College Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Rams remain undefeated with 29-27 win over Packers

By Don Wanlass

Staff Writer

At least we have the Rams.

In a week that saw the Dodgers lose the World Series, the Lakers fall to 2-5 on this young season and the USC Trojans falling to the depths of .500, the Rams continued to be the only unbeaten team in the National Football League, moving to 8-0 with a 29-27 win over the Green Bay Packers.

The Rams took a 29-27 lead on a 34-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal with 2:05 to play in the game, more than enough time for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to engineer a winning field goal drive.

But Ty Montgomery defied his coach’s orders not to bring the kickoff out of the end zone and fumbled the ball back to the Rams, who then ran out the clock.

The Packers stifled the Rams offense for most of the first half and led at halftime, 10-8. The Rams scored on their first two possessions of the second half to take a 23-13 lead only to have Aaron Jones score on a 33-yard run in the closing seconds of the third quarter to keep the game close.

Zuerlein kicked two field goals in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

Jared Goff continued his efficient play at quarterback, completing 19 of 35 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns to defeat Rodgers, who like Goff, played his college ball at Cal. Rodgers was 18 of 30 for 286 yards and one touchdown.

Todd Gurley continued to be the offensive spark plug for the Rams. He gained 195 yards on 31 touches (25 runs, six pass receptions) and scored 10 points — one touchdown and two two-point conversions.

Gurley leads the NFL in scoring with 96 points. He has scored a touchdown in 11 consecutive games, tying the franchise record set by Elroy Hirsch in 1951-52.

It also gave him his 15th-career 100-yard rushing game. Gurley continues to be one of the leading candidates for most valuable player this season.

On the defensive end of things, Aaron Donald sacked Rodgers twice to give him 10 on the season. The way he has played the last two seasons after skipping training camp lends solid support to the theory that the NFL preseason is too long.

The Rams face another tough test this weekend, traveling to New Orleans for a 1:15 p.m. game Nov. 4. For the first time this season, they enter the game as an underdog. The 6-1 Saints are a two-point favorite.

LeBron James (23) puts his arms around Jason Hart, left, and Kyle Kuzma during a recent game. The Lakers are still getting to know each other as their 2-5 record would indicate, but James continues to take the younger players under his wing. (Courtesy photo)

IDENTITY SEARCH: Seven games into the season, the Lakers are still searching for an identity. Sure, it’s LeBron James’ team, but James still has to get used to his new teammates and the other new players the Lakers brought in — Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Javale McGee.

The acclimation may have been further along if Rondo and Brandon Ingram hadn’t been suspended for three and four games, respectively, for their role in a fight Oct. 20 against the Houston Rockets. At times, the Lakers look very good but they give up to many points and haven’t figured out how to put opponents away in the fourth quarter.

The Lakers do have people who can play well. James is averaging 27.6 points a game, 9.1 rebounds and 8.1 assists.

Kyle Kuzma, who was coming off the bench before Ingram got suspended, is averaging 19.4 points a game and Ingram is averaging 17.3 points a game.

Seven players are scoring 10 or more paints a game and Lonzo Ball is at 9.9 a game.

Once the Lakers get acclimated to each other, it will be easier for coach Luke Walton to develop his rotations. And, as the players get to know each other better, defensive communication will improve and they will stop giving up 125 points a night. There are 75 more games to play and a lot can happen betweeen now and April.

OFF-SEASON DECISIONS: After losing back-to-back World Series, Dodgers management has to make some touch decisions this offseason. For the ownership team, they have to decide him the analytics favored by President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and General Manager Faran Zaidi will ever translate to a world championship.

The Dodgers were closer last year when they made it all the way to game seven of the World Series against the Houston Astros. They went quietly in five games to the Red Sox this year.

The Red Sox hit better in the clutch than the Dodgers did during the series and they got more clutch pitching than the Dodgers did.

By the time the series ended, Dodgers fans were ready to replace manager Dave Roberts, ace closer Kenley Jansen and last year’s rookie of the year Cody Bellinger.

Whatever Friedman’s and Zaidi’s faults are, they won’t pay attention to the fans.

Roberts probably will be back with a contract extension. There is only one manager who has appeared in each of the last two World Series and that is Roberts.

He needs to be slower on the trigger in pulling starting pitchers and needs to spread the ball around the bullpen more so his best relief pitchers have something left in October.

I also would like to see less platooning in the starting lineup next season but that is up to the players being able to hit all kinds of pitching.

Clayton Kershaw will decide the $70 million he would leave on the table if he opted out of his contract with the Dodgers would be hard to replace and return for at least those two seasons.

The National League West does not look any stronger next year so the Dodgers should be favored to win a seventh straight division title.

What happens after that, no one knows. Like they used to say in Brooklyn, wait till next year.

A .500 TEAM: No one expected the USC Trojans to be at the .500 mark eight games into the season, but that’s what the Trojans apparently are this year.

The Trojans latest loss was to Arizona State, 38-35, Oct. 27. It was the Trojans first loss at home since 2015.

Redshirt freshman Jack Sears made his first career start at quarterback after TJ Daniels suffered a concussion and Matt Fink broke three ribs the week before in a loss to Utah.

After a shaky start, Sears got his act together and he brought the Trojans back from a 24-7 second quarter deficit to lead 28-24 five minutes into the third quarter.

But N’Keal Harry returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown later in the third quarter and ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins ran 45 yards for a fourth quarter score and the Trojans lost their second game in a row after winning three straight.

Tyler Vaughns returned a punt for a touchdown and caught a scoring pass from Sears to lead the Trojans, but the Trojans failed to convert a short yardage try on fourth down in the fourth quarter when a field goal would have tied the score at 31,

Wilkins scored his touchdown a few minutes later, running the read option to perfection, and the game was over.

Sears completed 20 of 28 passes as a fill-in for Daniels, good for 235 yards and two touchdowns in his debut with the Trojans.