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The Sports Report: Rams get important win over Arizona

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford hands the ball off to Rams running back Sony Michel.
Matthew Stafford hands the ball off to Rams running back Sony Michel during the first half.
(Ralph Freso / Associated Press)

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

Gary Klein on the Rams: They departed Los Angeles for Arizona with running back Darrell Henderson, right tackle Rob Havenstein and rotational cornerback Donte Deayon on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

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A few hours before kickoff on Monday night against the NFC-West leading Arizona Cardinals, star cornerback Jalen Ramsey and tight end Tyler Higbee also were placed on the list.

A showdown with Cardinals – a true measuring-stick game for the Rams -- had all the makings of a Cardinals rout.

But the Rams did not flinch. Instead, they secured a spot on the shortlist of Super Bowl contenders.

Matthew Stafford passed for three touchdowns, linebackers Ernest Jones and Leonard Floyd set up touchdowns with interceptions and the Rams’ pass rush finally started to come together in a 30-23 victory at State Farm Stadium.

Aaron Donald has three sacks and Matt Gay kicked three field goals as the Rams improved their record to 9-4, and kept alive their chances of winning the NFC West – and possibly more.

“Unbelievable job by our team,” coach Sean McVay said, adding, “There’s so many guys that contributed….This was the sign of a mentally tough team.”

With so many key players not available, a Rams team that was built to play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium did not necessarily look like one when the game began. But McVay guided his team to their most important victory of the season.

The Cardinals (10-3, 4-1 in the division) could have clinched a playoff spot and held onto the top-seed for the NFC playoffs.

But the Rams spoiled the party and improved to 2-2 in the division with four games left.

The Rams play the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at SoFi Stadium. They play on the road at Minnesota and Baltimore before returning home for the season finale against the San Francisco 49ers.

And they are feeling confident after earning their first victory over a team with a winning record since a Week 3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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Sam Farmer: In win over Cardinals, Matthew Stafford reminds everyone why Rams traded for him

Rams’ 30-23 road win over Arizona Cardinals by the numbers

NFL requiring coaches and team staff to get COVID-19 booster shots

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USC FOOTBALL

Ryan Kartje on the Trojans: Kedon Slovis was an overlooked and underappreciated three-star prospect when, in September 2019, he was abruptly thrust into the spotlight as a true freshman, forced to take over in the season opener for injured JT Daniels.

Expectations, at the time, were low. But for the better part of the next three seasons, as Slovis took hold of his opportunity and transformed into a two-time All-Pac-12 passer and potential NFL prospect, he never relinquished the reins as quarterback and guided USC during three tumultuous seasons. He was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in his first season, led the Trojans to a Pac-12 title game during his second, pandemic-altered campaign and then helped usher them through an emotional coaching change as a junior, all the while watching his hold on the job slip away.

Slovis officially entered the NCAA transfer portal on Monday, a decision that seemed assured since the sudden arrival this fall of freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart. For Slovis, it marked a bittersweet conclusion to an uneven tenure as the Trojans’ signal caller. He passed for 7,576 yards and 58 touchdowns during his three seasons at USC, totals that rank among the top seven in school history. Early on, it seemed Slovis was a diamond in the rough uncovered by USC and suddenly destined for stardom. But by the end of his final season, it had become clear USC was ready to move forward, and Slovis was ready to move on.

CLIPPERS

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: Half the first quarter was over by the time Kawhi Leonard and Paul George arrived at their sideline seats in street clothes Monday, yet six minutes in, the pair of injured all-stars had missed almost nothing.

Phoenix had made one of its first 13 shots, the Clippers three of their first nine.

This was not quite the rematch envisioned when the NBA scheduled these teams’ first meeting since June’s Western Conference finals, a game as much about everyone who was missing as all the shots that were missing.

With George’s strained elbow costing him a third consecutive game, and Nicolas Batum’s sprained ankle leading to a second straight absence, the Clippers were without 34% of this season’s offense. Starting guard Reggie Jackson did play, scoring 19 points – but looked increasingly labored as the game wore on, after being kneed in the thigh. He said he felt fine afterward, but walked gingerly out of a news conference nonetheless.

Phoenix coach Monty Williams would have loved if only two of his rotation players were missing: The Suns did not have Deandre Ayton, the center whose game-winning, out-of-bounds alley-oop last June haunted the Clippers’ offseason and leading scorer Devin Booker, Frank Kaminsky and Jalen Smith also sat. In all, nearly 49% of Phoenix’s scoring was gone.

It figured that on a night with so many hurt, it was the player who missed nearly a month to regain the strength in a knee who provided the boost the Clippers needed to win their fourth consecutive game, a 111-95 victory.

With spot-up jumpers, off-the-dribble shots and turn-around fades, Marcus Morris Sr. scored a season-high 24 points with 11 rebounds, his first double-double this season and a performance that saw him move with a fluidity that had not been apparent even at the start of December. In a fourth quarter that saw the Clippers outscore Phoenix by six, Morris scored eight points and was central to a 17-6 run that broke the game from an eight-point lead early in the fourth quarter to a blowout.

“When he feels good and everything’s right with him, great player,” Jackson said. “Definitely carried us tonight in stretches when we needed it.”

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Why the NBA killed the Chris Paul trade to Lakers and preferred the Clippers

UCLA FOOTBALL

Ben Bolch on the Bruins: Top UCLA defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia announced Monday on Twitter that he would forgo his final season of eligibility to declare for the NFL draft, potentially leaving a big hole for the team during the Holiday Bowl game later this month.

A senior with one extra season of eligibility remaining because of the COVID-19 extensions granted to every player, Ogbonnia did not specifically mention the bowl game but intimated that he would sit out to “focus on my rehab for an injury that I’ve played with most of the season and begin my draft preparation. This has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, but I’m proud to say that I played in every football game in my time here at UCLA.”

Ogbonnia was the team’s most productive defensive lineman last season, recording 30 tackles — including five for losses and two sacks — in addition to two quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He was also the top chef on the team who routinely cooked a smorgasbord of delicacies for his fellow out-of-state teammates during Thanksgiving week.

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Jason Kaufusi becomes latest member of UCLA’s football staff hired by Arizona

CHARGERS

Jeff Miller on the Chargers: The Chargers announced Monday that they are placing Rashawn Slater on the COVID-19 reserve list.

If Slater is unable to play Thursday night against Kansas City, the Chargers will have a major void to fill at left tackle.

The rookie has been a standout all season, teaming with veteran Matt Feiler to give the Chargers a strong left side of their offensive line.

The No. 13 overall pick in the draft, Slater has played every offensive snap for the Chargers this season.

GYMNASTICS

The legal wrangling between USA Gymnastics and the victims of sexual abuse by former national team doctor Larry Nassar, among others, is over.

The fight for substantive change within the sport’s national governing body is just beginning.

A federal bankruptcy court in Indianapolis on Monday confirmed a $380-million settlement between USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the hundreds of victims, ending one aspect of the fallout of the largest sexual abuse scandal in the history of the U.S. Olympic movement.

Over 90% of the victims, who number more than 500, voted in favor of the tentative agreement reached in September. That agreement called for $425 million in damages, but a modified settlement of $380 million was conditionally approved by the court. More than 300 victims were abused by Nassar, with the remaining victims abused by individuals affiliated with USA Gymnastics in some capacity.

THE YEAR IN REVIEW

2021 sports year in review: The year Simone Biles taught us it’s OK to not be OK

Top 2021 sports moments: UCLA’s Final Four run; Dodgers thrive despite Trevor Bauer

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1920 — Jack Dempsey knocks out Bill Brennan in the 12th round at Madison Square Garden to retain his world heavyweight title.

1933 — Howie Morenz becomes the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorer in the Montreal Canadiens’ 2-0 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Morenz scores the 247th goal of his career to move ahead of Cy Denneny. The milestone comes at the Forum. Montreal’s Lorne Chabot gets the shutout and the a game is played without a penalty being called.

1947 — The Cleveland Browns beat the New York Yankees 14-3 in the second AAFC championship game. It’s the second straight year the two team meet in the title game, with Browns coming out on top again.

1965 — Rookie Rick Barry of the San Francisco Warriors scores 57 points in a 141-137 loss to the New York Knicks.

1975 — Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar grabs an NBA-record 29 defensive rebounds in a 110-100 victory over Detroit.

1982 — Marcel Dionne of the Kings scores his 500th goal in a 7-2 loss to the Washington Capitals. Dionne is the ninth player in NHL history to reach the milestone.

1985 — UCLA beats American University 1-0 in the eighth overtime period, in the longest soccer match held in the United States, to capture the NCAA soccer title.

1986 — Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins sets an NFL record with the seventh 400-yard game of his career as he passes for 403 yards and five touchdowns in a 37-31 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Marino hits Mark Duper with a 20-yard touchdown pass in overtime to win the game.

1991 — Desmond Howard, the nation’s second-leading scorer with 23 TDs, wins the Heisman Trophy by the second-biggest margin in history. The Michigan receiver beats runner-up Casey Weldon of Florida State by 1,574 points.

1995 — The first Division I-A overtime game takes place at the Las Vegas Bowl with Toledo beat Nevada 40-37.

1997 — The New York Jets equal the NFL mark for greatest turnaround in modern NFL history with their 31-0 victory over Tampa Bay. The Jets, 1-15 last season, post their ninth win of the season.

2002 — Marvin Harrison breaks Herman Moore’s 1995 mark of 123 catches. By making nine receptions in a 28-23 win at Cleveland, Harrison reaches 127 with two games remaining. He also gains 172 yards, giving Harrison 1,500 yards for the second straight season, the first player with consecutive 1,500-yard seasons.

2002 — Michael Jordan matches his career low with two points as the Washington Wizards beat the short-handed Toronto Raptors. The 39-year-old Jordan shoots 1-for-9 from the field, but has nine assists and eight rebounds as he matches his season high by playing 40 minutes.

2007 — Appalachian State, which kicked off the football season with the stunning upset of Michigan, ends the season with a historic victory. The Mountaineers are Division I-AA’s first three-peat national champion with a 49-21 win over Delaware.

2008 — Oakland becomes the first team to lose at least 11 games in six straight seasons after their 49-26 loss to New England. The Patriots’ 35 first-half points are the most scored against Oakland since the merger in 1970.

2008 — Pittsburgh holds another team under 300 yards in beating Baltimore 13-9. The Steelers tie the 1973 Los Angeles Rams for the longest streak — 14 games to start a season — since the NFL merger in 1970.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Marcel Dionne was an “offensive genius.” 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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