got to be a good teacher, you’ve got to shoot straight with your players and you’ve got to be able to adjust.”

Said Martz: “We were a little unconventional, so we never knew what we were going to see defensively. Had we scripted, had we been a pretty basic offense, you can do that. If you do the same stuff, defenses generally have a thing for you. But we had teams that all of a sudden would be Cover-2 that never played Cover-2. So if you script out your first 15 and try to stay to it, you might be sledding uphill sometimes. I always knew the first series or so what I wanted to run, and then you just had to adjust. All the West Coast disciples from the Bill Walsh era script the plays. Originally, I did. In 1999 I did. But in 2000, because we were moving and shifting and doing so many things, it just wasn’t relevant anymore. We just kind of had to fly by the seat of our pants.”

::

Any idea how and if rookies are paid after being drafted, signing a mega-contract, then not making the cut? Is there a guarantee? Do they keep any signing bonus?

Norm Zareski, Duryea, Penn.

Farmer: Although it’s rare for a rookie to sign a mega-contract and then get cut, there are some rules of thumb. First of all, a signing bonus doesn’t get repaid. So the amount of your signing bonus, whether you’re picked No. 1 or No. 256, comes at the time of signing and is guaranteed. Typically, picks 1-20 have all four years of their contracts guaranteed. Picks 21 through the end of the second round usually have guarantees in Year 1 and sometimes Year 2. From the start of the third round on, there are seldom guarantees beyond the signing bonus.

Again, these are rules of thumb and aren’t mandated by the collective bargaining agreement, but that’s usually how it goes.

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesFarmer

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Timelapse: Watch the Coliseum transform from USC’s home field to the Rams’

USC defeated Stanford 42-24 last night at the Coliseum, with the game ending about 9 p.m.

Here you can see the initial transformation from the Trojans’ home field to the Rams’ in this timelapse taken by ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura.

The Rams will take the same field for their home opener against the Indianapolis Colts just over 16 hours after the Trojans and Cardinal had cleared the field.

Last year, when the Coliseum made a similar turnover from a USC home game to a Rams home game some 200 employees worked overnight to ready the field, clear the stands and parking of lots of trash in time for a 1 p.m. game.

Like last year, you can probably expect to see some of the same Pac-12 logos and hash marks visible when the Rams take field today.

The Coliseum field before the start of a Rams-Panthers game on Nov. 6.
(Matt Wilhalme / Los Angeles Times)

And today’s field:

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Chargers hope to rise above Broncos’ ‘Mile High’ advantage

Veteran receiver Keenan Allen and his Chargers teammates will pay a visit to Denver on Monday night to open the season.
(Doug Pensinger / Getty Images)

You’re exhausted, tired. You don’t have any legs. But once you get through that mentally, you’re good.

Chargers linebacker Korey Toomer

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn joked last week about doing some redecorating before his first game as the team’s head coach Monday night in Denver.

Maybe with a brush and bucket, maybe with paper and duct tape, Lynn wanted to cover all of the signs noting the elevation of the Broncos’ home field — a reminder of exactly where they are and a warning for how they’re about to feel.

Above the visiting locker room, the one where the Chargers will begin their season, a sign reading “Welcome to the MILE HIGH CITY” will drive home the point. Underneath it are the numbers for even more of an effect: 5,280.

“I think it’s more psychological, to be honest,” Lynn, a former Broncos player, said. “I never knew we had those signs in the visiting locker room until I came back for the first time as a visitor. … I think it’s more of a mental thing than anything.”

But to be clear, playing football a mile above sea level in shoelace thin air has physical effects.

Your chest burns like you just downed a double shot of cheap whiskey. Your legs wobble like, well, you just downed a double shot of whiskey. Your head spins like… well, you get the point.

“You’re exhausted, tired,” Chargers linebacker Korey Toomer said. “You don’t have any legs. But once you get through that mentally, you’re good.”

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Rams’ Aaron Donald ends holdout and reports on eve of opener, though without a new contract

I’ll probably just wake up every hour, tossing and turning, excited about the game.

Rams coach Sean McVay

A restful night’s sleep on the eve of his first game as an NFL coach is not part of Sean McVay’s game plan.

“I’ll probably just wake up every hour, tossing and turning, excited about the game,” McVay said.

McVay no doubt rested a bit easier Saturday after star defensive lineman Aaron Donald ended his holdout because of a contract dispute and reported to the team, though without a new deal.

Donald won’t play in Sunday’s season opener against the Indianapolis Colts at the Coliseum, but at least he’ll be in the building. And that’s a victory of sorts for the Rams and McVay.

After months of fielding questions about Donald’s status, McVay and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips next week can finally begin to see how the three-time Pro Bowl player fits in Phillips’ 3-4 scheme.

Donald, 26, was the 13th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. He has accrued 28 sacks and is regarded as one of the NFL’s most disruptive defensive players.

Donald has two years remaining on a rookie contract that will pay him $1.8 million this season and about $6.9 million in 2018. By arriving before the opener, he ensured that he would earn a weekly game check of nearly $106,000.

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Rams vs. Colts: How they match up

Rams coach Sean McVay stands on the field during a training camp practice on Aug. 5.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

RAMS (2016: 4-12) VS. INDIANAPOLIS (2016: 8-8)

When Rams have the ball

Coach Sean McVay is the play caller for an offense that should have all of its players available, including receiver Tavon Austin. Second-year quarterback Jared Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, had an up-and-down preseason, playing efficiently against the Oakland Raiders but committing two turnovers on consecutive possessions against the Chargers. This will be his first start in a season opener. Receivers Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp and Austin, along with tight end Gerald Everett, give Goff a diverse group of targets. Goff should be more secure with Andrew Whitworth anchoring the line at left tackle, and running back Todd Gurley appears poised to return to the form that made him the 2015 NFL offensive rookie of the year. Colts cornerback Vontae Davis is not playing because of a groin injury. That means the defense will include 11 new starters, including defensive linemen Johnathan Hankins and Al Woods and linebackers John Simon and Jabaal Sheard. Rookie cornerbacks Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston and rookie safety Malik Hooker could play significant snaps.

When Colts have the ball

Star quarterback Andrew Luck will not play because he’s recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Scott Tolzien will start in his place. Tolzien has started three games and passed for two touchdowns, with seven interceptions, during a six-year NFL career that also has included stints with the San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers. Tolzien will operate behind a line that lost center Ryan Kelly because of a foot injury. Receiver T.Y. Hilton led the NFL with 1,448 yards receiving in 2016, but Rams cornerbacks are not going to be under as much duress with Tolzien under center. Running back Frank Gore, a 13th-year pro, rushed for 1,025 yards and four touchdowns last season. Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has installed a 3-4 scheme, but the Rams will be without lineman Aaron Donald, who ended his holdout Saturday but will not play Sunday. Ethan Westbrooks and Tanzel Smart will play in a rotation in that spot. Robert Quinn is listed as a linebacker but he remains an edge rusher playing opposite Connor Barwin. Veteran cornerback Trumaine Johnson anchors a secondary that includes cornerback Kayvon Webster and safeties Maurice Alexander and Lamarcus Joyner, a converted cornerback.

When they kick

Three-time Pro Bowl punter Johnny Hekker was arguably the Rams’ most valuable player last season. McVay would welcome Hekker repeating his 47.8 yards-per-kick average, but he is no doubt aiming to make sure that Hekker is far less busy this season. Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein is coming off a 2016 season in which he made 19 of 22 field-goal attempts. Pharoh Cooper returns kickoffs, Tavon Austin punts. Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, in his 22nd NFL season, has 530 field goals. He made 27 of 31 last season. Quan Bray returns kickoffs and punts.

Gary Klein’s prediction

Luck’s absence should provide the Rams with a huge advantage in McVay’s first game. It will also offset the effect of Donald’s absence. Zuerlein could have a busy day. Rams 23, Colts 10

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