The Sports Report: Rams lose; Chargers and Clippers win
Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.
Sam Farmer on the Rams: The Tennessee Titans were missing two starters on the offensive line and two-time NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry.
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Most observers thought Sunday night’s game against the mighty Rams wouldn’t be a fair fight.
Sadly for the Rams, those people were correct.
The game was lopsided alright, just not in the expected way. On a day of rub-your-eyes NFL results – Jacksonville beating Buffalo, Denver demolishing Dallas, Cleveland humiliating Cincinnati – the Titans pulled off a stunning 28-16 upset with an illusion that would make David Copperfield do a double-take.
The 7½-point underdogs made Matthew Stafford’s blockers disappear.
Nobody saw this Stupor Bowl coming.
Snap after snap, the Titans spun, twisted and squeezed through gaps, flooding the Rams’ backfield and swarming Stafford, sacking him four times in the first half alone. It was especially strange because that line had provided Stafford with a hermetically-sealed pocket throughout most of the season.
When the Rams went to an empty backfield – with no one back there to help block – the quarterback was under heavy pressure from the moment he received the shotgun snap.
Stafford came into the game with four interceptions on the season, yet was picked off on back-to-back throws, first as he was being dragged down in his own end zone, then on the first play of the ensuing possession, resulting in a 24-yard pick-six.
Tennessee defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons had three of those first-half sacks and was as relentlessly dominant as Aaron Donald in prime form. So on this night, No. 98 (Simmons) looked like No. 99 (Donald).
What it meant for the Rams is that even as prolific and entertaining as this offense has been, it’s far from foolproof. Stafford isn’t immobile – he had a couple nice runs against the Titans – but he’s not the kind of quarterback who can make do when the dam crumbles.
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Jeff Miller on the Chargers: They drained almost all the clock that remained, forced Philadelphia to exhaust all three of its timeouts and, when it absolutely mattered most, ended things in the coldest of ways.
By kicking — quite literally — the Eagles when they were down.
Dustin Hopkins booted a 29-yard field goal in the closing seconds Sunday to cap a dominant, game-grabbing drive in a 27-24 Chargers’ victory that stilled a once-chaotic Lincoln Financial Field.
With that exclamation point, the Chargers halted a two-game losing streak and are atop the AFC West at 5-3.
They won in Philadelphia with a 15-play series that covered 64 yards and consumed all but two seconds of the final 6:07 that remained when they took possession.
All Philadelphia’s offense could do was squirm on the sidelines as the visitors squeezed all the opportunity that remained in the game.
“That’s demoralizing for a team,” Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen said. “It feels like we just took over. That’s pretty much what it was. … That’s when games are won.”
Andrew Greif on the Clippers: Making a sign of the cross on his white Clippers jersey and lifting himself from his seat atop the scorer’s table, Serge Ibaka pointed both fingers toward Staples Center’s ceiling Sunday in his final moments before playing in a game for the first time since May 25.
The 32-year-old center missed his first shot, a jumper from 19 feet. With a pump-fake and dribble, he fluidly navigated around a Charlotte defender’s overeager closeout, only to pass the ball out of bounds to a teammate who wasn’t there. He collected five fouls, a rebound, assist and block and missed all three shots in eight minutes in the Clippers’ 120-106 victory to Charlotte, as the team treats his recovery cautiously.
“I’m healthy, I’m back, I’m in good shape,” Ibaka said. “Yeah, it’s going to be fun.”
But his season debut?
“It was rough,” he acknowledged.
Ibaka pledged patience in building up his minutes slowly over the coming weeks. He was not alone in slowly finding his way.
Trailing by 13 early, the Clippers led by eight after halftime only to see it surrendered by their carelessness. They trailed 102-93 with 7 minutes to play after a pair of intercepted passes from Paul George punctuated a 17-2 Hornets run. Among 20 team turnovers, George was responsible for eight; he has 22 total in his last three games.
Yet two days after turning a 20-point hole into a 20-point win, the Clippers proved again a comfort under pressure.
What followed was a 22-0 run that included Reggie Jackson finding a wide-open Luke Kennard for a three-pointer, Terance Mann finding Jackson on his own open three and Mann driving into a parted defense for a one-handed dunk. Charlotte scored four points in the final seven minutes despite not committing a single turnover in the final quarter.
“It was our defense,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “Our defense really picked up, our physicality, our attention to detail was a lot better.”
Kevin Baxter on soccer: The Galaxy didn’t lose a game but they did lose a playoff spot Sunday, rallying to a wild 3-3 draw with Minnesota United but falling short of the postseason berth when a late goal from Albert Rusnak gave Real Salt Lake a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City.
The combined results left the Galaxy and RSL tied in the standings with 48 points, but Salt Lake will advance to the postseason on the first tiebreaker — most wins. The top seven teams advance to the playoffs and Galaxy didn’t fall below that line this season until Rusnak’s goal four minutes into stoppage time.
The Galaxy finished 13-12-9 while Real Salt is 14-14-6.
LAFC, which needed a win in Colorado on Sunday to keep alive its playoff hopes also fell short, getting blown out 5-2. The five goals were the most LAFC allowed in a game this season.
Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: The Dodgers had the option to extend qualifying offers to three free agents by 2 p.m. Sunday: Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager and Chris Taylor.
Minutes before the deadline, the team announced it tendered the offer to Seager and Taylor but not to Kershaw, adding another twist to the likely future Hall of Famer’s unclear career going forward.
Seager and Taylor have 10 days to decide whether to accept the one-year, $18.4-million contract. Seager almost certainly will not. Taylor’s decision is less certain. Max Scherzer and Kenley Jansen, two other prominent free agents, weren’t eligible for qualifying offers.
Any team that signs a player who rejected the qualifying offer is subject to forfeiting at least one pick in the next draft depending on that club’s financial status from the previous season. Teams that lose players who declined the qualifying offer receive draft compensation.
Kershaw is a free agent for the first time in his career. He enters the market coming off an injury-hampered season at 33 years old.
Kershaw was asked throughout the year about his future. Each time, he said he wasn’t sure about what’s next. There are seemingly three options on the table: re-sign with the Dodgers, sign with his hometown Texas Rangers or retire. He is not expected to retire.
Troy Terry and Benoit-Oliver Groulx each had a goal and an assist, and John Gibson stopped 34 shots to lead the Ducks to a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues.
Sam Steel and Sam Carrick also scored for Anaheim, and Hampus Lindholm had two assists. The Ducks scored three goals in the third period to win their fourth straight — all at home.
“We knew it was a big stretch of games here and we brought it,” Steel said. “ We responded. We played really good hockey. We’ll try to take it into the road trip and get some more big points.”
Brandon Saad scored for St. Louis and Jordan Binnington had 23 saves.
Dylan Hernández on boxing: What Canelo Álvarez did Saturday night was the equivalent of cutting down a redwood tree with a steak knife.
His technical knockout of an opponent of Caleb Plant’s size was evidence of his extraordinary finishing ability. At the same time, the fact he required more than 10 rounds to stop a fighter with Plant’s limitations was an indication he was moving uncomfortably close to his physical ceiling.
Because size matters.
That reality is something of which Álvarez should be mindful as he makes the difficult choice of what to do next in his career. There is no clear path.
He can remain in a 168-pound division in which there are no more belts to be won and a shortage of potential name opponents to conquer. Or he can continue to move up in weight, which would expose him to the same dangers that ultimately derailed some of his former contemporaries in boxing’s pound-for-pound rankings, including Román González, Mikey Garcia and Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Size was the only reason Plant lasted as long as he did against Álvarez at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Álvarez overwhelmed him in every other aspect.
THIS DATE IN SPORTS
1942 — Parker Hall of the Cleveland Rams throws seven interceptions against the Green Bay Packers.
1952 — Maurice Richard of the Montreal Canadiens becomes the NHL’s leading career goal scorer with his 325th in a 6-4 victory over the Chicago Black Hawks.
1959 — Elgin Baylor of the Minneapolis Lakers scores 64 points against the Boston Celtics.
1970 — Tom Dempsey of New Orleans kicks an NFL-record 63-yard field goal on the final play of the game to give the Saints a 19-17 victory over the Detroit Lions.
1980 — Dave Wilson of Illinois sets an NCAA record with 621 yards passing in a 49-42 victory over Ohio State.
1981 — Don Shula records his 200th NFL victory when the Miami Dolphins edge the New England Patriots 30-27 in overtime.
1986 — Tulsa’s Steve Gage is the first quarterback to rush and pass for 200 yards in a game. Gage rushes for 212 and passes for 209 in a 34-27 triumph over New Mexico.
1987 — The St. Louis Cardinals score 28 points — three TD passes by Neil Lomax and a fumble recovery by Niko Noga — to overcome a 28-3 deficit and beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-28.
1997 — Phil Housley becomes the second U.S.-born player in NHL history to score 1,000 points, tallying an assist as the Washington Capitals beat the Edmonton Oilers 2-1.
2003 — John Gagliardi becomes college football’s career victory leader when St. John’s rallies to beat Bethel 29-26. Gagliardi, in his 55th season and his 51st at the Minnesota school, gets his 409th victory, passing Eddie Robinson, who retired in 1997 after winning 408 games at Grambling.
2005 — Pierre Turgeon becomes the 34th player in NHL history to reach 500 goals, scoring in the third period of Colorado’s 5-2 win over San Jose.
2009 — Indianapolis becomes the fourth team in league history with 17 consecutive regular-season wins with a 20-17 victory over Houston. New England did it twice — winning a record 21 straight from 2006-08 and 18 in a row from 2003-04. Chicago won 17 straight from 1933-34.
2014 — Northern Iowa keeps three-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State out of the end zone and hands the Bison their first loss, 23-3. The loss snaps North Dakota State’s 33-game winning streak, the longest in Football Championship Subdivision history.
Supplied by the Associated Press
Tom Dempsey kicks a then-NFL record 63-yard field goal. Watch and listen here.
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