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The Sports Report: Rams lose, Chargers win

Rams receiver Allen Robinson II catches a pass against Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis III.
(Mark LoMoglio / Associated Press)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Gary Klein: This is becoming a farce.

And not just the Rams’ final desperate play Sunday, a series of passes, laterals and clownish moves designed to perhaps generate another miracle against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

No, an offense and play-caller once feared around the NFL are beyond stagnant. Touchdowns are rarities, the rushing attack no threat. Even 10 yards for a game-clinching first down is apparently too much to ask.

Coach Sean McVay and the defending Super Bowl champion Rams are clearly in the throes of a Super Bowl hangover.

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They also are at a crossroads.

After a 16-13 loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday — another Tom Brady-engineered beauty for anyone not associated with the Rams — Los Angeles’ record dropped to 3-5.

“It’s a sick feeling,” McVay said.

That comment harked to McVay circa February 2019 and the moments after Brady led the New England Patriots to victory over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

McVay and the Rams rebounded. They rebuilt themselves to win Super Bowl LVI. Along the way, they beat Brady and the Buccaneers three times in the previous two seasons.

But with nine games remaining, this offense is not close to competent let alone playoff-caliber.

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Tom Brady makes best (drive) of bad situation in Tampa’s comeback win over Rams

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CHARGERS

From Jeff Miller: Before the game Sunday, he’s pretty sure very few players in his locker room knew his name.

Afterward, two of those total-stranger teammates were hoisting Cameron Dicker onto their shoulders in delirious triumph.

In what has to be one of the oddest, most spectacularly implausible moments in NFL history, Dicker kicked a game-winner for his second team in five weeks, lifting the Chargers past Atlanta 20-17.

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“Very slim,” he said when asked of the chances of someone experiencing what he has recently. “I would not have thought I’d be here. Cool to have these opportunities to be able to go do my thing.”

On Oct. 9, Dicker was an injury replacement for Philadelphia when he booted a 23-yarder with 1:45 remaining to beat Arizona. That contest also ended as a road victory for Dicker’s team by the same 20-17 final.

Those are the only two games in which the rookie kicker out of the University of Texas has appeared.

LAKERS

From Dan Woike: Midway through the fourth quarter Sunday afternoon, Lakers coach Darvin Ham stood near midcourt, slumped slightly to his left with both of his hands in pockets.

There was no magic card to be played, no tweak to be unearthed as his team came face-to-face with one of the best teams in the NBA and retreated into the offensive shell that has been the defining trait of a team now five games below .500.

Only one option presented itself — pull the starters and hope for better on Monday.

A disastrous second half that exposed so many of the Lakers’ weaknesses led to an easy 114-100 win for the ascending Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday at Crypto.com Arena.

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The Lakers? They were left to again deal with familiar problems of the early season, problems that could very well be debilitating flaws without any correction.

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Plaschke: LeBron James says Lakers ‘are who we are’: They stink

CLIPPERS

From Luca Evans: The Clippers’ stalwart point guard whipped out an invisible dictionary.

How could it be possible, through nine games to start the season, that these Clippers were last in the NBA in points per game? In offensive efficiency? These Clippers — even continuing to miss Kawhi Leonard — with Paul George, John Wall, Norman Powell and a crew of veteran talent capable of going for 30 points on any given night?

So guard Reggie Jackson, who has struggled himself to a 36% shooting start from the field, put it extravagantly in the locker room before Sunday night’s game at Crypto.com Arena:

“Definitely, it’s an oxymoron,” Jackson said. “All the talent we’ve acquired, all of the offensive firepower we have, we [have] one of the worst offensive ratings. So, it’s just a little ironic.”

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Not one of — the worst, actually, heading into Sunday night’s game against the upstart Utah Jazz. Superstar George had done his part, averaging 23.8 points a night to start the year, on a tear over his last three games. Something had to give around him. Someone had to give.

But the Clippers just didn’t get enough Sunday, the oxymoron growing, a red-hot George accounting for 34 of their 102 points only to fall to a feisty Jazz squad that bombed and attacked their way to a 110-102 win.

USC-UCLA FOOTBALL

From J. Brady McCollough: The winner of the USC-UCLA football game will control its own destiny and have a viable path to the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Let that sink in.

The crosstown rivalry will mean much more than bragging rights or bringing home the Victory Bell.

I’ve been ringing this bell for weeks now, trying to jar Trojans and Bruins fans out of their comfort zones. The fan bases couldn’t be more different in so many ways, but lately, with both teams showing surprising might, it’s been shocking to see how much they share. They don’t want to get hurt, so they’d rather protect themselves from caring about competing for a national championship in the country’s second-most popular sport.

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UCLA’s defense must stiffen to win Pac-12: Takeaways from Arizona State win

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Trojans battling through midseason blues: Four takeaways from USC’s win against Cal

LAFC

From Kevin Baxter: LAFC goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau sustained a broken leg in the collision that knocked him out of the club’s MLS Cup victory over the Philadelphia Union, the team said Sunday, announcing that he underwent successful surgery to repair the fracture.

The recovery from surgery will keep Crepeau out of the World Cup later this month in Qatar, where he was expected to play for Canada, and will sideline him for the start of the MLS regular season in February.

HORSE RACING

From John Cherwa: In the crazy business model of thoroughbred racing, a horse is more valuable not racing then they are on the track. So, with that in mind, the sport’s latest superstar, Flightline, was retired on Sunday, one day after a dominating record-setting win the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland Race Course.

It was expected that Flightline would never race again, but the speed with which it was announced by Lane’s End Farm was almost as fast as the undefeated colt ran in his six races.

DUCKS

Sam Reinhart had two third-period goals, Carter Verhaeghe scored for the third straight game and the Florida Panthers beat the Ducks 5-3 on Sunday night.

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Ryan Strome had a goal and an assist, and Adam Henrique and Isac Lundestrom also scored for Anaheim, which had won three of its last four coming in. John Gibson made 41 saves.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1943 — The Detroit Lions and New York Giants play the last scoreless tie in the NFL.

1968 — Red Berenson scores six goals, including four in the second period, to lead the St. Louis Blues to an 8-0 victory over Philadelphia.

1974 — South Africa is awarded the Davis Cup against India. India refuses to play in the final because of its opponent’s apartheid policy. It’s the first time the final is not played.

1985 — Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the former middleweight boxer convicted twice of a triple murder in 1966 and the hero of a Bob Dylan song, is released after 19 years in prison. Carter, 48, is freed after a federal judge rules the boxer and a co-defendant were denied their civil rights by prosecutors during trials in 1967 and 1976.

1991 — Magic Johnson, who helped the Lakers to five NBA championships, announces he has tested positive for the AIDS virus and is retiring.

1998 — Awesome Again steals Skip Away’s thunder and the $5.12 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs with a three-quarter length victory over Silver Charm. Skip Away finishes sixth and misses becoming the first horse to earn $10 million.

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1999 — Tiger Woods becomes the first player since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win four straight tournaments, capturing the American Express Championship.

2003 — The defending champion U.S. baseball team fails to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics, losing to Mexico 2-1 in the quarterfinals of a qualifying tournament in Panama City, Panama.

2008 — Jerry Sloan is the first NBA coach to win 1,000 games with one team when his Utah Jazz beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 104-97. Sloan, 1,000-596 with the Jazz, has an overall coaching record of 1,094-717 with the Jazz and Chicago Bulls.

2009 — Zenyatta comes from last after a poor start and fights off Gio Ponti in the stretch to win the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. The 5-year-old mare, ridden by Mike Smith, beats a loaded field of 11 males and becomes the first female to win the race in its 26-year history.

2010 — Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning starts his 200th consecutive game, a 26-24 loss at Philadelphia. Manning joins Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to start 200 consecutive games.

2016 — Stephen Curry sets an NBA record with 13 3-pointers — one game after missing all his long-range attempts for the first time in two years — and the Golden State Warriors beat the winless New Orleans Pelicans 116-106. Curry finishes with 46 points, three days after his league-record streak of 157 games with at least one 3 was snapped.

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2018 — For the second straight year, France wins the Six Nations Rugby Championship on points difference from Ireland.

2021 — Kyle Larson holds off Martin Trues Jr. in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway to earn his 10th win of the season and claim his first Cup Series championship.

Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

Magic Johnson announces he is HIV positive. 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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