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The Sports Report: Chargers defeat the Browns

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler gets pulled into the end zone for the deciding score against the Browns.
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler gets pulled into the end zone for the deciding score against the Browns.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

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

Jeff Miller on the Chargers: The play has the idea of surrender right in its name:

“32 Duo, Alert No Más.”

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No Más.

And yet running back Austin Ekeler still reached the end zone Sunday at the game’s most crucial point, scoring one of the most reluctant, least conventional touchdowns in NFL history.

“I still have this feeling in my stomach like, ‘Oh, like literally [I] could have blown the game if the defense didn’t get a stop right there,’” Ekeler said after the Chargers’ 47-42 win over Cleveland at SoFi Stadium. “So thank you, defense.”

No Más meant Ekeler wasn’t supposed to score, the Chargers, trailing 42-41, intent on draining the clock in order to end the afternoon with a short, game-deciding field-goal attempt.

On first and goal at the Browns’ three-yard line with 1:38 remaining, Justin Herbert handed the ball to Ekeler. He stutter-stepped toward the line of scrimmage, stalling.

Then, with a crush of humanity gathering, several Cleveland defenders grabbed Ekeler and dragged him into the end zone, the Browns essentially scoring the Chargers’ winning touchdown.

“That’s just me being greedy,” Ekeler said. He added that he had no idea Cleveland’s defense would react the way it did, otherwise “I would have went down immediately.”

Chargers coach Brandon Staley suggested he wasn’t sure if what the Browns did is allowed by NFL rules.

“It was my interpretation that you can’t be pulled in,” he said. A league official, however, indicated there is no rule against aiding an opponent.

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Elliott: Brandon Staley’s fearlessness on fourth down unlocking victories for Chargers

Photos: Chargers defeat Cleveland Browns in thriller at SoFi Stadium

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DODGERS

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: The last time Max Scherzer faced the San Francisco Giants in a playoff game he wasn’t yet a Cy Young Award winner. He wasn’t yet a surefire Hall of Famer. He wasn’t yet a wealthy man.

It was Game 4 of the 2012 World Series. He was a member of the vaunted Detroit Tigers’ rotation, just finding his footing as a bona fide major-league ace. He gave up three runs over 6 1/3 innings, a strong start given the context, but the Tigers lost the game and the series that night. Scherzer didn’t return to the World Series with the Tigers again. The franchise squandered two more opportunities with a loaded roster before he left for Washington.

“Our guys in Detroit there in 2012, 2013, 2014, to not be able to punch through and get a ring, we all look back and really believe that, ‘Man, we had the teams to do it,’” Scherzer said Sunday. “We can’t believe that we didn’t. We had one shot at it.”

Nine years and an historic prime later, Scherzer is back on another World Series favorite seeking to avoid squandering a prime chance to win a championship at the hands of the Giants. They will stand in his way again Monday night in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium.

SOCCER

Kevin Baxter on soccer: Estadio Rommel Fernández Gutiérrez, the Panamanian national team’s aging oval-shaped home in the southeastern edge of the capital, has played host to hundreds of games in its long history.

But few resembled Sunday’s World Cup qualifier with the U.S., which was played on the anniversary of the biggest soccer game in the country’s history.

Four years ago, Panama scored in the final two minutes of its final qualifier to beat Costa Rica and claim CONCACAF’s final invitation to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, a ticket that had slipped from the U.S. team’s grasp in Trinidad earlier in the night.

On Sunday, the Panamanians had the Americans right in front of them and they beat them again, with Anibal Godoy’s header in the 54th minute standing up for a 1-0 win.

Even with the loss the U.S., like Panama, is 2-1-2 and trails only Mexico in the eight-team qualifying table. That leaves the U.S. with a chance to move back into first with a win over Costa Rica on Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio.

UCLA FOOTBALL

Ben Bolch on the Bruins: The protagonist has been introduced, a once-admired coach seeking redemption after a midlife slump that raised questions about his brilliance.

The drama has heightened, 3 1/2 unsatisfying seasons leaving those questions largely unanswered amid more losses than wins as well as a trajectory suggesting a breakthrough remains possible.

Now comes the climax for Chip Kelly.

Can the UCLA coach create his Disney ending? Can he generate the success needed to energize a droopy fan base and secure a contract extension?

The next three weeks should reveal the answers after the Bruins slogged their way to a 34-16 victory over Arizona on Saturday night at Arizona Stadium that revealed little besides the team’s ability to avoid a mortifying stumble.

USC FOOTBALL

Ryan Kartje on the Trojans: As standout USC tight end Michael Trigg lay on the Coliseum turf, clutching his knee and writhing in pain Saturday night, his prognosis didn’t appear promising. Even interim coach Donte Williams acknowledged it looked bad.

Fortunately for the Trojans and their talented freshman, Trigg appears to have avoided a significant injury to his knee during the 42-26 loss to Utah. But after sustaining what Williams termed “a lower-leg injury,” it might be a while before the tight end plays again.

“They did an MRI, but they’ve got to do another one,” Williams said. “So, I mean, it’s nothing that’s broken, it’s not an ACL — that I do know — so until all the test results come back, for me to just tell you guys something, once again I’d be lying. I don’t expect him to back right away, that’s for darn sure.”

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AP top 25 football: Georgia is No. 1; Big Ten grabs half of top 10

Commentary: Alabama’s stunning loss reminds us that anything can still happen in college football

LAKERS

Dan Woike on the Lakers: LeBron James had the best seats for this Los Angeles sports Sunday, spending his afternoon in a suite at SoFi Stadium before sitting courtside at Staples Center.

This preseason he’s been more spectator than superstar, the Lakers’ Big Three still yet to step foot on a NBA court together for a second of game action. James sat out the team’s third exhibition, a 123-94 loss against Phoenix.

As the Lakers head into their final week of training camp, they still are proceeding patiently in deploying James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.

Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors and Thursday in Sacramento are the final two chances.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1890 — The first 100-yard dash under 10 seconds is run by John Owens at 9.8 in an AAU track and field meet in Washington.

1902 — Laurie Auchterlonie beats Stewart Gardner with a 307-total to win the U.S. Open golf title.

1925 — The New York Giants lose their first NFL game, 14-0 to Providence at the Cycledrome. The Steam Roller score twice in the second quarter, a blocked punt recovery in the end zone and 92-yard kickoff return by Cy Wentworth.

1971 — The United States beats Romania three matches to two to win the Davis Cup.

1981 — Tommy Kramer passes for 444 yards and four touchdowns as the Minnesota Vikings edge the San Diego Chargers 33-31.

1991 — Chip Beck shoots the second sub-60 round in PGA Tour history with a 59 in the Las Vegas Invitational. Beck cards a 29-30, 13 under, to match Al Geiberger’s second round of the 1977 Memphis Classic.

2003 — Buffalo is the third NHL team since 1967-68 to be shut out in each of its first two games after a 6-0 defeat to the New York Islanders.

2009 — Kurt Warner passes for 301 yards in Arizona’s 28-21 win over Houston. It’s the 50th 300-yard game for Warner in 113 games, making him the fastest to reach 50 in NFL history. Dan Marino, who took 176 games to reach the mark, was the fastest.

2010 — Minnesota’s Brett Favre becomes the first NFL player to throw 500 touchdown passes and for 70,000 yards. However, with Favre trying to rally his team, Dwight Lowery returns an interception 26 yards for a touchdown with 1:30 left as the New York Jets beat the Vikings 29-20.

2011 — The U.S. women roll to their third title at the world gymnastics championships held in Tokyo. The Americans finish with 179.411 points, a whopping 4 points ahead of Russia, last year’s champion.

2012 — Meghan Stasi wins her fourth U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur title to match the tournament record, routing Liz Waynick 6 and 5. The 34-year-old Stasi, who also won in 2006, 2007 and 2010, ties the victory record set by Ellen Port in the event limited to players 25 and older.

2014 — Baylor’s Bryce Petty throws for 510 yards and six TDs, including a tying 25-yarder to Corey Coleman with 4:42 left in the No. 9 Bears’ 61-58 win over No. 9 TCU. Chris Callahan kicks a 28-yard field goal as time expires and Baylor scores 24 points in the final 11 minutes to beat the Horned Frogs in the highest-scoring game ever between two teams in the AP Top 10.

2015 — In Incheon, South Korea, the United States rallies to win the Presidents Cup for the sixth straight time, this one decided by the final match. The Americans get the winning point from Bill Haas, the son of U.S. captain Jay Haas, who wins 2-up over an emotionally distraught Bae Sang-moon. Bae needing to win the final hole for the International team to share the cup, stubs a chip. The Americans win 15 1/2-14 1/2, the closest competition in 10 years.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Highlights from the Chargers-Browns game. 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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