By Don Wanlass
Los Angeles football fans got a gift Nov. 13 when the National Football League relocated the Nov. 19 game between the Rams and Kansas City Chiefs from Mexico City to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
That means local fans can watch the battle between two 9-1 teams in person, if they can find parking around the Coliseum that night.
Normally there is plenty of parking for football games at the Coliseum, but because this is a Monday night game and USC has classes Monday night, there will be no parking at USC for football fans.
Rams officials are urging everyone to take public transportation to the game and to arrive as early as possible. Good advice.
Those who are able to see the game live will get a chance to see two of the best young quarterbacks in the National Football League, the Rams’ Jared Goff and the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes.
The Rams are playing through a tough time right now, despite their 9-1 start. Many of the players and coaches have had to worry about the wildfires in the Thousand Oaks area that caused mass evacuations and have made it hard to practice because of the smoke in the air.
Since they thought they would be playing in the mile-high elevation of Mexico City this week, the Rams flew to Colorado Springs, Colorado, Nov. 12 to get away from the smoke in Thousand Oaks and to give their players a chance to get accustomed to the elevation they would face Nov. 19.
The Rams chose to stay in Colorado Springs until Nov. 17, choosing practicing at high altitude rather than in smoky conditions in Thousand Oaks.
It will be interesting to see how that affects the Rams’ preparation for the Chiefs, who have lost only to the New England Patriots so far this season.
Mahomes has stepped in as the starting quarterback and already has 31 touchdown passes and 3,150 yards passing in 10 games. The Chiefs lead the NFL in scoring with 353 points, 18 more than the second-place Rams.
Mahomes has offensive weapons like running back Kareem Hunt, who is averaging 75 yards a game. Tyreek Hill leads his receivers with 55 catches for 891 yards and nine touchdowns. Hill also is dangerous returning kicks and on the occasional reverse or fly sweep.
The Rams lost one of their offensive weapons Nov. 11 when receiver Cooper Kupp tore a knee ligament and is lost for the season. He will be replaced on the roster by wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, who suffered an ankle opener in the season opener and hasn’t played since. Cooper also can return kicks.
The Rams need to tighten up their defense after giving up 45 points to the New Orleans Saints Nov. 4 and 31 to the Seattle Seahawks Nov. 11.
If the Seahawks lose to Green Bay Nov. 15, a victory against the Chiefs could clinch the NFC Western Division title for the Rams before their bye week. That would allow the Rams to coast through December and allow them to get their players healthy for the playoffs.
Keeping a close eye on the Rams-Chiefs game will be the Los Angeles Chargers, who trail the Chiefs by a game and a half heading into this week’s game at StubHub Center against the Denver Broncos. The Chargers won their sixth straight game Nov. 11, defeating the Oakland Raiders, 20-6, in a game that was not as close as the final score might indicate.
The Chargers, 7-2, are playing well on both sides of the ball. Only eight teams in the league have given up fewer points than the Chargers.
And quarterback Philip Rivers is having another fine year. He has thrown for 2,459 yards and 21 touchdowns. Running back Melvin Gordon and receiver Keenan Allen are Rivers primary weapons but he is adept at distributing the ball and the Chargers are headed for the playoffs. A win for the Rams would give the Chiefs the same number of losses as the Chargers and put them back in contention for the AFC Western Division title.
The Chargers lost to the Chiefs in the first game of the season. They get a second chance Dec. 13, a Thursday night game in Kansas City.
RIVALRY WEAK: The week of the USC-UCLA game usually would be full of hype. Not this year.
The 5-5 Trojans play the 2-8 Bruins with only pride at stake, and maybe Clay Helton’s job.
USC officials haven’t said Helton is on the hot seat, but the alumni and fan base are getting restless and Helton needs to defeat UCLA this week or Notre Dame next week to save his job.
The Trojans are the only team to beat eighth-ranked Washington State this year, but the loss to Cal Nov. 10 may have been the lowlight of the season.
The Trojans appeared in command, jumping off to a 14-0 second-quarter lead, but they never scored again.
The wheels came off the wagon early in the second half when center Toa Lobendahn snapped the ball over quarterback JT Daniels’ head. Daniels managed to fall on the ball in the end zone for a safety instead of a Cal touchdown, but Cal scored after the ensuing free kick and added a second touchdown to take the lead.
The Trojans self-destructed after that. The most crucial play with Cal trying to run the clock and USC trying to stop them to give Daniels one more chance offensively.
But after stopping Cal on a third-down play, senior cornerback Iman Marshall went over and taunted the Cal bench. The ensuing 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave the Bears a first down and they ran out the clock.
It’s the kind of play that has hurt the Trojans all year and is a sign to fans and boosters that Helton doesn’t have a handle on his players.
UCLA gave Arizona State a better game than the Trojans did earlier this season and the Bruins would like nothing better than preventing the Trojans from becoming eligible for a bowl game.
With number three Notre Dame next week, the Trojans need to beat the Bruins if they have any chance of getting to a bowl game.
ABOVE .500: It has been awhile, but the Lakers are above .500 after winning three straight games.
That shouldn’t be news to long-time Laker fans but after five losing seasons, you take success where you find it.
At 7-6, the Lakers are in a three-way tie for ninth place in the NBA Western Conference, meaning that if the season ended tomorrow the Lakers still wouldn’t make the playoffs.
The addition of Tyson Chandler has given the Lakers a boost on the floor and in the locker room. His veteran presence will help the younger players.
The other Staples Center occupant, the Clippers are quietly off to an 8-5 start, good for fourth place in the conference.
Coach Doc Rivers is doing a good job overhauling his team. It’s funny how everyone pulling together can work better than three great players pulling in three different directions, like the last few years.
It isn’t often that a team’s most valuable player comes off the bench, but Lou Williams has become the soul of the Clippers.
Forward Danilo Gallinari is bouncing back from an injury-plagued season a year ago and the Clippers are playing well as a team.