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The Sports Report: It’s time for the Los Angeles Rams to become Super Bowl champions

Matthew Stafford talks with head coach Sean McVay after a practice in May.
Matthew Stafford talks with head coach Sean McVay after a practice in May.
(Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Bill Plaschke on the Rams: It was the most perfect throw in the history of professional football in Los Angeles.

It led to the most perfect touchdown.

It resulted in the most perfect ending.

Which makes this the most perfect time to inform this year’s Rams of the one acceptable outcome to their upcoming season.

On the 70th anniversary of the only Los Angeles Rams title, these Rams need to summon the spirit of Norm Van Brocklin and Tom Fears.

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They need to connect on a championship.

They need to personify what happened in the fourth quarter of the 1951 title game against the Cleveland Browns at the Coliseum, when Van Brocklin hit Fears on a 73-yard touchdown pass for the ages.

The score was tied. The ball was lofted. The catch was made at midfield just beyond the outstretched arms of two Browns defensive backs. The ensuing sprint down the sidelines was breathtakingly unhindered. The touchdown gave the Rams a 24-17 victory that surely nobody imagined would be this town’s last Rams championship moment.

Well, it was. And, yeah, 70 years is long enough.

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Sean McVay has the QB he wanted in Matthew Stafford, now Rams offense better be super

NFL preview: A 17th game, new rules, faces in different places ... a number of changes

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CHARGERS

Dylan Hernández on the Chargers: A well-regarded sports executive once told me that only an idiot would judge a coach based on what he says at his introductory news conference.

Almost eight months after Brandon Staley was hired by the Chargers, every time the rookie head coach speaks publicly is basically an extension of that news conference. His team has yet to play a real game; most of what the former Rams defensive coordinator says is theoretical. Until he wins a game, his words are just words.

Nonetheless, as Staley spoke recently under a giant tent next to the Chargers’ practice field, he made a convincing case for why he’ll be the man who removes the longstanding curse afflicting the team.

The first step in solving a problem is acknowledging there is one — and Staley is acknowledging their wretched history.

“I think what people don’t do a good enough job of is admitting what’s out there,” Staley said. “What I’ve tried to do is confront the truth head on with these guys. Like, hey, people do think that you’re cursed.”

UCLA FOOTBALL

Ben Bolch on the Bruins: The UCLA Bruins are no longer a sleepy little football operation residing in the shadows of the Rams, Chargers, USC Trojans — and, just maybe — Mater Dei Monarchs.

L.A. loves a winner, and so do the national media. Broadcaster Colin Cowherd latched onto the story after UCLA downed Louisiana State over the weekend, predicting the Bruins would win the Pac-12 Conference while adding, “and I don’t think it’s going to be terribly close.”

The Cheez-It Bowl made UCLA its national team of the week. So did ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit. College football coaches and Associated Press pollsters each ranked the team No. 16 in the nation. Some pundits even made UCLA a fashionable pick to make the College Football Playoff.

The first song blaring from loudspeakers at practice Wednesday — Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” — seemed fitting for a team that had converted a legion of skeptics.

It’s a strange new world of expectations the Bruins (2-0) have stepped into as they prepare for their next game, against Fresno State (1-1) on Sept. 18 at the Rose Bowl. Could they stumble given the unfamiliar territory?

“We’re trying to prove a point this year, we’ve got a great team, we know what we have, so we’re ignoring the hype of whatever everything on media is saying,” senior cornerback Cam Johnson said. “That’s all good, all that candy, the eye candy, we’re just buckling down and staying humble and preparing for the next game, trying to win.”

USC FOOTBALL

Ryan Kartje on the Trojans: When Nick Figueroa left the Coliseum field Saturday in a sling, nursing a sprained shoulder, the redshirt senior assured coach Clay Helton at the time that he planned to play through the pain. But after sitting out two practices this week, those plans seemed to grow less certain by the day.

That is, until Vic So’oto offered his own assurances on Wednesday. USC’s defensive line coach didn’t hesitate to say he expected Figueroa to play against Stanford — “and play hard,” he said.

“He played through a torn labrum last year, all six games,” So’oto said. “So I fully expect him to be out there on Saturday.”

SOCCER

Kevin Baxter on soccer: Shin-high grass. A rain of batteries, bags of urine and severed animal heads. Lost luggage, loud parties, hotels with no electricity and weather that is either way too hot, way too humid or way too much of both.

Those are just some of the distractions the U.S. national soccer team has had to deal with when playing World Cup qualifiers on the road. And that’s where it will be Wednesday when the team — missing four starters to injury or suspension — faces Honduras in the unfriendly confines of Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano, on a field surrounded by a chain-link fence for the players’ protection.

“It’s like Thunderdome,” said Alexi Lalas, a former national team defender who played in 12 qualifiers. “You just want to get out alive to a certain extent.”

TENNIS

Helene Elliott on the U.S. Open: Desirae Krawczyk of Palm Desert doesn’t have a place to display her tennis trophies yet, but her collection is growing fast enough for her to give that idea some serious consideration.

Krawczyk, who attended Palm Desert High and Arizona State, partnered with Joe Salisbury of Great Britain to win the mixed doubles title at the French Open this year, her first championship in a Grand Slam event. She followed that up by teaming with another Brit, Neal Skupski, to win the mixed doubles crown at Wimbledon.

At this year’s U.S. Open she and Salisbury have reached the mixed doubles semifinals, where they will face Americans Jessica Pegula and Austin Krajicek. On Wednesday, Krawczyk reached the women’s doubles semifinals with her partner Alexa Guarachi by defeating Romanians Monica Niculescu and Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-7 (7), 6-2, 6-3. Krawczyk and Guarachi, who were the runners-up in the 2020 French Open women’s doubles tournament, are seeded No. 7 here.

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Hoping U.S. Open phenoms can enjoy the spotlight, avoid stress that hurt Naomi Osaka

SPARKS

Thuc Nhi Nguyen on the Sparks: Already spending most of their season battling injuries, the Sparks got another unwelcome injury report Monday when guard Kristi Toliver was ruled out for two to three weeks because of a broken pinkie finger. It couldn’t have come at a worse time.

The injury sidelines the two-time WNBA champion for the final four games of the regular season as the Sparks (10-18) are trying to claw into playoff position.

Two playoff spots remain for four teams in the mix. The seventh-place Dallas Wings (12-17) pace the playoff hopefuls with a one-game lead after Tuesday night’s games. New York (11-18) is hanging on to the eighth seed, which would put the Liberty in the playoffs for the first time since 2017, and owns the tiebreaker against the ninth-place Washington Mystics (10-18).

DODGERS

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: It’s taken longer than he’s expected, a maddening process going on over two months, but Clayton Kershaw finally sees the light end of his tunnel. The left-hander, on the injured list since July 7 with elbow inflammation, will start Monday against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium.

“I feel like I’ve spent the past two months trying to get healthy,” Kershaw said. “Now I’ve got four or five days to learn how to pitch again. Hopefully it’s enough time.”

Kershaw’s impending comeback is slated to follow Tony Gonsolin’s activation and start Thursday. With their returns, the Dodgers hope Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals marked the final time they won’t have one of their top five starting pitchers appear in a game this season after falling two games behind the San Francisco Giants in the National League West with 22 games remaining.

“It’s going to be a huge boost,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

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Dismissed scout sues Dodgers, claims age discrimination

ANGELS

For live updates from the Angels’ two-game series against the San Diego Padres, click here.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1940 — Donald McNeil beats Bobby Riggs after losing the first two sets to capture the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association title. Alice Marble wins her third straight title with a two-set triumph over Helen Jacobs.

1956 — Australia’s Ken Rosewall wins the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association title with a four-set victory over Lewis Hoad. Shirley Fry beats Althea Gibson 6-3, 6-4 for the women’s title.

1960 — The Denver Broncos beat the Boston Patriots 13-10 in the American Football League’s first regular-season game. The game is played on a Friday night at Boston University’s Nickerson Field.

1968 — Arthur Ashe wins the U.S. Open by beating Tom Okker 14-12, 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Ashe is the first African-American male to win a Grand Slam tournament. As an amateur, Ashe is ineligible to receive the $14,000 winner’s prize, but collects $280 in expenses for the two-week tournament.

1972 — UCLA’s Efren Herrera kicks a 20-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining to beat preseason No. 1 Nebraska 20-17 at the Memorial Coliseum.

1974 — Jimmy Connors romps to a 6-1, 6-0, 6-1 victory over Ken Rosewall to win the U.S. Open.

1978 — Chris Evert beats 16-year-old Pam Shriver 7-5, 6-4 to win her fourth straight U.S. Open.

1979 — In an all-New Yorker U.S. Open men’s final, John McEnroe beats Vitas Gerulaitis, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3. Tracy Austin, at 16 years, 8 months and 28 days, becomes the youngest U.S. Open women’s singles champion, ending Chris Evert’s 31-match win streak at the Open with a 6-4, 6-3 win.

1984 — John McEnroe beats Ivan Lendl 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 to win his fourth U.S. Open.

1990 — Pete Sampras, at the age of 19 years and 28 days, becomes the youngest U.S. Open men’s singles champion, defeating Andre Agassi, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

1992 — Robin Yount becomes the 17th player to reach 3,000 hits in the Milwaukee Brewers’ 5-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians.

2000 — Venus Williams wins her first U.S. Open singles title, defeating Lindsay Davenport, 6-4, 7-5.

2006 — Top-ranked Ohio State tightens its hold on the No. 1 spot after beating the No. 2 ranked and defending champion Texas Longhorns 24-7 in Austin, Texas.

2007 — Asafa Powell sets another world record in the 100 meters, winning a heat at the Rieti Grand Prix in 9.74 seconds. The world’s fastest man improves his record by 0.03 seconds, having run 9.77 three times.

2012 — Serena Williams, two points from defeat, suddenly regains her composure and her game, coming back to win the last four games and beat No. 1-ranked Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 for her fourth U.S. Open championship and 15th Grand Slam title overall.

2015 — Japan’s Saori Yoshida wins her 16th world or Olympic freestyle title at the world wrestling championships. The most decorated athlete in wrestling history, the 32-year-old Yoshida wins her 13th title at worlds — to go with three Olympic golds in as many tries.

2017 — Sloane Stephens dominates Madison Keys in the U.S. Open final and wins 6-3, 6-0 for her first Grand Slam title. The 83rd-ranked Stephens is the second unseeded woman to win the tournament in the Open era, which began in 1968.

2018 — Alabama strengthens its hold on No. 1 over No. 2 Clemson. The Crimson Tide made its 106th overall appearance at the top of the AP football rankings, which started in 1936, passing Ohio State for the most by any school.

2018 — Cleveland ends its 17-game losing streak with a 21-21 tie against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And finally

Robin Yount gets his 3,000th hit. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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