Not since 1994 have two NFL teams from Los Angeles clashed on the field in a regular-season game, but the Rams and Chargers will change that when they launch a new era of Southern California football on Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The first-ever Horns vs. Bolts Battle of Los Angeles will pit a pair of teams with plenty of optimism, not to mention momentum as both are coming off Week 2 victories.
The Rams (2-0) have taken just two weeks to look like an elite team in the NFC, shaking off some offseason rust in Week 1 to defeat the Oakland Raiders behind a strong second half, and then crushing the Arizona Cardinals 34-0 on Sunday in an all-around effort that showed few weaknesses.
The Chargers (1-1) stumbled in Week 1 against a solid Kansas City team but rebounded last weekend to dispatch the Buffalo Bills as running back Melvin Gordon scored three touchdowns and continued to prove himself as a dual rushing and receiving threat. Gordon leads the Chargers with 15 receptions.
The Chargers’ defense is still missing end Joey Bosa (foot), but they had four sacks against the Bills on Sunday and eight hurries against Bills rookie quarterback Josh Allen. The Bills had just 84 rushing yards.
But the defense that figures to make the biggest impact Sunday belongs to the Rams. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns against the Bills. The Rams’ defense has given up 383 yards passing combined in two games and no TDs through the air.
The Rams are not the top defensive team in football. They think they can be.
“I feel like we can get even better,” Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I mean, that’s the scary thing.”
The Rams have not given up a point in its last six quarters.
“That’s a heck of a defense,” Rivers said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “We know what they have over there, going against [defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’] scheme and all those Pro Bowlers on that defensive side. [We’re] looking forward to that, that atmosphere and playing those guys.”
But the Rams are far more than just their defense. Todd Gurley is tied for the NFL lead in rushing TDs with three, all last week, and QB Jared Goff is second in the NFC with 9.03 yards per completed pass. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks is third in the NFC with 246 receiving yards.
But the Rams were facing defenses in the bottom third of the NFL in the Raiders and Cardinals. The Chargers are in the upper third in the NFL, ninth in particular, with 655 yards allowed in two weeks. But they are 25th in points allowed per game at 29.
The Rams will be without Pro Bowl kicker Greg Zuerlein for the second consecutive week because of a groin injury. They signed kicker Sam Ficken, who closed out last season with the Rams when Zuerlein was out with a back injury.
The Rams won last week at home, but they lost their last three games at the Coliseum in 2017, including a 26-13 defeat by Atlanta in the NFC wild-card round in January to end their season.
The Chargers not only won on the road last week, they won two of their last three road games in 2017.
—Field Level Media