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The Sports Report: Rams and Chargers win

Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson catches a touchdown in front of Jacksonville cornerback Nevin Lawson uring the second half.
Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson catches a touchdown in front of Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Nevin Lawson during the second half.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

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

Gary Klein on the Rams: No interceptions. Zero fumbles. A decision-making scorecard that featured nothing but positives.

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Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford produced exactly what the Rams needed Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

After a winless November that Stafford and coach Sean McVay no doubt would prefer to forget, Stafford returned to early-season form in a 37-7 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Stafford passed for three touchdowns, running back Sony Michel rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown, and a turnover-starved defense forced and recovered two fumbles as the Rams ended a three-game losing streak and improved their record to 8-4.

Stafford completed 26 of 38 passes for 295 yards as the Rams remained in the postseason hunt.

“He’s our guy,” McVay said. “We go as he goes.”

Where the Rams are headed is difficult to gauge.

They were built with a mandate to play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in February. Owner Stan Kroenke spared no expense, in cash and future draft picks, while empowering general manager Les Snead and McVay to make blockbuster moves for a star-studded roster.

But the Rams have defeated only two teams with winning records—the resurgent Indianapolis Colts and the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those victories occurred in the second and third week of the longest season in NFL history.

Now they are going into Week 14.

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Rams’ 37-7 home victory over Jacksonville Jaguars by numbers

Photos: Rams dominate in slump-busting win over Jaguars

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CHARGERS

Jeff Miller on the Chargers: Kyzir White entered the postgame interview room with athletic tape dragging a few feet behind his left leg.

The image of the linebacker looking like a disheveled mummy couldn’t have been more fitting on an afternoon when the Chargers nearly unraveled.

But White and his defensive cohorts rallied in the fourth quarter, producing two turnovers and scoring a momentum-clinching touchdown as the Chargers kept it together for a 41-22 victory over Cincinnati.

Two weeks ago at home, they blew a 27-10 fourth-quarter lead against Pittsburgh before scrambling back to win in the final minutes.

“We got control in the fourth quarter,” coach Brandon Staley said. “We got control and then we put it back away. That’s what I was satisfied with.”

After opening a 24-0 lead barely 19 minutes into the game, the Chargers went to pieces with three turnovers in allowing the Bengals to score 22 consecutive points.

But then they won the final quarter 17-0 to quell the tension that had been building and claim the franchise’s most significant triumph since beating Baltimore in the playoffs following the 2018 season.

The result left both the Chargers and Bengals at 7-5 but gave the Chargers what could prove to be a key tie-breaking edge in January.

“In that second half, when it got really tight, we had some big stops,” Staley said. “Then we finished the fourth quarter with a bagel. Just really, really proud of our defensive staff and players.”

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Takeaways from Chargers’ win over Bengals: Joey Bosa could have returned

Chargers’ 41-22 road win over Cincinnati Bengals by the numbers

NFL roundup: Jared Goff lifts Lions to first win; Raiders fall to Washington

USC FOOTBALL

J. Brady McCollough on the Trojans: The Oklahoma head coach’s office sits without a permanent occupant. A sign at the front of the red-brick building says it is closed to the public until further notice.

In the yard that welcomes visitors to the Switzer Center, a landscaping crew is raking up fallen maple leaves and removing yellowed shrubbery, one last cleansing before what is certain to be a long winter.

Three bouquets of flowers have been left in front of Bob Stoops’ statue. If you didn’t already know what happened Sunday, you might get confused and think someone had died. In truth, the only death in the family when Lincoln Riley left for USC was the notion that Oklahoma was a place that coaches didn’t leave once the good Lord had blessed them in finding their way here.

The Sooners’ bloody Sunday began with the mourning of the team’s heartbreaking loss to bitter instate rival Oklahoma State in Stillwater. There would be no Big 12 championship for the first time since 2014, but at least Riley had put down those Louisiana State rumors in his postgame news conference. The last few years, he had been recruiting his tail off, so the belief of the fan base in him had not wavered. Heck, even they knew Stoops and now Riley had spoiled them.

But in the middle of the afternoon, Riley’s decision to jump to USC leaked to reporters. Bob Stoops got a call during what was supposed to be a pleasant round of golf.

Tyler McComas, who hosts a daily radio show focusing on all things Sooners, was spending time with his wife, relieved the football season was over, when he got a text from a friend that said, “Bummer about Lincoln.”

Within a few hours, McComas was doing an emergency show that would shatter the station’s high mark for listeners.

“The word ‘snake’ is being used a lot right now to describe Lincoln Riley,” McComas says. “We had a certain perception of who he is — almost this small-town, West Texas, innocent kid that said, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got the Oklahoma job, I’m the luckiest guy in the world, I will never leave, everything I do is going to be about OU’ — but now everyone’s looking around like, wait, who was this guy?

DODGERS

Mike DiGiovanna on the Dodgers: Former Dodgers slugger Gil Hodges, who won championships as a player in Brooklyn (1955) and Los Angeles (1959) and managed the New York Mets to the 1969 World Series title, was one of four players elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the Golden Days Era ballot on Sunday.

Hodges, who died in 1972, will be inducted posthumously in Cooperstown, N.Y., next July 24, along with pitcher Jim Kaat and outfielders Minnie Miñoso and Tony Oliva. Former Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills was on the ballot but did not make the cut. He received three or fewer votes.

Buck O’Neil, the former Negro Leagues star and major league coach and scout who helped found the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, and Bud Fowler, often acknowledged as the first Black professional baseball player, were elected to the Hall on the Early Baseball Era ballot.

Hodges, an eight-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner known for his solid production at the plate and stellar defense at first base, received 12 of a possible 16 votes, achieving the 75% threshold required for induction.

KINGS

Adrian Kempe scored a pair of goals and the Kings snapped a two-game skid with a 5-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday night.

Rasmus Kupari, Drew Doughty and Trevor Moore also scored for the Kings. Doughty added two assists, and Jonathan Quick made 21 saves.

Darnell Nurse scored for the Oilers, who lost two straight for the first time this season. Mikko Koskinen stopped 35 shots.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Cincinnati will play Alabama and Michigan will face Georgia on New Year’s Eve after being selected to the College Football Playoff as a surprise-free field of four was set Sunday.

Fourth-seeded Cincinnati becomes the first team to break through college football’s glass ceiling and reach the CFP from a non-Power Five conference. The Bearcats (13-0) won the American Athletic Conference and head into the postseason as the only unbeaten team in the country.

Their reward will be a matchup with the defending national champions in the Cotton Bowl. The Crimson Tide is in the playoff for the seventh time in the postseason format’s eight-year history after handing Georgia its first loss of the season in the Southeastern Conference title game Saturday.

This year’s semifinal winners will play for the national championship on Jan. 10 in Indianapolis.

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Commentary: College Football Playoff committee didn’t have to fret much over its final four

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1939 — Iowa’s Nile Kinnick wins the Heisman Trophy. The back passed for 638 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 374 yards.

1961 — Syracuse running back Ernie Davis becomes the first black player to win the Heisman Trophy.

1984 — Martina Navratilova loses to Helena Sukova, ending the longest winning streak in history of women’s singles tennis — 74 matches dating to Jan. 15, 1984.

1986 — Miami’s Vinny Testaverde wins the Heisman Trophy in a runaway. The quarterback, who led the nation in passing efficiency, won the by 1,541 points over Temple running back Paul Palmer, the country’s top rusher.

1990 — The Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators receive approval to join the NHL in 1992-93.

1992 — Jerry Rice becomes the NFL’s career leader in touchdown receptions with his 101st scoring pass during the fourth quarter of the San Francisco 49ers’ 27-3 victory over Miami. Rice surpassed Steve Largent’s mark of 100.

1992 — Jim Courier rebounds from a slow start to beat Switzerland’s Jakob Hlasek in four sets as the United States recaptures the Davis Cup.

1998 — Denver with a 35-31 comeback win over Kansas City, becomes the third 13-0 team in NFL history. The Broncos join the 1934 Chicago Bears and 1972 Miami Dolphins.

2000 — Golden State’s Antawn Jamison and the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant each scored 51 points, including trading six straight scores in the final two minutes of overtime. It’s Jamison’s second 51-point performance in four days, and Bryant’s career high. But Jamison earns extra satisfaction as the Warriors prevail 125-122 over Los Angeles. It’s the first time in 38 years two players score 50 in the same game.

2003 — Army becomes the first team to finish 0-13 in major college history after a 34-6 loss to Navy.

2005 — Philadelphia wins the first scoreless NHL game that is decided by a shootout, beating Calgary 1-0. Philadelphia’s Antero Niittymaki stops 28 shots in regulation and overtime and all three during the shootout.

2008 — USC beats UCLA 28-7 to win its record seventh straight Pac-10 championship. The Trojans (11-1) also have won 11 or more games in seven straight seasons — another record.

2009 — Switzerland’s Carlo Janka wins the giant slalom to become the first man in more than 2 1/2 years with three consecutive World Cup victories. Janka won the super combined event two days earlier and the downhill yesterday.

2009 — Drew Brees is 35 for 49 for 419 yards with two touchdowns and one interception as New Orleans stays undefeated with a 33-30 overtime win at Washington. New Orleans and Indianapolis both improve to 12-0, marking the first time in NFL history that two teams are unbeaten this late in the season.

2009 — Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre sets an NFL record by playing in his 283rd consecutive game, a 30-17 loss to Arizona. The 40-year-old Favre breaks the record of 282 held by longtime Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall.

2013 — Jennifer O’Neill scores a career-high 43 points, including the go-ahead basket in the fourth overtime, and No. 5 Kentucky beats No. 9 Baylor 133-130 in the highest-scoring Division I women’s game in history. The previous high for a Division I women’s game was 252 points in SMU’s 127-125 win over TCU, also in four overtimes, on Jan. 25, 1997.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Gil Hodges competes on “Home Run Derby.” 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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