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SPORTS DIGEST: Just like old times, Minnesota Vikings beat the Rams

Just when I was thinking about jumping on the Rams bandwagon they played a game like that.

As a young boy, I loved the Los Angeles Rams. Next to the Dodgers, they were my favorite team, even when they were no good.

Then George Allen came along, followed by Chuck Knox and the Rams were all of a sudden real good all the time. They were regular contenders for the National Football Conference championship, but somehow they always ended up playing the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs and there went the visions of the Super Bowl.

I quit loving the Rams in the 1980s when Georgia Frontiere became the owner and showed that she didn’t care if the Rams won or lost as long as she made money. She didn’t want to pay Eric Dickerson and other star players and I found other teams to cheer for.

Now, with the Rams back in Los Angeles and Georgia long gone, I was ready to jump back on.

And here came the Vikings again Nov. 19, stopping the Rams winning streak at four games. The score was only 24-7 so it wasn’t a total blowout. But it was a reminder that the Rams usually will lose to the Vikings no matter where the game is played and what’s at stake.

And things don’t get any easier this week with the 8-2 New Orleans Saints coming to town and the Rams banged up for the first time all season.

Wide receiver Robert Woods will miss the next couple of weeks with a shoulder injury and several defensive backs have injuries that will slow them down if not keep them on the sidelines this week. After 10 games, every NFL team is banged up so the Rams now need to go into survival mode to keep their one-game lead over the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West, while facing the toughest part of the schedule.

After the Saints, the Rams have a road game against the Arizona Cardinals followed by a home game against the best team in the NFL right now, the Philadelphia Eagles. Then they face the Seahawks in Seattle in a game that could determine the division title before ending the season on the road at Tennessee and at home against the 49ers.

The Rams weren’t going to go through a season without bumps in the road, especially with a rookie head coach and a second-year quarterback. They can still make it to the playoffs, where they will have to hope they don’t have to face Minnesota again.

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen lunges toward the goal line to score a touchdown between two Buffalo Bills defenders Nov. 19. The Chargers defeated the Bills 54-24 to move back into the playoff picture.
(Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Chargers)

CHARGERS AWAKE: Despite the results last weekend, I would still rather be in the Rams shoes than the Chargers. The Chargers played their best game all season and routed the Buffalo Bills, 54-24. They were aided by the Bills’ head coach’s decision to bench quarterback Tyrod Taylor and start rookie Nathan Peterman instead.

Peterman threw five interceptions in the first half and the Chargers scored a franchise record 37 points in the half on their way to the win.

Taylor played the second half and led the Bills to two fourth quarter touchdowns but it wasn’t enough as the Bills fell three games behind the New England Patriots in the AFC East.

The Chargers improved to 4-6 and are now only two games behind the slumping Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West.

At the start of the season the AFC West looked like the toughest division in the league. The Chiefs were the last team to lose a game but they have now lost four out of five and the Raiders and Broncos aren’t as good as expected, giving the Chargers a chance to sneak back into the playoff picture after four wins in six weeks.

The Chargers play the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day and then get nine days off to get healthy for the December stretch run. They still have a chance.

UCLA head football coach Jim Mora walks off the sidelines for a final time after the Bruins 28-23 loss to USC Nov. 18. Mora was fired the following morning by Athletic Director Dan Guerrero. (Photo by Mario Villegas)

WRONG MOVE: I disagree with UCLA’s decision to fire Jim Mora Nov. 19, the day after the Bruins lost to USC in their annual rivalry game. The Bruins were 15 1/2-point underdogs but battled the Trojans all night, keeping the game close until they lost 28-23.

Granted, the Bruins have gone downhill the last three years after Mora won 29 games (and beat USC three times in a row) in his first three years on the job. But UCLA has been down this road before with Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel. In fact of the last eight UCLA head coaches, the only one who had an overall record under .500 was Neuheisel.

Mora is a good football coach. UCLA is saddled with the third most strict entrance requirements of all Pac 12 schools. Players who qualify for USC, Oregon, Washington, Utah and Arizona State, can’t always get in to UCLA.

At UCLA, football is always second fiddle to men’s basketball, and in Los Angeles, UCLA is usually second fiddle to USC.

Athletic Director Dan Guerrero should have let Mora coach this week against Cal, where a win would make the Bruins eligible for a bowl game.

There is speculation that Guerrero moved quickly to fire Mora to make a run at former Oregon coach Chip Kelly. That’s the only reason the move makes sense, because Florida is making a strong pitch for Kelly as well.

If the UCLA administration wants to do something to improve the football program, maybe thjey should look at Guerrero. He’s the one who keeps hiring coaches who post mediocre records.

TOP ROOKIE: There’s no question who is the best rookie basketball player in town. Despite all the attendant hype that goes along with being the second player drafted overall, Laker point guard Lonzo Ball is only the second best rookie on his team.

Kyle Kuzma, the rookie forward out of Utah, has been the best rookie and one of the top players overall on the Lakers, who are 7-10 on the season so far.

Kuzma leads the Lakers in scoring, averaging 16.5 points a game. Ball is eighth in scoring at 8.9 points a game. Ball is averaging 7.1 rebounds and assists a game, ahead of Kuzma’s 6.8 rebounds per game.

Either way, the Lakers have added two more solid players to their roster this year as they continue to rebuild.

There are 26 NBA owners who should be mad at their scouting staffs for overlooking Kuzma. The Lakers had the 27th pick in the first round as well as the number two pick they used to draft Ball.

The Lakers were first alerted to Kuzma by former assistant coach and now scout Bill Bertka, who noticed Kuzma his sophomore year at Utah in the Pac 12 Tournament.

Six weeks into his rookie season, Kuzma is the second best rookie scorer in the league, third in minutes per game, third in field goal percentage, third in offensive rebounds and fifth in overall rebounds.

When Larry Nance Jr. broke his hand, Kuzma stepped into the starting lineup and looks like he has no intention of leaving.

Score one for Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka and the rest of the Lakers front office.

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