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The Sports Report: Matthew Stafford and Rams beat Tom Brady and Buccaneers

Cooper Kupp catches a touchdown pass against the Buccaneers in the second quarter.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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

Gary Klein on the Rams: It’s only three games, not even a quarter of what will be the longest NFL season in history. So it’s entirely too early to project the Rams into the playoffs, let alone a Super Bowl that will be played at SoFi Stadium.

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But the Rams look the part of a Super Bowl team.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford fires quick-strike touchdown passes. He engineers methodical, clock-eating scoring drives. Coach Sean McVay, for the first time since the 2018 Super Bowl season, finally appears comfortable using the entire playbook.

Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey lead a defense playing as stout under Raheem Morris as it did a year ago under Brandon Staley.

Kicker Matt Gay has been perfect, and punter Johnny Hekker is rounding into form.

All of that and more was on display Sunday in the Rams’ 34-24 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers before a crowd of 73,205 at SoFi Stadium.

Stafford passed for four touchdowns — including a 75-yard shot to DeSean Jackson — and the Rams neutralized Tom Brady and the NFL’s highest-scoring offense. They improved to 3-0 heading into next Sunday’s NFC West opener against the Arizona Cardinals.

“It’s a big step in the right direction,” McVay said.

The Rams don’t need Google maps to know their desired destination. All roads lead back to SoFi Stadium. That’s where Super Bowl LVI will be played in February.

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Photos: Matthew Stafford and the Rams defeat the Buccaneers

Rams’ 34-24 victory over the Buccaneers by the numbers

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CHARGERS

Jeff Miller on the Chargers: They went for it on fourth down early in the fourth quarter and again late in the fourth quarter.

They called a running play in the final minute but included the option to pass if the young quarterback thought it was best.

At the most crucial moments Sunday, Brandon Staley turned over the Chargers’ game to Justin Herbert, and Herbert delivered a dramatic, dynamic victory to his coach.

“We want to put the ball in Justin Herbert’s hand,” Staley said later, “and have him be the decider.”

Herbert’s decisions — along with his glaring talent and the shiny weapons he has orbiting him— led the Chargers to a 30-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the franchise that has owned the AFC the last two seasons.

The win represented a stunning bounce back for Herbert and the Chargers, who lost in Week 2 at home to Dallas amid a barrage of mistakes, most of which were self-inflicted.

“You have to win games like this on the road in this league in order to separate yourself,” safety Derwin James said. “We had a bad taste in our mouth from last week … but we came back. We didn’t pout, and we came back stronger.”

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Chargers’ 30-24 road victory over the Chiefs by the numbers

NFL Week 3 roundup: Ravens’ Justin Tucker kicks NFL record 66-yard field goal

DODGERS

Jack Harris on the Dodgers: With a 3-0 defeat of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday, the Dodgers earned their 100th win of the season.

Over the final week, they’ll need at least several more to catch the San Francisco Giants.

The Dodgers (100-56) remained two games behind the Giants, who beat the Colorado Rockies on Sunday, in the National League West standings with six games to play. It could take near perfection down the stretch for them to win a ninth straight division title.

But after a disappointing loss Saturday night, the Dodgers did exactly what they needed to Sunday afternoon, dispatching the Diamondbacks (50-106) with ease to clinch the franchise’s ninth 100-win season and become just the sixth defending World Series champion in the divisional era (since 1969) to amass a triple-digit win total.

ANGELS

Bill Shaikin on the Angels: The Angels’ final homestand of the season was eventful, but not for anything that happened on the field. The men in uniform have had enough of the annual losing, and they are no longer shy about saying so.

On Wednesday, and again on Friday, manager Joe Maddon said the Angels needed to land two front-line starters or risk perpetual mediocrity. On Saturday, Mike Trout said the Angels had “a lot of money to spend” and the offseason was “going to be big.”

On Sunday, after the Angels lost their home finale to the Seattle Mariners, 5-1, Shohei Ohtani spoke up. He was the best thing to happen to the Angels this season, and to all of baseball. He is tired of losing too.

“I really like the team. I love the fans. I love the atmosphere of the team,” Ohtani said via an interpreter. “But, more than that, I want to win. That’s the biggest thing for me. I’ll leave it at that.”

UCLA FOOTBALL

Ben Bolch on the Bruins: Years from now, assuming a contract extension is signed, the buyout talks unnecessary, it could be remembered as the day that Chip Kelly solidified his standing at UCLA.

Facing a team that haunted nearly every UCLA season for more than a decade, Kelly’s Bruins persevered Saturday in a way they had not since his arrival in Westwood.

They lost a two-touchdown lead and didn’t let it crush them. They briefly lost their quarterback and it only made them stronger upon his return.

“It just took guts, do you know what I mean?” defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight said after the team’s 35-24 victory at Stanford. “Guts to finish the game.”

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AP top 25 football: Clemson falls to No. 25, snapping top-10 streak

College football Saturday review: Expanding playoff to 12 would make upsets sweeter

RYDER CUP

Sam Farmer on the Ryder Cup: On the shores of Lake Michigan, the tide turned in a dramatic way.

Team USA, downtrodden for years, made good on a dominating start in the Ryder Cup by closing out Europe in commanding style Sunday with a 19-9 victory at Whistling Straits. The 10-point differential is the most lopsided since the tournament switched to a 28-match format in 1979.

Collin Morikawa secured the victory for the Americans on the second-to-last hole of his singles match against Viktor Hovland. The home needed a half-point to hit the magic number of 14½, so all Morikawa needed to do was tie.

Morikawa nearly aced the 222-yard, par-three 17th hole, leaving himself a three-foot putt to go one up with a hole remaining — thereby guaranteeing at worst a tie, and the requisite half-point. He sank that birdie putt and pumped his fist in triumph as thousands of spectators erupted in cheers. He calmly walked off the green with arms aloft.

SPARKS

Thuc Nhi Nguyen on the Sparks: Sparks guard Brittney Sykes was named WNBA first-team all-defense on Sunday after leading the league in steals during the regular season.

Sykes followed up a second-team all-defensive selection last season with career highs in steals (1.8) and rebounds (4.6) per game while anchoring the Sparks defense that finished third in defensive rating and second in points allowed per game. The Sparks (12-20) were eliminated from playoff contention after losing to the Dallas Wings in the regular-season finale but had stayed in the postseason hunt despite significant injuries because of their defense, which held teams to 77.1 points per game and forced a league-high 18.2 turnovers.

“I went for [defensive player of the year] and came up ‘short,’ ” Sykes said in a statement through the Sparks. “Blessed to have humbly earned first team. I appreciate my coaches, my team and my opponents for making me better this year!”

LAKERS

Dan Woike on the Lakers: After working out a host of veterans, the Lakers signed guard Austin Reaves to a two-year contract. According to a source with knowledge of the deal, the first year is partially guaranteed with a team option for the second.

The Lakers assigned Reaves, 23, to a two-way contract after the Oklahoma guard went undrafted in the second round. Late in that draft, there were rumors that Reaves preferred to go undrafted so he could sign with the Lakers.

The team now has 14 players on the roster and is expected to keep the No. 15 spot open to allow for flexibility heading into the season.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1894 — Aqueduct Race Track opens its doors. The building is torn down in 1955 and the new Aqueduct reopens on Sept. 14, 1959.

1947 — Armed, then the world’s leading money-winning thoroughbred, meets 1946 Kentucky Derby winner Assault in the first $100,000 winner-take-all match race, held at Belmont Park. Armed earns an easy victory over Assault, who was not in peak racing condition.

1950 — Ezzard Charles wins a unanimous 15-round decision over Joe Louis at Yankee Stadium in New York to retain the world heavyweight title.

1975 — Kansas quarterback Nolan Cromwell rushes for an NCAA record 294 yards in a 20-0 victory over Oregon State.

1992 — World champion Nigel Mansell sets a single-season victory record, leading from start to finish in the Portuguese Grand Prix for his ninth win of the Formula One season.

1998 — Mark McGwire gives baseball a new magic number, hitting two homers to reach No. 70 in the St. Louis Cardinals’ season finale against Montreal. It’s McGwire’s fifth homer in the season-ending, three-game series. McGwire’s 70th and final home run of the season was a line shot over the left-field wall on a first-pitch fastball from Carl Pavano in the seventh.

2000 — The Women’s British Open is elevated to major championship status on the LPGA Tour, replacing the du Maurier Classic. The other majors are the Nabisco Championship, the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Open.

2003 — B.J. Symons of Texas Tech throws for 661 yards — a school and Big 12 record — and six touchdowns, in the Red Raiders’ 49-45 win over Mississippi.

2009 — Japan’s Kimiko Date Krumm becomes the oldest winner of a WTA Tour tournament since Billie Jean King in 1983. Date Krumm, who turns 39 on Sept. 28, beats second-seeded Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 6-3 for the Korea Open title. King was 39 years, 7 months, 23 days when she won at Birmingham, England.

2009 — With rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford leading the way, Detroit ends a 19-game losing streak with a 19-14 victory over the Washington Redskins. The Lions had not won since Dec. 23, 2007, and their skid matched the second longest in NFL history.

2009 — New England beats Atlanta 26-10 for the 16th straight regular-season victory of the NFC. It’s the longest steak any team has posted against the opposite conference since the 1970 merger.

2014 — Watson Brown becomes the first head coach in NCAA history to lose 200 games when Tennessee Tech dropped a 50-7 decision to Northern Iowa. Amos Alonzo Stagg had held the record since 1946, going 314-199-35 in 57 seasons. Brown is 128-200-1 in 30 seasons as head coach.

2018 — Jared Goff passes for career highs of 465 yards and five touchdowns, winning a scintillating duel with his Minnesota counterpart Kirk Cousins and leading the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams to a 38-31 victory over the Vikings. Cousins passes for 422 yards and three touchdowns.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Mark McGwire hits his 70th home run. 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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