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SPORTS DIGEST: Surprising Rams tied for division lead with Seattle

 

With the Dodgers in the World Series, other teams in Los Angeles haven’t been getting as much attention here lately so we will try to catch up today, starting with the Rams, who are tied with Seattle for the lead in the National Football Conference’s Western Division at nearly the halfway point.

Anyone who saw this coming should stand up and take a bow after showing me the prediction in writing (yes, I will accept betting slips).

Sean McVay, the youngest NFL head coach in history, has produced a culture change that has seen the Rams win one more game in seven weeks than they won last year in 17 weeks.

Last year, the Rams had a solid defense and a horrible offense. McVay hired Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator who shuffled the defense from a 4-3 front seven to a 3-4 without skipping a beat.

And McVay totally revamped the offense. At this time last season, number one draft pick Jared Goff was still on the bench.

This season he is showing that the Ram brass didn’t make a mistake when they took him number one in the 2016 draft. He is completing almost 60 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns and only four interceptions.

And McVay’s flair for offense has Goff spreading the ball around. Running back Todd Gurley has shown dramatic improvement over last season, Tavon Austin finally is fitting in as a hybrid running back-receiver and Goff has plenty of other weapons to throw the ball to.

I expect the Rams and Seattle to battle it out the rest of the year for the division title, which could be decided when the Rams travel to Seattle Dec. 17.

The Chargers, on the other hand, aren’t doing so well in their first season in Los Angeles since 1960.

They can’t be faulted for their latest loss, a 21-13 defeat by the New England Patriots in Foxborough Oct. 29, except it was a typical Chargers loss.

The Chargers rarely get blown out. Their five losses this year have been by three, two, 14, two and eight points. In other words, a play here and a play there determine whether the Chargers win or lose and right now they are 3-5, tied with the disappointing Raiders for the bottom of the AFC West standings.

First-year coach Anthony Lynn hasn’t made the dramatic impact with the Chargers that McVay has made with the Rams.

After a bye this week, the Chargers have upcoming games against Jacksonville, Buffalo and Dallas before facing the Browns the first week of December. Going 3-1 in those four games could put the Chargers back in the playoff hunt, but Jacksonville, Buffalo and Dallas are all better than .500 teams.

And it doesn’t help the Chargers to see more fans of their opponents every week when they play at StubHub Center. It could be a long season.

Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma scores on a hook shot over Detroit Pistons in the Lakers 113-93 victory at Staples Center Oct. 31. (Photo by Ty Nowell courtesy of the Los Angeles Lakers)

The NBA season has been underway for three weeks now and the Lakers and Clippers are doing about as well as expected.

The Clippers got off to a fast start before falling back to earth against Golden State Oct. 30 in a 141-113 defeat. The Clippers are now 4-2, while breaking in new players and suffering a few early-season injuries. We will check back in a few weeks for a progress report.

The Lakers are 3-4 after a 113-93 win over the Pistons Oct. 31. When the Lakers play defense, they play well. Seven Lakers scored in double figures against Detroit, led by Julius Randle with 17 points off the bench. Rookie forward Kyle Kuzma scored 16 points off the bench and Jordan Clarkson scored 10 points in a reserve role.

Lonzo Ball scored 13 points in the win but had only three assists. Only Brandon Ingram played more than 30 minutes for the Lakers and he played 34.

The Lakers will be fun to watch this year. I still don’t think they will be a playoff team but they are getting better.

And, finally, the USC Trojans won a game that mattered, defeating Arizona State, 48-17 in Tempe, a week after laying an egg against Notre Dame.

The Sun Devils had scored two surprising wins over Washington and Utah and USC is noted for overlooking teams.

The Trojans have another tough game Nov. 4 when they face Arizona at 7:45 p.m. The Wildcats’ season has turned around since Khalil Tate, the former Serra High star, took over as starting quarterback.

In four games at the helm, Tate had rushed for 840 yards (210 per game) and scored eight touchdowns while throwing for 743 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Tate wasn’t recruited by the Trojans and might feel he has something to prove this week.

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