Chargers safety Derwin James prevented another Rams touchdown by stepping in front of tight end Gerald Everett in the end zone and intercepting a Jared Goff pass with 9 minutes and 43 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Chargers appeared to stop the Rams on a key third-and-14 play from the Rams 44-yard line when cornerback Casey Hayward broke up a long pass intended for Brandin Cooks. But Hayward was flagged for illegal contact on the play, giving the Rams a first down.
Goff hit tight end Tyler Higbee for a 20-yard pass down the right sideline, but he was thwarted by James, who, after intercepting the pass, ran out of bounds at the Chargers’ one-yard line. The Rams are leading 14-6.
The Rams and their hurry-up offense are turning this game against the Chargers into a track meet. They just drove 75 yards on seven plays, scoring on Jared Goff’s three-yard pass to Robert Woods on a quick slant to take a 14-6 lead with 51 seconds left in the first quarter.
Goff has had plenty of time to pick apart the Chargers defense, connecting with Woods on a 20-yard pass play and Brandin Cooks on a 21-yard play. The quarterback also scrambled for 16 yards for a first down earlier in the drive.
The Chargers responded to a Rams touchdown with a big play of their own, with quarterback Philip Rivers throwing a 42-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams, who made a superb diving catch in the end zone with Rams cornerback Marcus Peters on his back.
Williams remained on the ground for about a minute, but eventually walked off the field under his own power.
The Rams’ kick after their first touchdown went out of bounds, giving the Chargers possession at the 40-yard line. Melvin Gordon set up the score with a 20-yard run on which he leaped over one Rams defender. Caleb Sturgis’ extra-point attempt was wide right.
Forrest Lamp’s NFL debut will have to wait for at least another week. The 2017 second-round pick out of Western Kentucky, who missed his entire rookie season because of knee surgery, is among the Chargers’ inactive players for today’s game against the Rams in the Coliseum.
Lamp has been practicing since mid-August but is not ready for game action.
Speedy receiver Travis Benjamin will miss his second straight game because of an Achilles injury, and defensive end Joey Bosa (foot injury) and right tackle Joe Barksdale (knee) are out again. The other three Chargers inactives are linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbe, center Cole Toner and defensive tackle T.Y. McGill.
The Rams and Chargers are in a battle for the hearts and minds of Southland football fans, for the ticket-, merchandise- and luxury suite-buying public as they attempt to gain the upper hand in a once-barren professional football landscape.
The on-field fight for supremacy begins Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Coliseum, where players will drop the gloves in the first regular-season meeting between the teams since they relocated to Los Angeles.
“It will probably get heated,” Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward said before Thursday’s practice in Costa Mesa. “We’re all professionals, so it shouldn’t go overboard, but we’re definitely trying to take each other’s heads off.”