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Once super-looking Rams, Chargers have run into slumps and are losing ground

The Green Bay Packers' Kenny Clark sacks the Rams' Matthew Stafford in the second half.
The Green Bay Packers’ Kenny Clark sacks the Rams’ Matthew Stafford in the second half.
(Matt Ludtke / Associated Press)

Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that people could at least mention the remote possibility of a Rams-Chargers Super Bowl without getting laughed out of the room?

Not now.

The Rams have lost three in a row, including Sunday’s 36-28 humbling at Green Bay. The Chargers have dropped four of six, falling at Denver, 28-13.

Heading into the stretch run of the NFL regular season, these teams are stranded in the parking lot with no jumper cables.

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There’s time to recover, yes, but these days the local teams put the L and A in BLAH.

Begin with the quarterbacks. Two stars. Both pivotal to the rollicking starts of their teams, at one point even dueling most valuable player candidates, with Matthew Stafford’s Rams bursting out of the gates at 7-1 and Justin Herbert’s Chargers opening 4-1.

The Rams were beaten soundly by the Packers in Green Bay and suffered a third consecutive loss for only the second time in the Sean McVay era. Matthew Stafford’s interception problems continue.

Both Stafford and Herbert watched in horror Sunday as their intercepted passes were returned for touchdowns. Stafford has been torched by a pick-six three games in a row. This season was supposed to be Stafford’s escape from Detroit.

What the last three games have shown is Stafford isn’t so much a surgeon with pinpoint precision on his short passes, but a tough guy with a tremendous arm who’s at his best making those big throws over the top. At least two of his throws, while they weren’t intercepted, tickled the fingertips of Green Bay defenders.

All that talk last week about the broken toe of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and yet in this game, the Rams were all thumbs. Two lost fumbles and an interception.

It’s really hard to establish a passing game without the threat of being able to run. Hard as they tried, the Rams couldn’t muster enough of a ground game against the Packers to jump start the play-action passing attack.

Also, the Rams are getting a weekly reminder of the value of Robert Woods, done for the season because of an ACL injury. Newly acquired Odell Beckham Jr. can’t pick up that slack, and second-year Van Jefferson isn’t ready to do so either, and that allows defenses to put the clamps on the otherwise highly prolific Cooper Kupp.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) is pulled down by Denver Broncos defensive end DeShawn Williams.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) is pulled down by Denver Broncos defensive end DeShawn Williams.
(Jack Dempsey / Associated Press)

In the third quarter, Green Bay’s Rasul Douglas stepped in front of a pass for Kupp, intercepted it and returned it 33 yards for his first NFL touchdown.

“Cooper Kupp, don’t he got like 10,000 yards receiving already in like eight weeks?” Douglas joked after the game.

Maybe so, but that feels like a different season ago.

Beckham had a 54-yard touchdown Sunday, his first with the Rams, but was largely an afterthought otherwise, with 27 yards on his other four catches. Regardless, the Rams didn’t give up anything but money to sign him as a free agent.

Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Rams’ 36-28 road loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday — scoring and statistics.

That wasn’t the case with linebacker Von Miller. The Rams essentially rented him for the rest of the season and surrendered a significant amount to get him, sending second- and third-round draft picks to the Broncos.

Miller had three tackles and two assists Sunday, and when he did get to Rodgers, he was flagged for a late hit. And remember, Rodgers is playing behind a patchwork offensive line. The Rams sacked him once.

“We’re going to continue to learn from these things, that’s the only thing that you can do,” Rams coach Sean McVay, speaking in general about the loss. “But we’ve got to stop with some of these self-inflicted wounds.”

Just as in their previous game, a loss at San Francisco, the Rams were on the wrong side of keep-away. The Packers, as with the 49ers, had the ball for two-thirds of the game.

The Chargers and Broncos essentially were tied in time of possession, but Denver gained 147 yards on the ground and converted eight of 11 third downs.

Coming into their previous game, at home against Pittsburgh, the Chargers had the league’s worst run defense. The Steelers didn’t even try to run, gaining 55 yards in 18 carries, but that was less about the Chargers and more about Pittsburgh’s shoddy offensive line and the game turning into a shootout. The Chargers are still last against the run.

Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Chargers’ 28-13 road loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday — scoring and statistics.

So, broadly speaking, the Rams can’t seem to run and the Chargers can’t seem to stop it.

For the Rams, there’s a bit of hope on the horizon. They play host to Jacksonville on Sunday, and the Jaguars will be coming off a 21-14 home loss to Atlanta.

The rest of the Rams’ schedule is beastly: at Arizona, Seattle, at Minnesota, at Baltimore, San Francisco. This is not the time to be grappling with identity issues.

The Chargers have a slightly more inviting finish, but certainly not an easy one: at Cincinnati, New York Giants, Kansas City, at Houston, Denver, Las Vegas.

But all that stuff about a dream showdown in February between the L.A. teams in their home stadium?

It’s SoFi, not SciFi.


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