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SPORTS DIGEST: Rams opening week win is a shocker, 46-9

They were wearing Rams uniforms, but those guys playing at the Coliseum Sept. 10 didn’t look like the Rams. At least they didn’t look like last year’s Rams, which is probably a good thing.

It’s not a shock that the Rams beat the Indianapolis Colts in the season opener. After all, the Colts were playing without quarterback Andrew Luck.

But the 46-9 final score was definitely a shocker.

Jared Goff looked much more capable in his second season with the Rams and he has better receivers this year.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips had his unit clicking on all cylinders, recording 16 of the 46 points with two interceptions returned for touchdowns and a safety.

All in all, it was an outstanding debut for first-year coach Sean McVay. And things could get better this week with the return of Aaron Donald to the defensive line. Donald ended his holdout for a new contract and should start Sept. 17 when the Rams host Washington at the Coliseum.

It will be McVay facing his former team and mentor, Washington coach Jay Gruden. McVay was the offensive coordinator for Washington last season.

That should help when putting the defensive game plan together this week. He knows quarterback Kirk Cousins as well as anyone.

If the Rams need improvement in one area this week, it is getting the running game going. Todd Gurley needs to do better than 40 yards in 19 carries. He did gain another 56 yards on five pass receptions, but they need to run the ball more effectively to take pressure of Goff.

COMING UP SHORT: Unlike the Rams, the Los Angeles Chargers looked too much like last year’s team.

While posting a 5-11 record last season, the Chargers lost seven of the 11 by seven points or less.

It was more of the same, Sept. 11, when the Chargers dropped their opener, 24-21 to the Denver Broncos. Quarterback Phillip Rivers threw two fourth quarter touchdowns to make it close, but rookie kicker Younghoe Koo had his 44-yard field goal partially blocked on the last play of the game.

Rivers was shaky through three quarters and the Chargers defense didn’t do much to stop the Broncos offense early.

It was only the first week of the season but the Chargers are playing in probably the toughest division in the entire league. They need to start winning the close games.

TROJANS ANSWER: The USC Trojans answered plenty of questions with their 42-24 win over Stanford in the Coliseum Sept. 9. After a shaky start in the opener against Western Michigan, the Trojans delivered a message to the Pac 12 Conference and the rest of the nation by out-muscling the most physical team in the conference.

The Trojans rolled up more than 300 yards passing and rushing in snapping Stanford’s three-game winning streak over them.

Sam Darnold looked more like a Heisman Trophy candidate than he did the first week and Ronald Jones II and Steve Carr both gained more than 100 yards on the ground.

The Trojans face Texas Sept. 16 in the first meeting between the two college powers since the 2006 Rose Bowl.

Texas gave up 51 points to Maryland in the season opener Sept. 2, so the Trojans might be able to add to their offensive numbers this week.

ROSEN IS BACK: UCLA handled Hawaii 56-23, just as expected. Quarterback Josh Rosen returned to form with five touchdown passes, as the Bruins rolled to a 42-point lead before coach Jim Mora sent in the substitutes in the fourth quarter.

UCLA faces Memphis in a 9 a.m. kickoff Sept. 16 so the Bruins will get an early wake-up call this week.

One thing the Bruins need to do is strengthen their defense against the run.

Hawaii gained 281 yards on the ground after Texas A&M had much success running the ball on the Bruins in the season opener.

That better get fixed before Pac 12 play opens.

BREATHE AGAIN: Yes, Dodgers fans. It’s OK to breath again.

The Dodgers stopped their 11-game losing streak Sept. 12 with a 5-3 win over the San Francisco Giants. At the same time, they clinched a playoff berth and reduced their magic number to clinch the National League West to eight games.

In other words, the Dodgers will be in the playoffs, most likely as National League West champions. A three-game series in Washington starting Sept. 14 could well determine who has home field advantage in the National League playoffs, but the Dodgers currently have a 4 ½ game lead over the Nationals.

With two and a half weeks left in the season, the Dodgers need to figure out what their regular lineup will be for the post-season and who will be coming out of the bullpen.

We know the Cody Bellinger will be at first base, Corey Seager will be at shortstop, Justin Turner at third base, Chjris Taylor in centerfield and Yasiel Puis in rightfield.

Manager Dave Roberts may want to platoon Austin Barnes and Yasmani Grandal at catcher and Logan Forsythe and Chase Utley at second base.

Kenley Jansen is the closer and Brendan Morrow the eighth inning setup man, but Pedro Baez is in danger of falling out of the bullpen rotation with his recent performances. And, except for Clayton Kershaw, none of the starting pitchers is inspiring any confidence lately.

 

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