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The Sports Report: Rams lose (drop to No. 4 seed); Chargers lose (out of playoffs)

Marcus Mariota leaps over Chargers safety Alohi Gilman in the second half.
(David Becker / Associated Press)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Jeff Miller on the Chargers: The Chargers would be delighted with that tie now.

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In a game they simply could not lose and still advance to the playoffs, the Chargers lost Sunday to Las Vegas 35-32 in overtime.

The defeat ended their season at 9-8 as they dropped three of their final four games to spoil coach Brandon Staley’s first season.

Entering Sunday night, the Chargers would have moved on with a win or a tie. In fact, both the Chargers and Raiders would have advanced with a tie, that odd scenario sparking much discussion around the league in advance of the kickoff.

Nearly four hours later, the exact possibility unfolded at Allegiant Stadium.

After tying 29-29 through regulation, both teams kicked field goals on their first possessions of the extra session.

The Raiders then took over at their own 25-yard line with 4:30 to play. Las Vegas picked up one first down while advancing into Chargers’ territory as the two-minute warning arrived.

Coming out of the break, the Raiders ran the ball twice from just inside midfield as it appeared both teams were content to allow the clock to continue running.

But after the second play, as Las Vegas was lining up, the Chargers called time out. Third-eight seconds remained.

On third-and-four at the 39-yard line, the Raiders converted on a 10-yard run by Josh Jacobs, making a tie-breaking field goal a much more likely possibility.

Las Vegas let the clock run down to two seconds, called timeout and summoned kicker Daniel Carlson. His 47-yard field goal broke what would have been a triumphant double tie.

So, just like that, an historical NFL regular season ended in a fashion almost hysterical.

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RAMS

Gary Klein on the Rams: Sound the alarm.

Not the piercing, clear-the-building variety that rang through SoFi Stadium on Sunday about 45 minutes after the Rams lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 27-24, in overtime.

No, the warning signs, if not the sounds, were loud and clear long before Rams coach Sean McVay and players appeared briefly to answer questions about what it felt like to back into the NFC West title and blow a golden opportunity to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.

“In the moment right now, this is a tough feeling,” said McVay, whose voice could not disguise his seething beneath the surface.

McVay had reason to be angry.

It was his sixth consecutive loss against 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, his friend, mentor and — because of a three-season drought against the 49ers — his nemesis. It also marked the first time the Rams lost under McVay after leading at halftime, a streak of 43 games.

How costly was the defeat?

Well, nobody was celebrating that the Rams won their third division title in five seasons under McVay by virtue of the Arizona Cardinals’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

The Rams (12-5) fell to No. 4 in the seedings and will play the fifth-seeded Cardinals in an NFC wild-card game next Monday night at SoFi Stadium.

Despite Sunday’s defeat, the Rams will be ready for the playoffs, quarterback Matthew Stafford said.

“The biggest thing is we’re a resilient bunch,” said Stafford, who passed for three touchdowns with two interceptions, including one in overtime to seal the loss. “We have been all year, whether we’re playing at home, playing on the road, things are going our way, things aren’t going our way; we continue to battle.

“That’s what it takes to win games in the playoffs.”

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Rams’ 27-24 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers by the numbers

Photos: Rams lose to NFC West rival 49ers in overtime

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NFL PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Wild-card round

Saturday
Las Vegas at Cincinnati, 1:30 p.m., NBC
New England at Buffalo, 5:15 p.m., CBS

Sunday
Philadelphia at Tampa Bay, 10 a.m., Fox
San Francisco at Dallas, 1:30 p.m., CBS
Pittsburgh at Kansas City, 5:15 p.m., NBC

Monday, Jan. 17
Arizona at Rams, 5:15 p.m., ABC, ESPN

Note: Super Bowl is Sunday, Feb. 13 on NBC.

LAKERS

Dan Woike on the Lakers: LeBron James took the pass and determinedly bounced the ball three times with his left hand before a slippery crossover dribble left Kyle “Slow-Mo” Anderson positive that he has the proper nickname. The Lakers’ 37-year-old star jetted into the paint, jumped and cocked the ball back before a ferocious dunk on Jaren Jackson Jr.

It cut the Memphis lead to 20.

That James was spectacular – and he was as good as ever Sunday night against the Grizzlies – only served to contrast how miserable every other player in uniform was.

The scorching Malik Monk dramatically cooled and could barely connect. The recently dependable Avery Bradley couldn’t get the ball through the basket. And Russell Westbrook’s impact on the game would’ve been impossible to spot if his missed jumpers weren’t so wildly off target.

James did some of everything on offense, winning above the rim and bailing his team out with wild one-handed push shots from three-point range to beat the shot clock. He scored 35 points on 14-of-19 shooting. The other four starters? They combined to miss 31 shots against only eight makes.

But the Lakers’ flaws were too apparent, at least somewhat exposed by an opponent with little fear, of their older and slower competition. The Lakers lost 127-119, a game where they trailed by as many as 29 after allowing the Grizzlies to scored 80 total points combined in the second and third quarters.

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L.A. native John Block was ‘difference-maker’ in Bucks ending Lakers’ 33-game winning streak

50 years ago: Lakers win record-setting 33rd game in a row

CLIPPERS

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: Since Amir Coffey entered the NBA in 2019, his career has revolved around always saying yes.

If the Clippers need minutes at shooting guard, small forward or even power forward, Coffey has happily obliged. Shuttling between his third G League season and the NBA? He’ll jump on the next bus to Ontario. Such dependability and versatility made him the closest thing to the Clippers’ Swiss Army knife — if they were 6 feet 7 and made in Minnesota.

By flashing another tool in his skill set amid a badly needed Clippers victory over Atlanta, the usually understated Coffey made a different kind of statement Sunday. To any questions of whether Coffey could continue to step in and make a difference, expanding his game in his third season, his teammates and coach offered a resounding answer to both: Yes.

Coffey’s 21 points and five three-pointers tied career highs and his rare usage as a ballhandler early on, probing weak spots in Atlanta’s porous defense, propelled the Clippers to a 106-93 win to break a three-game losing streak and a five-game skid at Crypto.com Arena.

KINGS

Helene Elliott on the Kings: Marc Bergevin, who was fired by the Montreal Canadiens in November after more than nine seasons as their general manager, has been hired by the Kings to be senior advisor to general manager Rob Blake.

The addition of Bergevin to the Kings’ front office in an advisory capacity was announced by the Kings on Sunday. A news release distributed by the club said that it would not disclose additional details and that Bergevin was not available to the media for interviews.

“Marc brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our hockey operations staff and will be a valuable addition to our group,” Blake said in the news release. “We look forward to his contributions.”

DUCKS

Rookie Trevor Zegras had a goal and an assist before scoring again in the shootout, leading the Ducks to a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in a game that was rescheduled due to Anaheim’s COVID-19 problems.

Lukáš Dostál made 33 saves and won his NHL debut for Anaheim with two stops in the tiebreaker. Troy Terry got his 22nd goal and Max Comtois also scored for the Ducks, who won for just the second time in six games since the holiday break.

After Zegras scored in the second round of the shootout, Rickard Rakell finished it off with a goal. Rakell also had two assists in a matchup initially scheduled for Thursday.

“I think the lack of practice time has built up on us, but we were able to survive it and we were able to get both points,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “That’s the most important thing, but it really was the first time all season I thought we looked tired.”

FIGURE SKATING

Helene Elliott on figure skating: Jason Brown’s nomination to the U.S. team for the Beijing Olympics was a firm vote for artistry and the “skating” part of figure skating, though it’s unlikely Brown will win a medal in a sport that values showy quadruple jumps over the nuanced beauty he creates with every step and spin.

On Sunday, the final day of the U.S. championships, the committee charged with nominating three men for the Beijing singles competition was handed one easy decision. They nailed the landing. Nathan Chen, who won his sixth straight U.S. title despite falling twice during his free skate to a medley of Elton John songs, was given the chance to improve on his fifth-place finish at the 2018 Olympics. The competition between Chen and two-time defending gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan should be a highlight of the Winter Games.

“Yuzuru is constantly pushing the sport forward in his own way,” Chen said. “Long before I even competed against him, he was sort of that benchmark for what an exceptional figure skater should be.”

After Chen, who earned a two-day total of 328.01 points, the selection process became complicated.

Brown fell on the only quadruple jump he attempted but received high marks for his skating skills, transitions, performance, composition and interpretation of the music from “Schindler’s List.” He finished fourth, with 289.78 points. Vincent Zhou, second after the short program, experienced a meltdown in his free skate and underrotated many of his jumps, dropping him to third with 290.16 points. And 17-year-old Ilia Malinin announced his arrival by delivering an eye-popping four-quad effort Sunday to finish second with 302.48 points.

Malinin, whose parents were skaters in Uzbekistan, can jump with the world’s best. Yet the selection committee, which considered the body of each skaters’ work, went with the experience of Zhou, who finished sixth at the 2018 Games, and Brown, 27, who placed ninth in 2014. “I think Team USA has all its bases covered with us three,” Zhou said.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1972 — The longest winning streak in major pro sports — 33 games — ends when the Bucks beat the Lakers 120-104 behind 39 points by Milwaukee’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

1980 — Goaltender Jim Stewart, in his first and only game with the Boston Bruins, yields three goals in the first four minutes and five in the first period. He’s replaced and never plays in the NHL again.

1982 — Joe Montana’s third touchdown pass of the game, a 6-yarder to Dwight Clark, with 51 seconds remaining, lifts the San Francisco 49ers to 28-27 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC title game.

1998 — Michelle Kwan receives eight perfect 6.0s out of nine marks for artistry in the free skate to win her second U.S. Figure Skating Championship in three years.

2002 — Todd Eldredge wins his sixth U.S. Figure Skating Championships title. After skipping two seasons of competition, Eldredge edges defending champion Tim Goebel.

2004 — Michelle Kwan wins her seventh straight title and eighth overall at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Only one of the sport’s greats, Maribel Vinson, has more U.S. championships, with nine.

2006 — Bruce Sutter is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the fourth reliever and first pitcher elected with no career starts.

2008 — Alex Ovechkin signs a $124 million, 13-year contract extension with the Washington Capitals, the NHL’s first $100 million deal.

2009 — Arizona, the lone NFC team not to make it to a conference championship game since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, gets to host its’ first NFC championship game after a 33-13 win at Carolina.

2010 — Karlos Dansby’s 17-yard fumble return for a touchdown in overtime gives the Arizona Cardinals a 51-45 victory over the Green Bay Packers in the highest-scoring playoff game in NFL history.

2011 — Top-ranked Auburn beats No. 2 Oregon 22-19 in the BCS title game. Wes Byrum’s 19-yard field goal with no time left — his sixth career game-winning field goal — caps a 14-0 season.

2015 — North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz runs 5 yards for the winning touchdown about a minute after Tre Roberson’s 58-yard run puts Illinois State ahead, and the Bison became the first team to win four straight FCS championships with a thrilling 29-27 victory.

2015 — Tom Brady sets a career record for postseason touchdown passes, leading New England back from two 14-point deficits for a 35-31 victory over Baltimore. Brady breaks Joe Montana’s record with 46 postseason TD passes and the Patriots reaches their fourth straight AFC championship game.

2016 — Blair Walsh’s 27-yard field goal try into the frigid wind for Minnesota hooks left with 22 seconds remaining, handing the Seattle Seahawks a 10-9 victory over the Vikings in their wild-card round playoff game in below-zero weather.

2016 — Alex Ovechkin scores his 500th and 501st goals to become the 43rd NHL player to reach the milestone, and the Washington Capitals beat the Ottawa Senators 7-1.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Joe Montana to Dwight Clark. “The Catch.” 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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