Culver City Observer -

Mistakes Hurt Rams In Exhibition Loss

Sports Reporter

 

August 31, 2017

Fred Altieri

Rams rookie defensive back Dominique Hatfield (36) makes interception against the Chargers

More than 55,000 Angelenos showed up to watch the Los Angeles Chargers outlast the Los Angeles Rams 21-19 in the very first ever preseason matchup between the instant cross-town rivals at the L.A. Coliseum on Saturday, August 26. The Chargers' starting units looked ready as ever to open the 2017 NFL season in a few weeks. The Rams... not so much.

The Chargers were nearly flawless as they jumped to a 21-0 first quarter lead. Charger quarterback Philip Rivers was perfect in leading his team to two first quarter scores, completing 6/6 passes for 100 yards including a 45-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive to wide receiver Travis Benjamin.

Ram quarterback Jared Goff initially looked steady as the team moved 67 yards to the Charger eight-yard line on their opening drive. On third down disaster struck when Charger defensive end Joey Bosa sacked and knocked the ball loose from Goff in the backfield. Melvin Ingram recovered the fumble and rambled 76 yards into the opposing end zone for a 14-0 Charger lead.

"We have to do a good job of protecting, but we also have to be ready to step up, hold on to the football and certainly we talk about the importance of turnovers and we have to do a better job collectively taking care of it," said Rams head coach Sean McVay.

Soon the wheels came off the cart for the Rams. Three plays later Goff's errant throw on a deep route to newly acquired wide receiver Sammy Watkins was intercepted. Nine plays and 46 yards later Charger running back Melvin Gordon scored from two yards out. From that point on both teams basically played their second and third units for the remainder of the game.

McVay: "We've got to continue to tighten up the timing and rhythm in some of those play actions where you've got your three level throws. He (Watkins) was coming on the intermediate crossing route, which we felt like we had a window there and I think the ball just sailed on him (Goff) a little bit."

Goff: "I would've liked to have finished the day on a little bit of a better note, but I think in all three games as a whole I feel like I did a good job and feel like I got a lot out of it... A lot to learn from and a lot of stuff that we can get better from."

McVay: "I thought his (Goff) demeanor, the way that he handled it was good and we're going to continue to grow every single day...it's going to be very important for us to maximize practice if that's the direction where we go where he doesn't play against Green Bay next week."

The Rams' offense under backup quarterback Sean Mannion were able to mount a comeback in the second quarter by setting up three field goals for kicker Greg Zuerlein. He provided the team's highlight with 57-yard field goal with a minute to go at halftime to reduce the deficit to 21-9.

The Chargers played their backup units allowing the Rams to dominate the second half. A 38-yard touchdown pass from Mannion to wide receiver Josh Reynolds late in the third quarter made the score 21-16. Rams backup kicker Josh Coons made it 21-19 with a 53-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter but missed a 33-yard chip shot and a chance for the lead six minutes later.

The Rams were notably without the services of 10 key roster players who didn't suit up: Tavon Austin (WR), Cooper Kupp (WR), Mark Barron (LB), Todd Gurley (RB), Alec Ogletree (LB), Nelson Spruce (WR), Michael Thomas (WR), Michael Brockers (DT), Robert Quinn (OLB) and Connor Barwin (OLB).

McVay on the coaching staff's decision to rest some starters and evaluate the reserves: "There's a lot of injuries that have taken place or little nicks and things here or there. We made a decision as a coaching staff, what we felt like was best and I thought it gave a lot of guys an opportunity to compete against an excellent team overall."

The Charger game took its toll on Ram tight end Temarrick Hemingway who fractured his fibula. "... unfortunate for him because he's one of those players that seen a lot of really encouraging things, did a lot of really good things on the line of scrimmage, especially in the run game, so that's a big loss for us. It's going to require some guys to step up in his absence, we'll see how guys handle that."

Fred Altieri

Ram quarterback Jared Goff (16) gets sacked by Charger defensive end Joey Bosa (99) in first quarter

One major lingering issue is the absence of All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald who is holding out for a new contract. Ram General Manager Les Snead indicated on Tuedsay that Donald probably won't be available for the team's opener against the Indianapolis Colts if he's not in camp by this week.

Being handcuffed without one of the top NFL defensive players is not the situation Coach McVay and Ram Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips envisioned when training camp started. Obviously the Rams' defensive line needs Donald a lot more than Donald needs a summer vacation. Ram management may have legal leverage in the negotiations but without Donald the Rams' inevitable defensive woes will be self-inflicted.

The Rams get one more chance to assess the second and third units before they have to reduce their roster to a maximum of 53 players on September 2. They will play their final preseason game without most of their starters at Green Bay this Thursday before preparing to host the Colts in the Coliseum on September 10.

 

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