Alexander: The new guy makes an impact on Rams right away

INGLEWOOD – SoFi Stadium’s full, official unveiling, with its long-awaited first full house, coincided with Matthew Stafford’s debut as a Ram. Both were brilliant Sunday night.

The NFL’s Inglewood palace truly is a magnificent venue, just as Stan Kroenke – and commissioner Roger Goodell, and Jerry Jones, the matchmaker between the league and Los Angeles – had intended. The effect was particularly dramatic for NBC’s cameras, and let it be noted that most of those who held the 70,425 tickets distributed were in their seats by kickoff, which indicates they’d heard the cautionary tales from the preseason and left their homes early enough to deal with the expected traffic and parking issues.

As for the Rams’ new quarterback? This could be lots of fun.

The first clue that things would be different around here came quickly, on the home team’s third offensive play of the evening. Stafford faked a handoff, rolled out to his left and flung a 46-yard strike to Van Jefferson, who caught the ball at the 21, fell down untouched at the 15, got back to his feet before either Bear in the vicinity could get there to touch him, and sprinted to the end zone.

The Rams’ first possession of the second half provided more early evidence for general manager Les Snead’s executive of the year campaign: Another play-action pass by Stafford and a 56-yard connection with Cooper Kupp, who caught the ball a full 10 yards behind three hapless Bears’ defenders and might as well have walked into the end zone.

And then there was the rapid response to a Bears touchdown early in the third quarter. After Chicago had trimmed the Rams’ lead to 20-14, Stafford directed a drive featuring a 37-yard pass to Tyler Higbee – a flawlessly executed back-shoulder toss – and a 17-yard pass to Kupp over the middle that wasn’t a touchdown only because a review showed Kupp’s knee was down before he stretched the ball over the goal line. No worries. Darrell Henderson scored on the next play.

Stafford’s first night’s work as a Los Angeles athlete: 20 for 26, 321 yards, three touchdown passes, no picks and a 156.1 quarterback rating. His high school chum from Dallas, Clayton Kershaw, has a tough act to follow when he returns to the Dodger Stadium mound Monday night.

Did Sean McVay have a favorite Stafford moment? Hard to tell.

“The first drive of the second half was what I thought was most impressive,” he said afterward. “But now I’m thinking about what an unbelievable job he did progressing (through his receivers), finding Robert Woods on the last touchdown (with 3:17 left). So there was multiple things.

“But I think the overall game management, and I think the expectation. You know, you can just see there was a look in his eye. He had confidence in his teammates. He expects to play well. And, you know, he did a great job. It’s hard to say that there was one thing. I loved everything that he did tonight.”

The most impressive thing might have been his ability to get everybody involved. Five receivers caught at least two passes, and Darrell Henderson had one catch for 17 yards as well. McVay noted his ability to “go where the coverage dictated,” and when you have a quarterback who can utilize all of his weapons, the possibilities can be immense.

“We’re going to get our best when everybody gets involved in the game,” Stafford said. “I’m not sure how many different guys had catches, but it felt like a lot. And those guys are talented playmakers, and they all do it in a different way. Hopefully we can make sure those guys are able to kind of show their abilities and then go out there and play.”

Notably, too, there was a steadiness attached to the new quarterback. No fluctuation in emotion, no flustered or desperate throws under pressure (although the offensive line protected Stafford admirably aside from one sack).

It’s only one game in, but it seems pretty obvious: The Stafford-for-Jared Goff trade wasn’t just a necessity but could be the final piece in a championship mosaic. For sure, the new guy understands.

“There was a lot of anticipation for this game, you know, for me,” he said. “You know, it’s a very cool thing, a new place, a new stadium, new fans, the whole deal. But this team has embraced me and I really appreciate that. And, you know, I just want to work as hard as I can. … They’ve wrapped their arms around me and it felt good to go out there and play with them tonight.

“Such incredible players on this team. I’m lucky to be a part of it. I’m going to do everything I can to try to lead this team to where we want to go. Obviously, this is just one. Got to keep building on this, but it felt great to get out there.”

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

 

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Chargers QB Chase Daniel deals with hand injury, sloppy offense in Seattle

Chase Daniel stood on the sideline checking on his jammed finger while Easton Stick took snaps under center during the second drive of Saturday’s preseason finale against the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field.

Daniel wasn’t supposed to be pulled by the Chargers until the second half, but the 13th-year quarterback got hit on the seventh play.

Daniel likely could have called it a night and banked on his experience and familiarity with the Chargers’ coaching staff, but his competitive side got him to return to the game.

Stick and Daniel are battling to be Justin Herbert’s backup and possibly for a roster spot if the Chargers decide to only keep two quarterbacks come Tuesday’s 1 p.m. deadline to trim the roster to 53 players.

But Daniel didn’t help himself much by returning to a first half filled with missed blocks, tackles and field goals for the Chargers. Stick replaced Daniel for a second time with the Chargers down 17-0 with three minus left in the first half. The Chargers lost 27-0.

Daniel versus Stick, however, wasn’t the only positional battle that got off to a rocky start. Tristan Vizcaino missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter to allow Michael Badgley back in the race to be the Chargers’ kicker.

Daniel jammed his finger after Seahawks linebacker Cody Barton blitzed through the middle of the Chargers’ offensive line to record a strip sack and allow safety Marquise Blair to scoop the ball for a touchdown return and a 7-0 advantage for Seattle with 12:30 in the first quarter.

Daniel played with the injured hand and struggled to get the offense going in the first half. He finished the game 9 of 12 with 70 yards.

“Watching reps is huge, especially going into the film room after the game with Chase and Easton, watching the film and going over the practices,” Herbert told the TV broadcast.

The Chargers will need to decide if their quarterback room will get smaller for film sessions with Herbert come cutdown day.

Many of the Chargers’ top players didn’t participate in the three preseason games, including Herbert, edge rusher Joey Bosa, safety Derwin James, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.

The Chargers were thin at wide receiver with only Josh Palmer, Tyron Johnson, John Hurst and Michael Bandy available to play. Wide receivers K.J. Hill, Jason Moore, Joe Reed and Jalen Guyton were out with injuries. Johnson had four receptions for 41 yards midway through the third quarter.

Hill and Reed, two wideouts drafted by the Chargers last season, are likely on the roster bubble with Allen, Williams, Palmer, Johnson and Guyton probably ahead of them on the depth chart.

But Hill might not have to worry because he started the first two preseason games as the Chargers’ kickoff and punt returner. Reed hasn’t practiced in nearly two weeks because of an ankle injury.

The Chargers could decide to bet on Reed’s upside as a versatile playmaker who can contribute in the backfield and as a kick returner. But Reed had a quiet rookie season and has struggled to impress the new coaching staff this summer.

If the Chargers decide to keep less than seven wide receivers, that could create an opportunity for camp standouts and defensive tackles Breiden Fehoko and Forrest Merrill.

But the Chargers could be set on the interior of the defensive line with Justin Jones, Jerry Tillery, Christian Covington and Cortez Broughton.

The Chargers might be set with their second offensive line, but offensive tackles Trey Pipkins and Storm Norton delivered another shaky preseason performance versus the Seahawks. If the Chargers decide Pipkins and Norton aren’t the answers to back up offensive tackles Rashawn Slater and Bryan Bulaga, that could create opportunities for others.

The Chargers are two and a half days away from deciding on their roster battles.

 

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Rams get running back Sony Michel from Patriots in trade

The Rams have acquired running back Sony Michel in a trade with the New England Patriots, making a big move to repair their threadbare backfield by adding a Super Bowl ball carrier.

In return, the Rams are sending New England sub-first-round draft picks in 2022.

The deal was announced by the Rams early Wednesday morning.

Michel, 26, instantly becomes the most accomplished running back on the Rams’ roster.

He rushed for 931 yards as a rookie in 2018 after being drafted out of Georgia with the 31st overall pick, and he had 94 yards and a 2-yard touchdown to break a fourth-quarter tie in the Patriots’ Super Bowl LIII victory over the Rams.

The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Michel followed that with 912 yards on the ground in 2019, before a quadriceps injury sent him to injured reserve and limited him to 449 yards in nine games last season.

With the Rams, he could be the starting running back or back up Darrell Henderson when the season begins Sept. 12 with a Sunday night game against the Chicago Bears at SoFi Stadium.

The Rams’ excitement about their running backs for 2021 began to fall apart when Cam Akers, coming off a fast finish to the 2020 season, tore an Achilles tendon a week before training camp.

Henderson was penciled in to replace Akers as the starter, but behind him were Xavier Jones and rookies Jake Funk and Otis Anderson, none of whom has taken a handoff in an NFL regular-season game.

After Henderson sprained a thumb in practice Monday, a reminder of the lack of depth at the position, Coach Sean McVay was asked if the Rams had the running backs they needed or were looking for help.

“I think we’re still in the process of figuring that out. We’ve got a little bit of time,” McVay said.

Two days later, they reached for help.

It wasn’t immediately clear which 2022 draft picks the Rams were giving up, but for once they won’t include a first-rounder.

The Rams already traded away their 2022 first-rounder – along with their 2023 first-rounder and 2021 third-rounder and quarterback Jared Goff – to the Detroit Lions last January in the deal that brought quarterback Matthew Stafford to L.A.

Michel is entering the final season of a four-year, $9,626,695 contract after the Patriots declined to pick up his fifth-year option.

More to come on this story.

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Rams’ Bryce Perkins, Tutu Atwell start preseason fast

  • Quarterback Bryce Perkins #16 of the Los Angeles Rams passes against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Tutu Atwell #15 of the Los Angeles Rams catches a pass for a first down against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Rams fans called the Melon Heads look on prior to a pre-season NFL football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Quarterback Bryce Perkins #16 of the Los Angeles Rams looks on agaimnstr the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Defensive tackle Forrest Merrill #66 of the Los Angeles Chargers tackled running back Raymond Calais #30 of the Los Angeles Rams for a loss of yards in the fourth quarter of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Defensive back John Brannon #38 of the Los Angeles Chargers intercepted pass in the end zone from quarterback Devlin Hodges #19 of the Los Angeles Rams in the fourth quarter of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Defensive back John Brannon #38 of the Los Angeles Chargers intercepted pass in the end zone from quarterback Devlin Hodges #19 of the Los Angeles Rams in the fourth quarter of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Cornerback Donte Vaughn #39 of the Los Angeles Chargers reacts after knocking a pass away wide receiver Jeremiah Haydel #18 of the Los Angeles Rams in the end zone in the fourth quarter of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Running back Raymond Calais #30 of the Los Angeles Rams runs for yardage against the Los Angeles Chargers in the fourth quarter of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Quarterback Devlin Hodges #19 of the Los Angeles Rams passes against the Los Angeles Chargers in the fourth quarter of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers fans react after defeating the Los Angeles Rams 13-6 during a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Quarterback Devlin Hodges #19 of the Los Angeles Rams passes against the Los Angeles Chargers in the fourth quarter of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Tight end Jacob Harris #87 of the Los Angeles Rams drops a pass in the end one against defensive back Tevaughn Campbell #20 of the Los Angeles Chargers in the second half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Quarterback Devlin Hodges #19 of the Los Angeles Rams passes against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Running back Raymond Calais #30 of the Los Angeles Rams runs for yardage against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Quarterback Devlin Hodges #19 of the Los Angeles Rams passes against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Running back Raymond Calais #30 of the Los Angeles Rams runs for yardage against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Tight end Jacob Harris #87 of the Los Angeles Rams drops a pass in the end one against defensive back Tevaughn Campbell #20 of the Los Angeles Chargers in the fourth quarter of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Wide receiver J.J. Koski #17 of the Los Angeles Rams catches pass and runs for a 20 year first down against the Los Angeles Chargers in the fourth quarter of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Tight end Jacob Harris #87 of the Los Angeles Rams drops a pass in the end one against defensive back Tevaughn Campbell #20 of the Los Angeles Chargers in the fourth quarter of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Running back Raymond Calais #30 of the Los Angeles Rams runs for yardage against the Los Angeles Chargers in the fourth quarter of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Tight end Jacob Harris #87 of the Los Angeles Rams drops a pass in the end one against defensive back Tevaughn Campbell #20 of the Los Angeles Chargers in the second half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Tight end Jacob Harris #87 of the Los Angeles Rams fumbles as teammate wide receiver J.J. Koski #17 of the Los Angeles Rams recovers against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Tight end Jacob Harris #87 of the Los Angeles Rams fumbles as teammate wide receiver J.J. Koski #17 of the Los Angeles Rams recovers against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Tight end Jacob Harris #87 of the Los Angeles Rams fumbles as teammate wide receiver J.J. Koski #17 of the Los Angeles Rams recovers against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Trishton Jackson #83 of the Los Angeles Rams catches a pass for first down against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Quarterback Chase Daniel #7 hands off to running back Joshua Kelley #27 of the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Jalen Guyton #15 of the Los Angeles Chargers drops a pass against defensive back Brontae Harris #35 of the Los Angeles Rams in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Running back Joshua Kelley #27 of the Los Angeles Chargers runs for yardage against the Los Angeles Rams in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Linebacker Justin Lawler #53 of the Los Angeles Rams tackled quarterback Chase Daniel #7 of the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Running back Raymond Calais #30 of the Los Angeles Rams slides for yardage against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Outside linebacker Kyzir White #44 of the Los Angeles Chargers tackled running back Jake Funk #34 of the Los Angeles Rams for a loss of awards in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Outside linebacker Kyzir White #44 of the Los Angeles Chargers tackled quarterback Devlin Hodges #19 of the Los Angeles Rams in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Running back Jake Funk #34 of the Los Angeles Rams runs for s first down against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Linebacker Justin Lawler #53 of the Los Angeles Rams reacts after a tackle against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Running back Joshua Kelley #27 of the Los Angeles Chargers is upended by the Los Angeles Rams defense in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Quarterback Devlin Hodges #19 of the Los Angeles Rams scrambles against outside linebacker Kyzir White #44 of the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Rams cheerleader looks on against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Rams take on the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Running back Justin Jackson #22 of the Los Angeles Chargers is tickled for a loss of yards by the Los Angeles Rams defense in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Running back Justin Jackson #22 of the Los Angeles Chargers runs for a first down against the Los Angeles Rams in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers fan reacts against the Los Angeles Rams in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Rams fan looks on against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Wide receiver K.J. Hill #84 of the Los Angeles Chargers catches pass for yardage against the Los Angeles Rams in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Quarterback Chase Daniel #7 of the Los Angeles Chargers scrambles against the Los Angeles Rams in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Running back Joshua Kelley #27 of the Los Angeles Chargers is tackled by the Los Angeles Rams defense in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Chargers fan Joe Sanchez of Palm Springs takes photos of the stadium prior to a pre-season NFL football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Rams fans Richard Trudy De Fino of Mission Hills pose for a picture next to a giant mural prior to a pre-season NFL football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Rams fans Gilbert Castro, right, along with his son Fabian Castro of Santa Barbara look out over the stadium wearing there defensive end Aaron Donald #99 jerseys prior to a pre-season NFL football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Offensive tackle Rashawn Slater #70 of the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Trishton Jackson #83 of the Los Angeles Rams reacts after touchdown catch against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Wide receiver Jason Moore #11 of the Los Angeles Chargers catches a pass against the Los Angeles Rams for a first down in the first half of a pre-season NFL football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Rams General Manager Les Snead looks on prior to a pre-season NFL football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Rams enter the field as the melon heads cheer prior to a pre-season NFL football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Head coach Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams prior to a pre-season NFL football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Rams enter the field as the melon heads cheer prior to a pre-season NFL football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

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INGLEWOOD — As first hurdles go, some were more spectacular than others in SoFi Stadium’s debut with fans Saturday night.

First SoFi Stadium football crowd? 68,791 fans, not a sellout but good for a preseason game. First NFL game experience for many young Rams players? Call the results mixed. A literal hurdle of a tackler for a first down by Rams quarterback Bryce Perkins? It created the roar of the night from the fans and his teammates, and the single brightest memory from the exhibition against the Chargers.

“Usually when I’m on the field I can’t hear anything (from the sidelines),” Perkins said of his run. “But after that play it seemed like on I heard everybody.”

A Rams team of third- and fourth-stringers ended up on the wrong end of a 13-6 victory by the Chargers, in part because of mistakes by the offense and kicking team and the running game’s failure to break loose.

But with Rams coach Sean McVay holding all of his starters and most of his second unit out of preseason games to reduce injuries, this game was less about the Rams battling the Chargers than Rams players battling each other for roster spots.

Some of the young Rams played Saturday night as if they’d been anticipating the return of preseason games and fans to L.A.-area sports venues as long as the crowd.

There was Tutu Atwell, the tiny rookie wide receiver, surviving a hard early tackle, turning a short pass into a long gain and turning his first crack at a punt return into a people-pleasing burst.

There was running back Raymond Calais taking advantage of his first punt return to top Atwell with a 46-yarder.

There were Perkins and Trishton Jackson taking advantage of a short field by connecting on a pass for the Rams’ first touchdown of the exhibition season.

Atwell’s eased some doubts about the Rams’ decision to use a second-round pick, their first in last April’s draft, on a receiver who says he’s striving to bulk up to 160 pounds.

There’s still concern about what happens the first time a pro-size linebacker blasts him, but they’ll have to find him first.

“Those things were encouraging, to be able to get him a couple of touches early,” McVay said. I thought he did a good job popping up, because that was quite a hit that he took on his first catch.

“You can see the explosive playmaker that has us excited about his potential.”

A crowd like this might have liked to see Rams starters like quarterback Matthew Stafford, but at least they were forewarned about what to expect from McVay.

This was the first SoFi Stadium game with fans, after the Rams and Chargers played home schedules in front of 70,000 empty seats in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And this was the Rams’ first preseason game since 2019, after 2020 exhibitions were called off.

It was a good start for Atwell as he fights Trishton Jackson and others for a position on the roster behind wide-receiver regulars Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, DeSean Jackson and Van Jefferson, none of whom played Saturday.

It was a good start for Jacob Harris, a converted wide receiver looking for a roster spot at tight end behind Tyler Higbee and Johnny Mundt, who led Rams receivers with four catches for 43 yards.

It was a good night on defense for Justin Lawler, the outside linebacker finally healthy after a series of foot injuries, who often was in Chargers quarterback Chase Daniel’s face, finishing with two QB hits and a tackle for loss.

And it was a good start for Perkins in his effort to hold off Duck Hodges for the third quarterback slot on the roster behind Stafford and John Wolford.

Perkins, the 2019 undrafted free agent from Virginia who had yet to play for the Rams, completed 7 of 10 passes for 42 yards. That included the touchdown pass.

Perkins, whose legs are his best weapon, showed patience in the pocket and waited for Jackson to get open as the second option before lobbing the ball where the receiver could go down and get it at the back of the end zone.

That 12-yard run and leap for a first down in the fourth quarter is what fans will remember best.

“I was just trying to keep the chains moving,” said Perkins, who would have been short of a first down if he’d gone out of bounds. “Plays like that are just reactionary.”

Hodges, the former Steelers backup, had led the Rams out for their first and second offensive series and completed 6 of 8 passes for 39 yards. But 20 of those yards came on a short pass that Atwell turned into a 20-yard gain. The offense had to call time out before its second snap.

Hodges came back in after halftime and led a drive that ended with a missed field goal, and finished 11 for 19 for 85 yards with a drive-killing interception in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for the Rams, Perkins was their leading rusher.

There was no early winner in the competition to back up running back Darrell Henderson, which is also an effort by the backs on the current roster to prove the Rams don’t need to add running-back depth after Cam Akers’ Achilles’ injury.

Xavier Jones had 21 yards on seven carries, the longest going eight yards, and two catches for six yards, and rookie Jake Funk had 12 yards on five carries, plus one catch for negative yards.

The other early negative for the Rams was the kicking game, which they thought they’d figured out. Kicker Matt Gay missed an extra point after a penalty backed him up five yards. Second-string kicker Austin MacGinnis hit the right upright with a 40-yard field-goal attempt.

But that probably won’t change coaches minds about that position.

Other performances might at least set the terms for competitions to be continued when the Rams scrimmage against the Raiders twice in the coming week, host the Raiders in a preseason game next Saturday at SoFi Stadium, and face the Broncos in Denver in their last exhibition before the regular-season opener against the Bears at SoFi on Sept. 12.

Said Perkins, summing it up for everyone: “I’m not going to get too caught up on one play or one drive, because there’s more games to be played.”

NOTES

Rams wide receiver Ben Skowronek, a seventh-round draft pick, fractured a forearm and will have surgery Monday, the team said.

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Derwin James, Chargers fans return to SoFi Stadium for concert festival

INGLEWOOD — Chargers safety Derwin James took a second to soak in the atmosphere when he dug his cleats on the SoFi Stadium field while The Offspring performed above his head on the oculus video board.

James wasn’t on the field in uniform and fans weren’t in the stands last year for the Chargers’ inaugural season at the 70,000-seat venue.

That changed Sunday when an estimated 35,000 fans scattered from inside the stadium to outside in the plaza where rock bands performed before the Chargers’ fan-fest scrimmage.

“It felt good going through warm ups, just getting my cleats on the ground for the first time because everybody knows I didn’t get to make it to the stadium last year,” James said.

James missed all of the 2020 season because of a knee injury in training camp and missed the first 12 games the prior season because of a foot injury in training camp.

With two major injuries, some wondered if James would still be the same player from his memorable All-Pro rookie season in 2018. That doubt has been silenced this summer with James making dynamic plays in camp, including an athletic interception grab against quarterback Justin Herbert while covering running back Austin Ekeler.

Herbert didn’t count the interception because he was touched by defenders before releasing the ball, but he’s glad to see James making plays for his defense.

“He makes us better,” Herbert said about James. “I think that’s the biggest thing and he’s a competitor. He’s smart, crazy athletic and he makes plays and to have him out on that side of the ball, it makes it tough on us. But at the same time, we get to learn from him.”

Chargers coach Brandon Staley plans on utilizing James as a positionless player with many roles on the field, including being the play caller of the defense. James said he’s comfortable relaying the plays that Staley sends to his helmet.

“With the fans out here, we had more energy,” James said. “We had our uniforms on and it kind of felt game-like, but we’re still recovering and have things to work on.”

That’s it. No more Modelos for me. I need abs like Derwin James #Chargers pic.twitter.com/Z6mHhhRnnq

— Gilbert Manzano (@GManzano24) August 8, 2021

MURRAY, LINSLEY SIDELINED

The buzz from the Chargers playing at SoFi Stadium was subdued when linebacker Kenneth Murray fell out of bounds in pain.

Murray, last year’s first-round pick, held his right ankle while the medical staff attended to him. Murray had his ankle taped and walked around the sideline, but eventually sat on the bench and ended his practice early.

Minutes later, center Corey Linsley exited the field with his left cleat untied and didn’t return to the scrimmage. Staley said Linsley is dealing with a foot issue.

Staley said both starting players were pulled for precautionary reasons and added that it would have been a different story if it were a real game.

“We’re just making sure that we’re careful,” Staley said about Murray and Linsley.

Rookie linebacker Nick Niemann received an increase in snaps with Murray sidelined and got to defend against Herbert and his offense.

Scott Quessenberry was Herbert’s center after Linsley left the field.

ROUGH SCRIMMAGE FOR KICKERS

The three Chargers kickers competing for the position had a rough outing Sunday.

Michael Badgley was booed by Chargers fans after going 4 of 7 on a series of field-goal attempts. Badgley recovered by returning to make his final two field goals, including a 55-yarder.

Tristan Vizcaino followed Badgley and went 4 of 6 on his first field-goal attempts. He made a 55-yard field goal for his longest kick of the scrimmage.

Undrafted rookie kicker Alex Kessman went third and made 3 of 7 field-goal attempts. His longest made kick was 49 yards.

Staley said the kicker competition was even and it didn’t matter that Badgley went first for his field-goal attempts. He plans on switching the rotation throughout camp and preseason games.

“Badgley earned the right to go out there today because he’s been in the NFL longer,” Staley said. “Tristan is brand new to us. So we wanted to give Mike that first crack in a live environment. But as we change through the preseason, that order is going to change.”

OTHER CAMP NOTES …

Defensive back Mark Webb, wide receiver Tyron Johnson, cornerback Ryan Smith and defensive lineman Christian Covington didn’t practice. …

Quarterbacks Easton Stick and Chase Daniel alternated as the No. 2 quarterback for drills. …

The Chargers are off Monday and return to Costa Mesa on Tuesday for their 11th of 17 training camp practices.

Herbert bombs to #Chargers fans lol pic.twitter.com/N6k3t3ANUd

— Gilbert Manzano (@GManzano24) August 9, 2021

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Chiefs lose composure and see red amid a sea of yellow in Super Bowl LV

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) reacts after getting knocked down during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes passes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, speaks with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes after the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 31-9 to win the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski, left, and quarterback Tom Brady celebrate after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 31-9 to win the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 31-9 to win the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady grabs the Vince Lombardi trophy after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 31-9 to win the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette, right, celebrates with teammate Tom Brady after scoring on a 27-yard touchdown run during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) talks with Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) after throwing a touchdown pass during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • Tampa Bay tight end Rob Gronkowski celebrates as he scores a touchdown during the Super Bowl LV game of Tampa Bay Buccaneers versus Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) celebrates after a catch for a touchdown during the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (Ben Liebenberg via AP)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady grabs the Vince Lombardi trophy after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 31-9 to win the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (31) celebrates with Devin White (45), Lavonte David (54), Mike Edwards (32) and others after intercepting a pass during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady passes under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (81) catches the ball for a touchdown in front of Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) during the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (Ben Liebenberg via AP)

  • Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is tackled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Antoine Winfield Jr. and cornerback Carlton Davis (24) during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett sacks Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Down judge Sarah Thomas (53) during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a pass while in the grasp of Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes throws against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Jordan Whitehead breaks up a pass intended for Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes passes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Kansas City Chiefs’ Byron Pringle tackles Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jaydon Mickens during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (28) is upended by Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Ben Niemann (56) during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Fans hold up signs honoring front line workers during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette runs for a touch down against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Fans cheer during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones (27) is stopped short of the goal line on fourth down by Kansas City Chiefs’ Ben Nieman (56), Tanoh Kpassagnon (92) and others during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • ICU nurse manager Suzie Dorner, center, stands next to referee Carl Cheffers (51) at the coin toss with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers inside linebacker Lavonte David (54) prior to the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL Photos via AP)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Antoine Winfield Jr. celebrates after an interception against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers nose tackle Steve McLendon pressures Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • The Weeknd performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • The Weeknd performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • The Weeknd performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • The Weeknd performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) looks to throw while being pressured by Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Anthony Nelson (98) during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Rob Gronkowski (87) celebrates with Mike Evans (13) and quarterback Tom Brady (12) after Gronkowski scored a touchdown during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers players run onto the field before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski catches a 17-yard touchdown pass in front of Kansas City Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed (38) during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Tyrann Mathieu, center, reacts after an interception was called back for a penalty during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) is tackled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers inside linebacker Lavonte David (54) after catching a pass during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (31) breaks up a pass intended for Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Rob Gronkowski (87) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady celebrates after his team scored a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • A Kansas City Chiefs fan watches play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • The Weeknd performs during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Dancers perform during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • The Weeknd performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) stands during the performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” prior to the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (Ben Liebenberg via AP)

  • Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Tyrann Mathieu celebrates a goal line stand against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes passes under pressure from Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward breaks up a pass intended for Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown catches a pass over Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Former quarterback Peyton Manning motions to the crowd during the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • The Kansas City Chiefs run onto the field before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • H.E.R. performs “America the Beautiful” before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Eric Church performs the national anthem before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Planes fly over the stadium before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Fans cheer during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans cheer on their team during their NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Fans pose for a picture before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Fans cheer for a news crew prior to Super Bowl LV when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

  • Fans take a photo before Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

  • Randi Martin (mirrored sunglasses), the mother of Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, poses for a photo with members of law enforcement as she arrives at the stadium prior to Super Bowl LV where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the defending champion Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

  • A Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans arrives before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • A Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan arrives before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs warms up before Super Bowl LV against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

  • General view of fans entering the stadium prior to Super Bowl LV when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

  • Fans pose before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • A Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan looks on prior to a game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

  • A fan wearing a Michigan jersey of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady watches from the stands before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Fans watch the set of CBS Television before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Seats are filled with cardboard cutout fans before Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Feb. 7, 2021. (Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)

  • Fans arrive at Raymond James Stadium before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Fans sit in the stands among cardboard cutouts before Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

  • Security guards stand at an entrance to the stadium prior to Super Bowl LV when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

  • A Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans arrives before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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Offsides. Unnecessary roughness. Unsportsmanlike conduct. Pass interference. And holding. Lots of holding.

All those penalties were too much even for Patrick Mahomes to overcome: Good as Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were Sunday — worthy champions, certainly — the Kansas City Chiefs put on a textbook display of how not to perform in a Super Bowl.

By halftime, the defending champs had amassed more penalties (8) than points (6) — and more frustration than hope. It was an undisciplined, uncharacteristic and somewhat unbelievable loss of composure that set the stage for a 31-9 drubbing at the hands of the Bucs that very few saw coming.

Kansas City’s 95 penalty yards in the first half were the most by any team in the first half of any of the 269 regular-season and playoff games this season. They were one more yard than Kansas City had racked up in any single game all year. The Chiefs only committed three penalties in the second half to finish the game with 11 for 120 yards. It hardly counted as progress.

“It was uncharacteristic, and it was too bad it happened today,” coach Andy Reid said.

The team that ran like a classy, unstoppable machine through one championship season, and over 16 more wins en route to their second straight title game, imploded on itself. The Chiefs got too handsy in a vain attempt to cover Tampa Bay’s receivers, too jumpy on the line of scrimmage, too chippy when things didn’t go their way.

Each one of the eight first-half penalties hurt in its own way, none more than the two pass interference calls over the span of three plays that led to a touchdown and a 21-6 Bucs lead right before halftime. The drive started at the Tampa 29 with 1:01 left. Reid burned two timeouts, after two short Bucs gains, thinking the Chiefs might get the ball back.

They didn’t.

The face of all this Kansas City frustration: It was defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who, one play after a 34-yard pass interference call that put the Bucs in business, got hit with an interference call of his own that gave Tampa Bay the ball at the KC 1. After the touchdown on the next play, Mathieu got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for wagging a finger in Brady’s face.

No wonder he was frustrated. A few minutes earlier, Mathieu also sparred with Brady after his interception off a deflected ball was nullified by — what else — a defensive holding call. It was a marginal call that went against Charvarius Ward — lots of jockeying, and the sort of hand-to-hand combat that went unflagged through much of the playoffs.

It was only 7-3 at the time. And so, Mathieu said something to Brady. Brady didn’t back down. Brady came into the game with six Super Bowls titles, in part because he wins most of those mind games.

Now, he has seven.

“I’d never really seen that side of Tom Brady, but whatever. No comment. It’s over with,” Mathieu said.

Mahomes stayed stuck on one title. Flustered all day and hurried by a Bucs defense that apparently didn’t get the message about KC, he completed 26 of 49 passes, virtually all of them hurried, for 270 yards and two interceptions. It didn’t help that both starting tackles who had protected him all season, Mitchell Schwartz and Pro Bowler Eric Fisher, were out with injuries.

“A bad day to have a bad day,” Reid said. “But I’m not going to lay it on the offensive line. It took all of us.”

At least a half-dozen of Mahomes’ passes hit receivers in the hands but got dropped.

They weren’t the only ones with butterfingers.

With the Chiefs trailing 7-3 in the second quarter, lightly used punter Tommy Townsend dropped a perfect snap and had to scoop up the ball and rush the kick. It was a beauty that pinned Tampa back on its 30. But it was nullified by a holding call — a protector had to yank down an oncoming rusher to keep the late-off-the-foot kick from being blocked.

On the replay of fourth down, Townsend shanked a 29-yard kick and the Bucs took over on Kansas City’s 38. A penalty worth 10 years really cost the Chiefs 32.

Then, the flags started flying.

The first one on the ensuing drive nullified Mathieu’s interception.

The next was a five-yard penalty on 4th-and-5 — flag thrown by Sarah Thomas, the first female official to work a Super Bowl — that gave Tampa Bay a first down instead of settling for a field goal.

On the next play, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for what looked like the second touchdown connection between the old Patriots teammates, who never looked better in the pewter-and-red that the Bucs wear. But there was a flag on the ground.

“Holding. Defense, number 34,” referee Carl Cheffers called out on the mic. That penalty was declined. It was 14-6 Bucs. Amid that sea of yellow, the Chiefs were seeing red.

“Only referees can call the penalties, and penalties affect the game 1000 percent,” defensive lineman Chris Jones said. “So, what can I say? We got a lot of penalties called on us today.”

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Tom Brady and Buccaneers dominate Chiefs 31-9 in Super Bowl LV

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski, left, and quarterback Tom Brady celebrate after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 31-9 to win the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 31-9 to win the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady grabs the Vince Lombardi trophy after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 31-9 to win the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette, right, celebrates with teammate Tom Brady after scoring on a 27-yard touchdown run during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes passes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) talks with Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) after throwing a touchdown pass during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • Tampa Bay tight end Rob Gronkowski celebrates as he scores a touchdown during the Super Bowl LV game of Tampa Bay Buccaneers versus Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) reacts after getting knocked down during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) celebrates after a catch for a touchdown during the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (Ben Liebenberg via AP)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, speaks with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes after the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 31-9 to win the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady grabs the Vince Lombardi trophy after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs 31-9 to win the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (31) celebrates with Devin White (45), Lavonte David (54), Mike Edwards (32) and others after intercepting a pass during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady passes under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (81) catches the ball for a touchdown in front of Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) during the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (Ben Liebenberg via AP)

  • Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is tackled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Antoine Winfield Jr. and cornerback Carlton Davis (24) during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett sacks Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Down judge Sarah Thomas (53) during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a pass while in the grasp of Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes throws against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Jordan Whitehead breaks up a pass intended for Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes passes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Kansas City Chiefs’ Byron Pringle tackles Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jaydon Mickens during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (28) is upended by Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Ben Niemann (56) during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Fans hold up signs honoring front line workers during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette runs for a touch down against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Fans cheer during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones (27) is stopped short of the goal line on fourth down by Kansas City Chiefs’ Ben Nieman (56), Tanoh Kpassagnon (92) and others during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • ICU nurse manager Suzie Dorner, center, stands next to referee Carl Cheffers (51) at the coin toss with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers inside linebacker Lavonte David (54) prior to the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL Photos via AP)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Antoine Winfield Jr. celebrates after an interception against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers nose tackle Steve McLendon pressures Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • The Weeknd performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • The Weeknd performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • The Weeknd performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • The Weeknd performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) looks to throw while being pressured by Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Anthony Nelson (98) during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Rob Gronkowski (87) celebrates with Mike Evans (13) and quarterback Tom Brady (12) after Gronkowski scored a touchdown during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers players run onto the field before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski catches a 17-yard touchdown pass in front of Kansas City Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed (38) during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Tyrann Mathieu, center, reacts after an interception was called back for a penalty during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) is tackled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers inside linebacker Lavonte David (54) after catching a pass during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (31) breaks up a pass intended for Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Rob Gronkowski (87) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady celebrates after his team scored a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • A Kansas City Chiefs fan watches play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • The Weeknd performs during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Dancers perform during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • The Weeknd performs during the halftime show of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) stands during the performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” prior to the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (Ben Liebenberg via AP)

  • Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Tyrann Mathieu celebrates a goal line stand against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes passes under pressure from Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward breaks up a pass intended for Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown catches a pass over Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Former quarterback Peyton Manning motions to the crowd during the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • The Kansas City Chiefs run onto the field before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • H.E.R. performs “America the Beautiful” before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Eric Church performs the national anthem before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Planes fly over the stadium before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Fans cheer during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans cheer on their team during their NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Fans pose for a picture before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Fans cheer for a news crew prior to Super Bowl LV when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

  • Fans take a photo before Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

  • Randi Martin (mirrored sunglasses), the mother of Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, poses for a photo with members of law enforcement as she arrives at the stadium prior to Super Bowl LV where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the defending champion Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

  • A Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans arrives before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • A Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan arrives before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs warms up before Super Bowl LV against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

  • General view of fans entering the stadium prior to Super Bowl LV when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

  • Fans pose before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

  • A Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan looks on prior to a game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

  • A fan wearing a Michigan jersey of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady watches from the stands before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Fans watch the set of CBS Television before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Seats are filled with cardboard cutout fans before Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Feb. 7, 2021. (Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)

  • Fans arrive at Raymond James Stadium before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

  • Fans sit in the stands among cardboard cutouts before Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

  • Security guards stand at an entrance to the stadium prior to Super Bowl LV when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

  • A Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans arrives before the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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TAMPA, Fla. — Tom Brady made his seventh Super Bowl title look familiar – despite moving south to a new team and conference during a pandemic.

Brady threw two touchdown passes to old friend Rob Gronkowski and one to good pal Antonio Brown, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City 31-9 on their home field in Super Bowl 55 on Sunday.

The GOAT earned his fifth Super Bowl MVP award and extended his Super Bowl titles’ record in his 10th appearance, his first without Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The 43-year-old Brady broke his own mark for oldest player to win a Super Bowl and joined Hall of Famer Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks to win one with multiple franchises.

“I’m not making any comparisons,” Brady said. “Experiencing it with this group of guys is amazing.”

Stunningly, it was also easier than any of his previous Super Bowl victories, which came by an average margin of five points. This was also the first time Mahomes lost by double digits in his four-year career.

The Buccaneers (15-5) won their second NFL title and first in 18 years while becoming the first team to play the big game at home, capping an unusual and challenging season played through the novel coronavirus.

They won three road games as a wild-card team to reach the Super Bowl, and joined the NHL’s Lightning as a 2020 season champion. The Rays also went to the World Series but lost to the Dodgers.

“I’m so proud of all these guys,” Brady said. “We had a rough November but we came together at the right time. We knew this was gonna happen. We played our best game of the year.”

Tampa’s victory prevented Mahomes and the Chiefs (16-3) from becoming the first repeat champions since Brady’s Patriots did it in 2003-04.

The NFL completed its 269-game season on time without any cancellations, a remarkable accomplishment that required nearly 1 million COVID-19 tests for players and team personnel.

Due to the virus, only 25,000 mask-wearing fans were allowed in, including approximately 7,500 vaccinated health care workers who were given free tickets by the NFL. About 30,000 cardboard cutouts made the stadium look full.

Bruce Arians became the oldest coach at age 68 to win the Super Bowl. His mom, 95-year-old Kay Arians, witnessed it in person. Brady, Gronk and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles helped Arians get that Vince Lombardi Trophy.

“This really belongs to the coaching staff and our players. I didn’t do a damn thing,” Arians said after he was handed the trophy.

Bowles devised a masterful plan to frustrate Mahomes and shut down the Chiefs, the complete opposite of Kansas City’s 27-24 win in Tampa in Week 12, when the Chiefs jumped to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. Tyreek Hill had 269 yards receiving and three TDs in that one. He was held to 73 yards on seven catches.

After the Chiefs took a 3-0 early lead, it was all Brady and the Bucs.

Brady accomplished a career-first when he tossed an 8-yard TD pass to Gronkowksi to give the Buccaneers a 7-3 lead with 37 seconds left in the first quarter. Brady’s nine Super Bowl teams in New England produced just three points total in the first quarter. Gronkowski, who came out of retirement to play with his buddy, caught his 13th and 14th postseason TDs from Brady. That broke the record they shared with Jerry Rice and Joe Montana, who combined for 12.

Despite playing at home, the Buccaneers weren’t allowed to fire the cannons from their famed pirate ship after touchdowns and big plays. They did it soon after the clock expired as red, white and black confetti fell onto the field.

Fans still enjoyed the thud of Gronk’s thunderous spike after his first score.

Tampa missed an opportunity to extend the lead when Brady’s 2-yard pass to offensive lineman Joe Haeg was knocked out of his hands by Anthony Hitchens in the end zone. Ronald Jones was stopped short on consecutive carries as Arians stuck to his “No risk it, no biscuit” philosophy and went on fourth down.

But the Chiefs didn’t gain any momentum off the stop. Instead, they made one costly mistake after another.First, All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce dropped a pass that would’ve been a big gain on third down. Then punter Tommy Townsend shanked a 29-yarder after a penalty forced him to kick again. The Bucs started at Kansas City’s 38 instead of their 27.

A holding call on Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward negated an interception by All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu. Kansas City’s defense held but an offside penalty during Ryan Succop’s successful field goal gave the Buccaneers a first down. Sarah Thomas, the first woman official in a Super Bowl, threw that flag.

Brady needed one play, firing a strike to Gronkowski for a 17-yard TD and a 14-3 lead. Gronk hesitated before spiking the ball, waiting to make sure the flag on the play was again against the Chiefs.

Mahomes drove the offense for a 34-yard field goal by Harrison Butker that cut it to 14-6, but Kansas City’s defense fell apart in the final minute of the first half — allowing 42 yards on two pass interference penalties. One against Mathieu in the end zone set up Brady’s TD pass to Brown for a 21-6 halftime lead.

It was Brady who convinced his new team to give Brown a chance after the troubled former All-Pro came off suspension. His TD toss to Brown was his 50th of the season, including 10 in the postseason.

Mathieu took an unsportsmanlike penalty after the TD pass for getting into it with Brady as he ran to the sideline.

Leonard Fournette, like Brown an in-season addition, ran 27 yards untouched for a touchdown in the third quarter, extending Tampa’s lead to 28-9. Arians pumped his fist after that score and pointed toward offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who made the call.

Succop’s 52-yard field goal increased the lead to 31-9.

Last year, Mahomes rallied the Chiefs from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter against San Francisco and earned MVP honors in leading Kansas City to its first NFL championship in a half-century. But Tampa’s pass rush gave him no chance in this one.

Shaq Barrett had one of three sacks on Mahomes, who spent most of the game trying to escape Jason Pierre-Paul, William Gholston and a relentless group.

Brady was 6-3 in Super Bowls during 20 seasons in New England before he signed a $50 million, two-year contract with Tampa in March. The Buccaneers hadn’t reached the playoffs since 2007 and hadn’t won a postseason game since Jon Gruden led Tampa over Oakland in Super Bowl 37.

Despite the home-field advantage, it wasn’t until Brady hooked up with Gronkowski for a 21-6 lead that fans chanted: “Let’s Go Bucs!” They were roaring in the fourth quarter.

There were plenty of red-clad Chiefs fans doing the tomahawk chop for part of the first half until the Bucs made it a rout.

Brady avenged his loss against Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who held the same position for the Giants when New York stifled the Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl, preventing New England from a perfect season.

The warmer climate suited Brady perfectly. He passed Michael Jordan for more championships and it doesn’t seem he’s ready to slow down. He already said he might play past age 45.

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Alexander: Rams cut their losses quickly and decisively in swap of QBs

You can’t say the Rams don’t move swiftly and decisively.

As for effectively? We’ll see.

Two summers ago, coming off a Super Bowl appearance – albeit an offensively flaccid one against the Patriots – they gave Jared Goff a huge contract extension, four years, $134 million all told and a little over $110 million of that guaranteed.

Saturday night, having judged that the offense under Goff likely wasn’t going to get appreciably better, they cut their losses. Goff, plus a third-round pick in 2021 and first-rounders in 2022 and ’23, will go to Detroit for quarterback Matthew Stafford, and consider that just minutes after the trade SportsBetting.com dropped the Rams’ odds in 2022 for Super Bowl LVI in Inglewood from 18-1 to 10-1, behind only Kansas City and Tampa Bay.

Betting lines, of course, are hardly a scientific method of determining whether a trade was a good one. But they do reflect or at least predict public sentiment, and it was pretty obvious by the latter part of the season that Rams fans had Goff fatigue.

The main takeaway here is that the Rams front office gets it. Southern California adores winners and shuns losers. And in a town that has already celebrated two championships in the last five months, even the most expensive stadium in North America will not be enough to hold L.A. fans’ interest when they’re finally allowed in unless the product matches the opulence.

But is this decisiveness or desperation? Obviously the Rams aren’t afraid to change course, as the second bombshell in two offseasons has shown. But they painted themselves into a corner by handing Goff that huge contract following the Super Bowl year. And as we suggested was likely earlier in the week  they had to add assets in order to find a taker.

Probably not coincindentally, that turned out to be new Lions GM Brad Holmes, whose last gig was as the Rams’ director of college scouting. In that role he scouted Goff at Cal, so I think we can assume he knows what he’s getting.

Or at least he knows his former boss isn’t afraid to throw around draft picks. If you listen closely you can hear echoes of George Allen’s “The future is now” philosophy. The Rams’ last first round choice was Goff in 2016 with the No. 1 pick. Their next first-rounder? Right now it’ll be in the 2024 draft, but stay tuned.

Anyway, two words for those who would treat those first-round picks like gold: Cam Akers, a second-rounder who could be a star.  And two more words: Jalen Ramsey, the haul for two of those first-rounders and maybe the best shutdown corner in the NFL.

Will this deal be worth it?

Goff is 26, while Stafford turns 33 in a week. He was the 2009 No. 1 pick out of Georgia, and in 12 NFL seasons he has averaged 273.4 passing yards and 23.6 completions per game, both No. 4 on the all-time lists. He has a strong arm, and he’s tough, but he’s been banged up and beat up over the years while playing for a forlorn franchise that has reached the postseason three times in his 12 seasons, the last in 2016. His teams have been in the league’s top 10 in scoring twice, and in one of those (2017) the Lions missed the playoffs.

How much of that has been on the quarterback, and how much of that on the team he has had around him?

When general manager Les Snead held his end-of-season session with the media last Tuesday, we should have anticipated this was coming. Over and over he was asked about Goff, and the way he parried those questions made it clear that something was up. When it’s said that someone is the quarterback “right now,” you might as well put it in big neon letters that his days are numbered.

Snead also made it clear that offensive improvement was a priority: “Being more explosive, scoring more points, not turning the ball over as much.” That’s fairly obvious. But here we should point out that in 2020 Goff threw for 20 touchdowns but was responsible for 17 turnovers (13 interceptions, four lost fumbles). Stafford, with an even leakier offensive line, threw for 26 touchdowns and coughed it up 11 times (10 picks, one lost fumble).

Stafford was on his way to perhaps his best season in 2019 (19 touchdowns, 5 interceptions and a career best 106.0 quarterback rating after eight games) before fracturing bones in his back. He regressed somewhat in 2020, but played with injuries to his ribs, ankle and throwing hand and also had little help from a running game that was 30th in the league. That shouldn’t be a problem in L.A. (see: Cam Akers).

This is not a move for three or five years down the road. The Rams feel the urgency of a big market team, as they should. If it doesn’t work, all the urgency in the world might not be enough a few years from now.

In the meantime, Stafford will now be reunited with his high school teammate from Dallas Highland Park, a fellow named Clayton Kershaw.

Maybe Kersh will let Stafford rub his World Series ring for luck.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

 

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First look at the NFL playoffs schedule

The schedule for the NFL playoffs was released Sunday night, Jan. 3.

(All Times PST)

Wild-card playoffs

Saturday, Jan. 9

Indianapolis at Buffalo, 10:05 a.m.

Rams at Seattle, 1:40 p.m.

Tampa Bay at Washington, 5:15 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 10

Baltimore at Tennessee, 10:05 a.m.

Chicago at New Orleans, 1:40 p.m.

Cleveland at Pittsburgh, 5:15 p.m.

Divisional Playoffs

 

Saturday, Jan. 16 and Sunday, Jan. 17

NFC lowest seed remaining at Green Bay

AFC lowest seed remaining at Kansas City

TBD vs. TBD

TBD vs. TBD

 

Conference Championships

Sunday, Jan. 24

 

Super Bowl

At Tampa, Fla.

Sunday, Feb. 7, 3:30 p.m.

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Rams don’t want to see a Carson rerun when they play Seahawks

INGLEWOOD — The Rams’ first game against the Seattle Seahawks this season produced one of their best moments of the year, a solid bounce-back win that gave them life in the NFC West race.

Getting the same result in the same desperate circumstances when the teams play again Sunday in Seattle won’t be easy, in part because these aren’t the same Seahawks.

In November, running backs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde were both injured and missing from the Seahawks’ offense. What the Rams’ defense did in a 23-16 victory, sacking Russell Wilson six times and shutting down DK Metcalf, was impressive anyway. But they know it will take more to repeat that performance now.

Carson and Hyde are healthy after foot and hamstring injuries, while third running back Rashaad Penny is back from a knee injury, and the Seahawks have won four out of five games after losing three out of four.

“You’d be surprised what five weeks can do for a team from a personnel standpoint,” Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley said this week.

“Because of the run game, I think that they’re a much more complete offense than when we first faced them and they’re definitely hitting their stride.”

The Seahawks’ offense begins with Wilson, who’s on his way to career highs in passing yards and touchdowns throwing to Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.

The Rams held Wilson to his worst game of the season in Week 10 at SoFi Stadium. Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey limited Metcalf to two catches for 28 yards on a season-low four targets. Seahawks running backs managed 51 yards in the team’s third game without Carson and Hyde.

That win following a sloppy loss at Miami lifted the Rams into a first-place tie with Seattle and Arizona, which led on a tiebreaker.

Now, as the Rams try to right the ship after losing to the Jets, Carson and Co. make their task tougher.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on being a balanced attack, and there was a portion of the schedule in there when we lost three running backs at the same time,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this week. “We didn’t have the same rhythm.”

With the running game intact again, Carroll said, “This is as good as we’ve been all year.”

In Carson’s four seasons in Seattle, including 2,381 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground in 2018-19, the Seahawks are 30-14 when he’s playing and 11-10 when he isn’t.

Carson is running for 5.0 yards per carry, which would be a career high over a full season and ranks eighth in the NFL this year.

The Rams are 3-5 this year when opponents average for 4.5 or more per carry.

That’s a statistical benchmark to watch Sunday in a game that shapes up as a showdown between the Rams’ defense (No. 1 in yards allowed per game and per play, No. 1 against the pass, No. 2 against the run) and the Seahawks’ offense (No. 6 in yards per play, No. 5 in passer rating, No. 4 in yards per run).

“It gives them another dynamic. That’s going to be something we needed to be really ready to defend,” Ramsey said before practice Thursday.

The Rams (9-5) can clinch a playoff spot Sunday with a win or tie against Seattle (10-4), a Chicago loss or tie at Jacksonville or an Arizona win or tie against San Francisco. They can go back into first place in the NFC West by beating Seattle, giving themselves a chance to wrap up the division title by beating Arizona or seeing Seattle lose at San Francisco in the season’s final week.

Carson’s and Hyde’s return will make that harder.

Rams coach Sean McVay calls Carson, 26, a seventh-round draft pick from Oklahoma State, “one of the more underrated players in this league.” McVay has seen Carson at his best, rushing for 116 and 118 yards in L.A.’s past two games at Seattle.

“Getting those runners back and how they’ve run the football,” McVay said, “has definitely made them even more of a challenge than they already were as a great offense.”

NOTES

The Rams practiced at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Thursday afternoon, the third time they’ve done that during the season, because strong wind was forecast at their facility in Thousand Oaks. The team will practice on Christmas day, but will start work later than usual to allow players and coaches to spend the morning with their families. … Right tackle Rob Havenstein practiced and is “ready to roll” for Sunday after being limited Wednesday by a neck injury suffered in the loss to the Jets. … Defensive tackle Aaron Donald is the third Rams player to earn Pro Bowl selections in his first seven seasons, joining defensive tackle Merlin Olsen (who did it in his first 14) and linebacker Les Richter (eight), the Rams said, quoting the sports data company Sportradar.

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