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The Sports Report: Everything on course for a Rams-Chargers Super Bowl (too soon?)

Rams running back Todd Gurley carries the ball during a game against the Panthers on Sept. 8.
Todd Gurley eludes the Panther defense.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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

RAMS

Todd Gurley rushed for 97 yards, backup running back Malcolm Brown scored two touchdowns, Jared Goff passed for a touchdown and Greg Zuerlein kicked three field goals as the Rams defeated the Carolina Panthers, 30-27, in a victory that set up the Rams for next week’s home opener against the New Orleans Saints.

Linebacker Cory Littleton forced and recovered a fumble and also intercepted a pass for a defense that mostly neutralized Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on a day safety Eric Weddle was lost because of a cut to the head and a possible concussion.

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“We can be a lot better,” Littleton said.

That was the prevailing message from players on offense, defense and special teams.

“I’d rather build off what we did wrong off a win than a loss,” defensive tackle Aaron Donald said.

Goff, who completed 23 of 39 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown with an interception, was glad to get the first one out of the way.

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“Your first game of the year, similar to every year, you come out and you think you know what to expect but kind of really don’t until you get out there and go through a few series,” he said.

Column: Rams’ Todd Gurley looks great in spurts, but Malcolm Brown also carries rushing load

Cooper Kupp productive in his first game back from a torn ACL

RAMS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific. Radio: 710 ESPN, 93.1 JACK FM

Rams 30, at Carolina 27
Sunday vs. New Orleans, 1:15 p.m., Fox
Sept. 22 at Cleveland, 5:15 p.m., NBC
Sept. 29 vs. Tampa Bay, 1 p.m., Fox
Oct. 3 at Seattle, 5:15 p.m., Fox, NFL Network
Oct. 13 vs. San Francisco, 1 p.m., Fox

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Oct. 20 at Atlanta, 10 a.m., Fox
Oct. 27 vs. Cincinnati, 10 a.m., CBS (in London, counts as home game for Rams)
Nov. 10 at Pittsburgh, 1:15 p.m., Fox
Nov. 17 vs. Chicago, 5:15 p.m., NBC
Nov. 25 vs. Baltimore, 5:15 p.m., ESPN
Dec. 1 at Arizona, 1 p.m., Fox
Dec. 8 vs. Seattle, 5:15 p.m., NBC
Dec. 15 at Dallas, 1:15 p.m., Fox
Dec. 22 or 23 at San Francisco, TBD
Dec. 29 vs. Arizona, 1:15 p.m., Fox

CHARGERS

After blowing a 15-point third-quarter lead and failing to prevent Indianapolis from tying the score in the final minute, the Chargers asserted their will, driving 75 yards in eight plays to cap the only possession of the extra session in a 30-24 win over the Colts.

“We wanted to end it,” wide receiver Keenan Allen said. “The game was in our hands. We did a great job of finishing.”

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Austin Ekeler, who started only because No. 1 running back Melvin Gordon remains away from the team in a contract dispute, scored the winning touchdown and had three on the day to go with his 154 yards in 18 carries.

“When we went to overtime, we didn’t have any worries in our head,” defensive tackle Justin Jones said. “We knew if the offense didn’t do it, we would. We weren’t leaving without the win today.”

Quarterback Philip Rivers opened his 16th season by completing 25 of 34 pass attempts for 333 yards and three touchdowns.

CHARGERS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific. Radio: KFI-AM 640, KFWB-AM 980

at Chargers 30, Indianapolis 24
Sunday at Detroit, 10 a.m., CBS
Sept. 22 vs. Houston, 1:15 p.m., CBS
Sept. 29 at Miami, 10 a.m., CBS
Oct. 6 vs. Denver, 1 p.m., CBS
Oct. 13 vs. Pittsburgh, 5:15 p.m., NBC
Oct. 20 at Tennessee, 1 p.m., CBS
Oct. 27 at Chicago, 10 a.m., Fox
Nov. 3 vs. Green Bay, 1:15 p.m., CBS
Nov. 10 at Oakland, 5:15 p.m., Fox, NFL Network
Nov. 18 vs. Kansas City, 5:15 p.m., ESPN (at Mexico City, counts as home game for Chargers)
Dec. 1 at Denver, 1:15 p.m., CBS
Dec. 8 at Jacksonville, 1 p.m., Fox
Dec. 15 vs. Minnesota, 5:15 p.m., NBC
Dec. 22 or 23 vs. Oakland, TBD
Dec. 29 at Kansas City, 10 a.m., CBS

SUNDAY’S NFL SCORES

Rams 30, at Carolina 27
at Chargers 30, Indianapolis 24 (OT)
Tennessee 43, at Cleveland 13
Baltimore 59, at Miami 10
at Minnesota 28, Atlanta 12
Buffalo 17, at NY Jets 16
at Philadelphia 32, Washington 27
Kansas City 40, at Jacksonville 26
at Seattle 21, Cincinnati 20
at Dallas 35, NY Giants 17
at Arizona 27, Detroit 27
San Francisco 31, at Tampa Bay 17
at New England 33, Pittsburgh 3

Read all about them here

TODAY’S NFL GAMES

Houston at New Orelans, 4 p.m. PT, ESPN
Denver at Oakland, 7:15 p.m. PT, ESPN

TENNIS

Helene Elliott, on Sunday’s thrilling U.S. Open men’s final: Down two sets and a break in the third against Rafael Nadal, Daniil Medvedev began to compose his concession speech in his head. The 23-year-old Russian planned to thank the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium, which had turned in his favor on Sunday after jeering his rudeness earlier in the U.S. Open, and to say it wasn’t such an awful thing to lose his first Grand Slam final to the great Nadal in straight sets. Medvedev had called Nadal “a beast” a few days ago, and Medvedev was learning how beastly it can be to face the tenacious 33-year-old Spaniard in a major final.

Unexpectedly, wonderfully, fueled by his new friends in the stands, Medvedev got some traction. He mixed up his game so it was more unpredictable, going more to the net and trying slices and drop shots. He pushed Nadal all over the court, sparking a breathless, thrilling charge that pushed Nadal to the limit and delayed that concession speech until Medvedev ran out of ways to tame the beast that is the tireless, timeless Nadal.

Upholding the honor of tennis’ 30-something kings against the generally woeful challenge of the next generation, Nadal stopped the powerful tide of Medvedev’s comeback with a 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 victory that exhausted those who watched almost as much as it drained the men who played it. Nadal won more rallies of five to eight shots and rallies of nine or more shots than Medvedev did, but those exertions took a toll. After dropping to his back on the court to celebrate the end of the 4-hour, 50-minute epic, Nadal rose and stood with his index fingers pointed upward and his face fixed in a grimace. Later, watching a video of his Grand Slam wins, he cried.

“This trophy means everything to me today. Personal satisfaction, the way I resisted all these tough moments, is very high,” Nadal said after he won his fourth championship at Flushing Meadows and 19th Grand Slam singles title. “I normally try to hold the emotions but with all these facts, impossible today.”

Nadal and 32-year-old Novak Djokovic split the four majors this year, with Djokovic winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and Nadal prevailing at the French Open—for the 12th time--and at the U.S. Open. With 19 career major titles Nadal is one behind 38-year-old leader Roger Federer. Would-be successors have come and gone and still the Big Three reign: Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic have won the last 12 straight Grand Slam singles titles and 51 of the last 59 starting with Nadal’s triumph at the 2005 French Open.

Nadal said he’s “honored to be part of this battle,” but he’s not obsessed with winning the most titles or recapturing the No. 1 world ranking. “I would love to be the one who wins more, but I am not thinking and I not going to practice every day or not playing tennis for it. I am playing tennis because I love to play tennis,” he said. “I can’t just think about Grand Slams, no? Tennis is more than Grand Slams. I need to think about the rest of the things. I play to be happy.”

USC FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

All times Pacific. Radio: 790 KABC

USC 31, Fresno State 23
USC 45, Stanford 20
Saturday at BYU, 12:30 p.m., ABC or ESPN or ESPN 2
Sept. 20 vs. Utah, 6 p.m., FS1
Sept. 28 at Washington, TBD
Oct. 12 at Notre Dame, 4:30 p.m. NBC
Oct. 19 vs. Arizona, TBD
Oct. 25 at Colorado, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Nov. 2 vs. Oregon, TBD
Nov. 9 at Arizona State, TBD
Nov. 16 at California, TBD
Nov. 23 vs. UCLA, TBD

UCLA FOOTBALL

Author Mark Saltveit has written two books about UCLA coach Chip Kelly. And he thinks he may see the problem with what’s going on with the Bruins.

“With the benefit of a little historical perspective,” Saltveit said. “I think we’re seeing some long-term tendencies that were always problematic with Chip Kelly coming to fruition.”

“Throwing all this NFL-type complexity at kids,” Saltveit said, “that’s kind of going away from the things that got him successful in the first place.”

“He may have just had a magic situation that he walked into at Oregon,” Saltveit said, “and he’s just going to be chasing it the rest of his life trying to recapture the magic of that.”

UCLA FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

All times Pacific. Radio: AM 1150

Cincinnati 24, UCLA 14
San Diego State 23, UCLA 14
Saturday vs. Oklahoma, 5 p.m., Fox
Sept. 21 at Washington State, TBD
Sept. 28 at Arizona, TBD
Oct. 5 vs. Oregon State, TBD
Oct. 17 at Stanford, 6 p.m., ESPN
Oct. 26 vs. Arizona State, TBD
Nov. 2 vs. Colorado, TBD
Nov. 16 at Utah, TBD
Nov. 23 at USC, TBD
Nov. 30 vs. California, TBD

DODGERS

Behind home runs from Matt Beaty and Corey Seager, the Dodgers cruised to a 5-0 win over the San Francisco Giants and trimmed their magic number for a postseason berth to two.

ANGELS

Jose Abreu hit his 31st homer of the season for the Chicago White Sox, who defeated the Angels, 5-1.

SPARKS

The Sparks controlled the second half and defeated the Minnesota Lynx, 77-68, to enter the postseason with a three-game winning streak and a 14-game home winning streak.

We don’t know which team the Sparks will play in the second round of the playoffs yet (they get a first-round bye), but they will play a single-elimination game on Sunday at noon at Staples Center. The game will be shown on ESPN2.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Cleveland vs. Angels, 7 p.m., FSW, AM 830

BORN ON THIS DATE

1877: Baseball player Frank Chance (d. 1924)

1898: Baseball player Frankie Frisch (d. 1973)

1918: Sportscaster/oddsmaker Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder (d. 1996)

1949: NFL player Joe Theismann

1949: Figure skater John Curry

1954: NBA player Walter Davis

1960: College football coach Bob Stoops

1965: NBA player Dan Majerle

1965: Former Dodger Todd Zeile

1967: NBA player B.J. Armstrong

1968: Sprinter Jon Drummond

1969: Former Laker Sean Rooks

1978: NBA player Shane Battier

1985: NBA player J.R. Smith

DIED ON THIS DATE

1997: Baseball player Richie Ashburn, 70

1999: Baseball player Catfish Hunter, 52

AND FINALLY

Joe Theismann recounts famous play that broke his leg. Watch it here.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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