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The Sports Report: Rams need Miracle Max if they want to make the playoffs now

Inigo Montoya
Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya.
(Twentieth Century Fox)

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

RAMS

Remember in “The Princess Bride” when Westley needs to be revived from being mostly dead, so Inigo Montoya and Fezzik take him to see Miracle Max, who revives him? Well, someone needs to take the mostly dead Rams to Miracle Max right about now.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott passed for two touchdowns and running back Ezekiel Elliott ran for two as Dallas routed the Rams 44-21 before 90,436. The defeat dropped the Rams’ record to 8-6.

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The loss, combined with the Minnesota Vikings’ 39-10 victory over the Chargers on Sunday, put the Rams two games behind the Vikings (10-4) in the race for the final NFC wild-card spot.

A year after playing in the Super Bowl, the Rams seemingly have only one way to make a third consecutive playoff appearance.

They must defeat the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium on Saturday, and the Arizona Cardinals in the season finale at the Coliseum — and the Vikings would have to lose at home against the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.

If that scenario does not unfold, the Rams will be watching the playoffs from their couches for the first time since coach Sean McVay took over in 2017.

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The Cowboys shut down Rams quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley.

Goff completed 33 of 51 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception. Gurley rushed for 20 yards and two touchdowns in 11 carries.

Prescott completed 15 of 23 passes for 212 yards. Elliott rushed for 117 yards in 24 carries, and rookie Tony Pollard rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown in 12 carries as the Cowboys ended a three-game losing streak and improved to 7-7.

CHARGERS

The Chargers turned the ball over seven times in a 39-10 loss to Minnesota, falling to 5-9 and ensuring the first losing record in Anthony Lynn’s three years as head coach.

Philip Rivers was intercepted three times — Nos. 16, 17 and 18 on the season — and also lost his third fumble. Melvin Gordon lost two fumbles and was benched for a stretch after the second early in the third quarter.

Tight end Hunter Henry had the other fumble as the Chargers allowed the Vikings to start five possessions on the L.A. side of midfield.

The lopsided result marked the first time the Chargers have lost by more than one score since they were eliminated from the playoffs 41-28 by New England in January.

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What turned out to be the Chargers’ last chance ended on a failed fourth down to start the final quarter with the score 25-10.

After advancing inside the Minnesota 10-yard line and facing a second down, the offense stalled with an incompletion, sack and false start on Trent Scott.

Rivers then threw in the direction of wide receiver Mike Williams on fourth down from the 15-yard line, but the pass fell incomplete.

NFC wild-card standings (top two make the playoffs)

1. San Francisco 49ers, 11-3-x

2. Minnesota Vikings, 10-4

3. Rams, 8-6

AFC wild-card standings (top two make the playoffs)

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1. Buffalo Bills, 10-4-x

2. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8-6

3. Tennessee Titans, 8-6

4. Indianapolis Colts, 6-7

5. Cleveland Browns, 6-8

6. Oakland Raiders, 6-8

x-clinched playoff spot

LAKERS

LeBron James scored 32 points and the Lakers extended their winning streak to seven with a 101-96 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

The Lakers pulled even with Milwaukee for the NBA’s best record at 24-3.

The Hawks kept it close all the way. Rookie Cam Reddish got a look at a tying three-pointer from the corner, but the shot clanked off the rim. Danny Green went to the other end and knocked down a pair of free throws to send the Hawks to their fourth straight loss.

CLIPPERS

After getting Landry Shamet back against the Bulls in his first appearance since suffering a high ankle sprain Nov. 11, the Clippers could soon see their full rotation play together for the first time since the roster was assembled in the summer. To this point, timing and injuries have made that impossible.

All-Star forwards Kawhi Leonard and Paul George weren’t full participants in practice until early October and mid-November, respectively, while recovering from injuries. Injuries also cost reserve guard Rodney McGruder 11 games, and Shamet’s ankle kept him out for 17, with his sprain occurring just days before George’s Clippers debut.

Saturday’s 109-106 loss to the Bulls was the second consecutive game that Lou Williams (sore calf) and Patrick Beverley (concussion) watched from the bench and the fourth straight absence for JaMychal Green (bruised tailbone).

But Shamet and McGruder both returned to action during the team’s six-game trip, and the issues that sidelined Green, Beverley and Williams are not considered long term. That means a holiday gift potentially awaits coach Doc Rivers — a full lineup.

DODGERS

The news of two clubs not named the Dodgers or Angels acquiring All-Star-caliber pitchers trickled out Sunday.

The Cleveland Indians traded right-hander Corey Kluber, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, to the Texas Rangers in the morning. Hours later, the Arizona Diamondbacks and left-hander Madison Bumgarner reportedly agreed to a five-year contract worth $85 million with $15 million deferred.

They were the third and fourth players the Dodgers had been linked to who ended up going elsewhere in the last this week, joining right-hander Gerrit Cole and third baseman Anthony Rendon. The Angels nabbed Rendon, but desperately need to bolster a starting rotation that finished with the second-highest cumulative earned-run average in the major leagues last season. Options are dwindling.

But the Dodgers’ focus had not been on Kluber or Bumgarner. Instead, they have set their eyes on Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor and, to a lesser extent, Indians right-hander Mike Clevinger.

Lindor is the player the Dodgers want most. He is a 26-year-old switch-hitter who has cemented himself as one of the best players in baseball during his five-year career. He would improve the Dodgers offensively and defensively. He is a premier player the Dodgers believe they need to overcome the October hump.

Lindor finished second in 2015 voting for rookie of the year before being an All-Star the next four seasons. He has hit at least 32 home runs and has had an .842 on-base-plus-slugging percentage over the last three seasons. He has two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers.

USC BASKETBALL

Onyeka Okongwu had another dominant performance Sunday with 28 points and 12 rebounds in USC’s 87-76 win over Long Beach State at Galen Center.

The Chino Hills alum who leads the Trojans (9-2) in points, rebounds and blocks scored just four points on two-of-five shooting in the first half, but had 16 of USC’s first 17 points in the second half. He hustled up and down the court for easy layups that built up his confidence. Soon, he was soaring for alley-oop dunks on no-look passes and out-of-bounds plays.

Okongwu was the focus on Long Beach State’s defense in the first half as the Beach (3-8) denied the star forward any post touches. The coaches advised him at halftime that the back of the 1-3-1 zone was open. He just needed to stay there. His teammates, to the tune of a season-high 25 assists, would find him.

“The first half, it took me a while to get going,” Okongwu said. “The second half, I just came out, wanted to do more for my team, make more of an impact so I just went hard.”

GOLF

The first playing captain in 25 years, Tiger Woods opened the 12 singles matches by beating Abraham Ancer to set the Presidents Cup record with his 27th match victory, and set the tone for the rest of his team.

The scoreboard was filled with American red scores all day as they rallied from a two-point deficit to win the Presidents Cup for the eighth straight time against an International team that faltered at the worst time.

Matt Kuchar delivered the clinching putt, a five-footer for birdie that assured him a halve against Louis Oosthuizen and gave the Americans the 15 1/2 points they needed to win.

“For us to be in a hole, to come back and win this thing ... to win it as a team, but to do it with Tiger Woods as our captain was just a huge thrill,” Kuchar said.

The result was 16-14, and at least this one was a contest. The U.S. victory two years ago at Liberty National was so resounding that it nearly ended on Saturday. International captain Ernie Els was determined to turn it around. He created a new logo for the International team. He relied heavily on analytics. It still wasn’t enough.

KINGS

Anze Kopitar scored two goals and the Kings beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-2.

Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli also scored for the Kings, who have won three of their last four (3-0-1). Alex Iafallo had two assists and Jack Campbell stopped 22 shots.

YOUR FAVORITE SPORTS MOMENT

What is your all-time favorite local sports moment? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com and tell me what it is and why, and it could appear in a future Sports newsletter.

This moment comes from Russell Rubin:

In 1982, I attended game 3 of division round playoffs between the Kings and Oilers at a sold out Forum. At that time, even though I was a fan since 1967, the Kings were an afterthought in the LA sports hierarchy. My cousin and I sat about 12 rows up and just to the left of Jerry Buss’ suite.

The Kings unexpectedly won game 1 in Edmonton and the series was tied at 1-1. I was just hoping the Kings would not get embarrassed by Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Fuhr, Anderson and all the other stars of that Oilers team.

The atmosphere was electric at the beginning of the game. After two periods, it was 5-0 Oilers and a fair amount of people may have lost hope and left, including Dr. Buss.

I will never forget that third period. When Jay Wells scored from the point to make it 5-1, I told my cousin, at least we won’t get shutout. Then Doug Smith, Charlie Simmer and Mark Hardy scored.

The place was going crazy. Mario Lessard stopped an Oiler breakaway. The last minute was heart stopping and we were on the end where Steve Bozek scored in the last seconds to tie the game, thanks to Jim Fox holding the puck in the zone. The Forum went wild like I had never heard since the famous Butch Goring goal. I was jumping up and down.

When Daryl Evans scored in overtime, it was bedlam. I remember after the game walking back to the Hollywood Park parking lot and people were cheering and chanting as if the Kings won the Stanley Cup.

In retrospect, I correlated it to as unexpected as Kirk Gibson’s homer but different because the Kings had never had any real success compared to the Dodgers.

That memory made the 2012 and 2014 championships that much sweeter.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

No games scheduled.

BORN ON THIS DATE

1931: Football player/broadcaster Tom Brookshier (d. 2010)

1962: Football player William “The Refrigerator” Perry

1964: Sprinter Heike Drechsler

1966: Basketball player Clifford Robinson

1967: Sprinter Donovan Bailey

1979: Golfer Trevor Immelman

AND FINALLY

William "The Refrigerator" Perry scores in the Super Bowl. 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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