The Sports Report: Did the Rams trade Jared Goff for Jared Goff 2.0?
Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.
Bill Plaschke on the Rams: He is spectacular and terrible. He inspires and infuriates. He thrills and taunts.
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He is a quarterback who leads the Rams amid great suspense, their fate resting on shoulders that might steel or slump, everybody cautious, nobody certain, and all of it very familiar.
A year ago, this was Jared Goff.
Today, this is Matthew Stafford.
You’re kidding, right?
The Rams traded two first-round picks and a third-round pick for a quarterback who enters the postseason in the same pickle that pretty much described the career of the previous Rams quarterback?
The Rams traded Goff for … Goff?
The situation is not nearly that egregious, of course, but the Rams are heading into Monday night’s NFC wild-card game against the Arizona Cardinals with a quarterback who has too often complemented his brilliance with brain cramps, a guy who has occasionally resembled Goff in all but one category.
Goff won three playoff games. Stafford has yet to win one.
For the Rams to consider that bold trade and this pressurized season a success, Stafford needs to change that narrative now.
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Jeff Miller on the Chargers: Brandon Staley’s fourth-down decisions were a season-long story around the Chargers.
“What we’re trying to do is give our team the best chance to win,” Staley said Wednesday. “I think we’ve been transparent about our process and owning the mistakes if they happen.”
After the Chargers ended with a 9-8 record, here’s a closer look at fourth-and-Staley, just one of the themes that emerged during his rookie season as a head coach:
—The Chargers’ offense started the season by converting its first seven fourth-down tries and finished by converting eight of its final nine.
—Overall, the team was 22 of 34 (64.7%), that percentage tying New England for fourth-best in the NFL.
—Only two teams — Detroit and Chicago — went for it more often on fourth down than the Chargers did. L.A.'s 22 conversions led the league.
To read the rest, click here.
NFL PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE
All times Pacific
Las Vegas at Cincinnati, 1:30 p.m., NBC, Cincinnati favored by 5 1/2 points
New England at Buffalo, 5:15 p.m., CBS, Buffalo by 4
Philadelphia at Tampa Bay, 10 a.m., Fox, Tampa Bay by 8 1/2
San Francisco at Dallas, 1:30 p.m., CBS, Dallas by 3
Pittsburgh at Kansas City, 5:15 p.m., NBC, Kansas City by 12 1/2
Arizona at Rams, 5:15 p.m., ABC, ESPN, Rams by 4
Note: Super Bowl is Sunday, Feb. 13 on NBC.
Andrew Greif on the Clippers: It was a Clippers game in New Orleans, which meant the two most apt words to describe another Pelicans victory were, again, big and easy.
And it all stemmed by another first half in which Clippers points were, again, few and difficult to come by.
New Orleans’ 113-89 win was its fourth consecutive against the Clippers at Smoothie King Center — and fifth straight overall — by double digits, and if that seems like an uncomfortable trend, it has nothing on the way the Clippers’ offense sputtered for a second straight game before halftime.
A 28-point first half Tuesday against Denver set the stage for a dramatic 25-point comeback, marking only the third time this season in 21 tries that the Clippers have won after trailing entering the fourth quarter.
UCLA MEN’S BASKETBALL
Ben Bolch on the Bruins: UCLA and Oregon have waged some epic battles in recent years, the memory bank filled with a Dillon Brooks last-second shot, some unprintable words from Lonzo Ball after burying a 30-footer and Prince Ali yelling “This is highway robbery, baby!” in a hallway after the Bruins had come back from nine points down with 51 seconds left.
For 39½ minutes Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion, what happened between the teams didn’t appear destined to go into any scrapbook. More like the scrap heap, as far as the Bruins were concerned.
Playing in front of only a smattering of fans in the wake of the worsening COVID-19 pandemic, No. 3 UCLA turned in a listless second half, finding itself down by four points with 35 seconds left.
The third-ranked Bruins woke up quickly. Jaylen Clark jolted them back to life with two steals to force overtime.
Unfortunately for UCLA, the reprieve was only temporary. The Bruins couldn’t get enough defensive stops in the extra period, falling, 84-81, in their first defeat since late November.
“It’s an abomination, it’s embarrassing,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said of his team’s defensive effort. “I’ll fix it, though. We weren’t prepared, it’s my fault, my job.”
USC MEN’S BASKETBALL
Ryan Kartje on the Trojans: Returning home was supposed to offer a welcomed respite, a soft, familiar landing spot for USC to pick itself up after falling flat in its first loss of the season.
Instead, the Trojans came home to a cold, empty arena and a cold, lifeless offense. After its undefeated start unraveled in Palo Alto, USC returned to the same issues against Oregon State that plagued its loss to Stanford, begging questions of whether the Trojans were bound for a bounce-back performance or set to slip even further from the pedestal they’d built over the season’s first two months.
The answer arrived just in the nick of time for an 81-71 victory on Thursday, as Isaiah Mobley maneuvered deftly through a packed lane with three minutes remaining and his back to the hoop, spinning through Beaver defenders on back-to-back possessions for two straight scores, finally giving USC the breathing room it needed.
USC’s leading scorer had been quiet all throughout the Trojans’ narrow, comeback victory, scoring just seven points before the final three minutes. Until Mobley took matters into his own hands, USC had scrounged together a group effort as best it could, trading roles throughout. Boogie Ellis, who finished with 14, kept the Trojans afloat early. Chevez Goodwin, who tallied his second double-double of the season with 20 points and 11 rebounds, kept them alive late.
Until Mobley put them away late, it was a reenergized defensive effort down the stretch that saw USC climb back into a game that it once trailed by double-digits. After a Beaver barrage from the perimeter early on, USC’s defense kept them completely at bay in the second, as Oregon State knocked down just 33% from the field after halftime.
That’s when USC finally started to find its stride, before finishing on an 11-0 run.
Ryan Kartje on the Trojans: After a lost season that began with his arrest and temporary removal from USC’s football team, Bru McCoy has entered the NCAA transfer portal, ending a tumultuous three-year tenure with the Trojans.
The former five-star receiver was expected to step into a major role on USC’s offense in 2021 but never took the field after a July 24 arrest on suspicion of felony intimate partner violence. McCoy was removed from USC’s roster soon after, as both the Los Angeles district attorney’s office and USC’s Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX continued to investigate the incident.
The district attorney’s office declined to file charges against McCoy last August, citing “insufficient evidence.” But USC continued to investigate, and McCoy ultimately never returned to the football field.
UCLA-USC WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
Thuc Nhi Nguyen on the Bruins and Trojans: USC came back from its COVID-19 pause in style.
After knocking off previously undefeated Arizona on Sunday in their second game after a three-week hiatus, USC players received a special gift from coach Lindsay Gottlieb. Stacks of orange Nike shoeboxes were wheeled onto the court at Galen Center after practice on Tuesday — the team’s first since a 76-67 win over the Wildcats — and players chest-bumped and high-fived as they revealed cardinal and gold low-top Nike Dunks.
The delayed holiday presents and signature victory eased the sting of an otherwise difficult past month for USC as COVID-19 protocols forced the team off the court. With new kicks and new confidence, the Trojans hope to carry their momentum into a home series against Washington State on Friday at 7 p.m. and Washington at noon on Sunday.
While the Trojans can savor their first top-five win since 2014, UCLA is struggling to find its footing after a four-week break. After a Dec. 11 loss to Connecticut, the Bruins didn’t return to game action until Jan. 9, losing 71-63 to Colorado. The pandemic, coupled with a rash of preseason injuries, has thrown a wrench in UCLA’s once-promising season.
“It just seems the hits just keep coming,” said coach Cori Close, whose team was ranked 20th in the Associated Press preseason poll. “But the reality is I can’t focus on that. I can’t give my energy to things that I just can’t control.”
UCLA will have its first home games since Dec. 5 this weekend, hosting Washington at 7 p.m. on Friday and Washington State on Sunday. General fans are barred from attending games at Galen Center and Pauley Pavilion because of the national COVID-19 surge that began last month.
Mikey Anderson, Viktor Arvidsson and Anze Kopitar scored in a span of 1:23 of the third period and the Kings won their third straight, 6-2 over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Dustin Brown had a goal and an assist to reach 700 career points, Sean Durzi had a goal and two assists, and the Kings went 5-2-0 on their seven-game homestand. Jonathan Quick made 27 saves.
Kris Letang and Radim Zohorna scored for the Penguins, who have lost two of three following a 10-game winning streak. Tristan Jarry allowed six goals on 45 shots.
Shortly after the Penguins tied it at 2 only 1:37 into the third on Zohorna’s one-timer, the Kings seized control for good. Anderson reclaimed the lead with his first of the year on a shot from the blue line that Jarry seemed to lose track of. Arvidsson made it 4-2 on a one-timer 10 seconds later, and Kopitar got his second goal and third point at 4:30 to cap off the scoring blitz.
Helene Elliott on hockey: With NHL players staying home from the Beijing Olympics, USA Hockey selected a men’s roster that will be comprised of 15 college players, eight players who have been playing in Europe, and two players from the American Hockey League.
The average age of the 14 forwards, eight defensemen and three goaltenders who will represent Team USA will be 25.1 years old, the youngest team since 1994. Only one player, forward Brian O’Neill, will return from the 2018 men’s team that finished seventh in Pyeongchang, Korea.
Brendan Brisson of Manhattan Beach and the University of Michigan, a first-round pick of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2020, is part of the college contingent.
Baseball labor talks to end the lockout resumed Thursday for the first time in 1½ months with little evident progress during a bargaining session that lasted about an hour, jeopardizing a timely start to spring training,
Major League Baseball imposed the lockout on Dec. 2 as soon as the five-year collective bargaining contract expired, a few hours after talks broke off.
The discussions Thursday were the first on core economic issues following a 42-day gap, and MLB made proposals it hoped would at least start to generate momentum.
After MLB made its proposal, the sides caucused. The players’ association then told MLB it will respond but did not commit to a specific date.
Mike DiGiovanna on the Angels: Patrick O’Neal, who spent the previous eight years as host of the Angels’ pregame and postgame shows, will move to the booth to serve as a part-time play-by-play announcer, the team and Bally Sports West announced Thursday.
O’Neal will rotate with Matt Vasgersian, who returns for his second season as lead play-by-play announcer but is unable to work full time because of his duties with MLB Network. Former big league pitcher Mark Gubicza will return for his 16th season as Angels color commentator.
Kevin Baxter on soccer: Erick “Cubo” Torres had quite a soccer debut in Southern California, scoring the winning goal in his first game with Chivas USA. That was more than eight years ago, and Chivas USA is gone now. But Torres is back, with the Orange County Soccer Club announcing Thursday it has signed the former Mexican national team forward for 2022.
Terms of the deal were not announced, but the acquisition is among the biggest in history for the USL Championship team, the reigning champion of the second-tier league. Torres appeared in more than 260 club games in all competition in both Mexico and the U.S. over the last 12 seasons, with his 38 goals in MLS ranking second among Mexican-born players to LAFC’s Carlos Vela.
THIS DATE IN SPORTS
1943 — Montreal’s Alex Smart scores three goals in his first NHL game and leads the Canadiens to a 5-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.
1962 — Margaret Smith wins her third straight Australian Open with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Jan Lehane.
1968 — The Green Bay Packers win their second straight Super Bowl. The game draws the first $3 million gate in football history. Bart Starr, the game’s MVP, completes 13 of 24 passes for 202-yards.
1973 — The Miami Dolphins, who went 14-0 in the regular season and won two playoff games, beat the Washington Redskins 14-7 in the Super Bowl to become the only undefeated team in NFL history.
1990 — Joe Montana sets an NFL record when he tosses his 30th and 31st postseason touchdown passes as the San Francisco 49ers beat the Rams 30-3 in the NFC championship game. Terry Bradshaw had thrown 30.
1990 — John Elway passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns as the Denver Broncos advance to their fourth Super Bowl with a 37-21 victory over the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Championship.
2001 — Led by Kerry Collins’ five touchdown passes, the New York Giants reach their first Super Bowl in a decade with a 41-0 romp past the hapless Minnesota Vikings — the biggest rout in NFC championship history.
2006 — Johnny Weir win’s his third straight title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and Sasha Cohen takes the women’s division.
2007 — In Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria, Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Kildow captures the top two places in a World Cup super-combi and Resi Stiegler just misses making it an American sweep. The 1-2-4 finish is a first for American women in a World Cup alpine skiing event.
2012 — Tom Brady throws for a record-tying six touchdown passes, five in the first half and three to Rob Gronkowski, to lead the New England Patriots to a 45-10 win over Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos in the divisional playoffs.
2012 — Alex Smith completes a 14-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis with 9 seconds left just after Drew Brees put the high-powered Saints ahead, and the resurgent San Francisco 49ers capitalize on five New Orleans turnovers for a thrilling 36-32 playoff victory.
2017 — Top-ranked UConn breaks its own NCAA record with its 91st consecutive victory, scoring the first 21 points and romping past SMU 88-48. Coach Geno Auriemma and the Huskies (16-0) surpass the record of 90 that his team first accomplished more than six years ago. The four-time defending national champion Huskies haven’t lost a game since falling in overtime at sixth-ranked Stanford on Nov. 17, 2014.
2017 — New England’s Dion Lewis becomes the first in NFL postseason history to have a rushing TD, receiving TD and kickoff return for a TD in a single game, which led to the Patriots’ 34-16 division playoff win over Houston.
Supplied by the Associated Press
The Dolphins complete a perfect season. Watch and listen here.
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