Austin Ekeler’s 2 TDs leads Chargers over Rams in Battle of L.A.

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler had one thing on his mind on the longest touchdown drive of his career, a 72-yard burst that set the tone for his team’s decisive victory by 31-10 over their city rivals. the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium in the Battle for LA

Don’t get caught.

“He called the O line because it was blocked perfectly,” Ekeler said. “We were running. Everything was kicked out, and I was able to go around the corner. I got caught earlier in the year, and so that’s all I could think about was, ‘OK, speed, speed, speed . Don’t get caught,’ and I was able to get in.”

Ekeler finished with 122 rushing yards on just 10 carries and another rushing touchdown on the day, this one from 10 yards out.

The Western Colorado product now has a league-leading 18 total touchdowns on the year. He also finished with four receptions for 39 receiving yards, passing Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson for the most receptions by a running back in a single season in franchise history with 103.

Ekeler was joined by wide receiver Mike Williams in another jaw-dropping performance on offense for the Bolts, finishing with seven receptions for 94 yards on 10 targets, including an impressive one-handed 18-yard grab along the sideline near the end of the game. the second trimester.

“As a professional coach, you get to witness a lot,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “You get to see a lot of specials. But then there are some that are more special than the rest, and this was definitely one of them.”

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert completed 21 of 28 passes for 212 yards and two scores, with no interceptions. Herbert was not sacked, with a passer rating of 119.9.

The Oregon product now has 100 career total touchdowns, which tied him with Hall of Famer Dan Marino for all-time by any player through the first three NFL seasons.

The Bolts improved to 10-6 with the win, guaranteeing the Chargers at least the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs, and a chance to move up to the No. 5 seed next week.

Defensive end Joey Bosa returned from a 12-game absence due to a groin injury that required surgery, played 23 defensive snaps and finished with two combined tackles.

The Chargers also had a strong performance from their defense, holding the Rams to 277 yards.

Running back Kyle Van Noy recorded a sack for the fourth straight game. Van Noy said afterward that Staley deserves credit for holding the team together after a rough patch early in the season, with the Bolts winning five of their last six games.

“You saw that a lot of people hated him,” Van Noy said. “I’m the kind of person where everything goes well when things go wrong, right? You can point out the negatives, but you also have to give credit, when it’s due. And I think he deserves credit.”

The Rams fell to 5-11 with the loss as the defending Super Bowl champions limp to the finish line.

Rams running back Cam Akers had another strong performance, totaling 123 rushing yards on 19 carries. Malcolm Brown also had a nice 23-yard run untouched over the middle of the Bolts’ defense for the Rams’ lone touchdown.

In his third start, Baker Mayfield finished 11-for-19 with 132 yards passing, with no touchdowns or interceptions. Mayfield’s favorite target was Van Jefferson, who finished with three catches for 77 yards.

“There was a very small margin for error and when it got out of hand, it got out of hand,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said. “When you get into some of those familiar passing situations, that’s where we ended up struggling and had some miscommunication. You don’t make excuses, those guys did a good job.

“They deserved to win. Hats off to Brandon [Staley] and his group. We’ll look to have a good week of preparation and finish this season the right way in Seattle.”

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Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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