Rams Fall at San Diego
By Nick Wagoner
SAN DIEGO – The Rams have made a habit of getting key turnovers and big defensive plays at the right time this season. On Sunday, it was another key turnover that turned the tide of the game.
This time, it worked against the Rams as San Diego safety Marlon McCree scooped up a Stephen Davis fumble and sprinted 79 yards for a touchdown that helped break open the game and running back LaDainian Tomlinson took care of the rest to give San Diego a 38-24 win against the Rams on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.
The loss drops the Rams to 4-3 on the season and is their second loss in a row. The Chargers improved to 5-2 with the win.
Just as it appeared the Rams had wrested momentum away from the Chargers and were seemingly on the verge of tying a game they had trailed the whole way, the turnovers that had gone their way so many times bounced the other way.
With running back Steven Jackson on the sideline and 9:15 to go in the third quarter, the Rams defense had figured out how to stop San Diego and the offense had been moving the ball well.
On first-and-10 at San Diego’s 29, quarterback Marc Bulger handed the ball to Davis who burst off the left side for a gain of 4, but as Davis attempted to spin away for extra yards, Chargers defensive end Jacques Cesaire knocked the ball loose.
McCree grabbed the ball, jumped to his feet and raced down the right sideline for a touchdown. What could have become a 14-14 tie suddenly became a 21-7 lead for the Chargers and the Rams never came closer than that 14-point deficit.
That turnover changed the momentum and the face of the game for San Diego, but Tomlinson did the rest. Whether it be a long touchdown run, a key third down reception or an onside kick recovery, Tomlinson did a little of everything for the Chargers.
And in the end, the Rams couldn’t come up with enough answers.
The Chargers started the fourth quarter like the first with a touchdown, this time from backup running back Michael Turner. Turner scored from 14 yards out to break the game open and give San Diego a 31-10 lead.
The Rams responded with a strong drive of their own, though it could have been bigger. Curtis dropped a deep pass from Bulger that would have given the Rams a shot at a quick score. Instead, the Rams took some more plays and finally punched it in on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Bulger to Shaun McDonald. That score cut San Diego’s lead to 31-17 with 6:39 to play.
Tomlinson scored again late in the fourth quarter when he caught a 25-yard touchdown from Rivers. The Rams answered with a 6-yard touchdown catch by Kevin Curtis from Bulger for the final margin.
With momentum and the ball on their side, the Rams seemed poised to tie the game in the third quarter. But a catastrophic turnover turned into seven points for the Chargers and San Diego has a 24-10 lead at the end of three.
After trading punts to begin the quarter, the Rams seemed poised to tie it up after driving to San Diego’s 29. But Stephen Davis, on his second carry of the game fumbled, and safety Marlon McCree scooped up the ball and momentum and ran with it for 79 yards for a touchdown. The extra point gave San Diego the ball back and all of the momentum that had seemed to be going the Rams’ way.
The Rams offense came back with some big plays, including a 20-yard strike to Holt and a 44-yard catch and run from Bruce. But that drive stalled deep in San Diego territory and St. Louis settled for a 34-yard field goal to make it 21-10 San Diego.
The Chargers came back with a big play of their own, a 51-yard jaunt from Tomlinson that set up Nate Kaeding’s 32-yard field goal to give San Diego its two touchdown lead back.
St. Louis responded with a strong quarter, holding the Chargers down on defense and cutting the lead in half. At the end of two quarters, San Diego leads 14-7.
The Rams responded with a touchdown of their own to open the second quarter. Bulger hit Curtis for a key fourth down conversion and that duo hooked up again to help set up running back Steven Jackson’s 3-yard touchdown run, his third of the season. Jeff Wilkins booted the extra point to make it 14-7 San Diego.
On the ensuing possession, the Rams defense finally found a way to get off the field when middle linebacker Will Witherspoon shed two blockers to bring Tomlinson down out of bounds 2 yards short of the first down. The Rams took over on their 8 after a fair catch by Shaun McDonald.
The Rams couldn’t do anything with it, though, gaining 2 yards before Bulger just missed Isaac Bruce for a potential big play. Turk punted and San Diego takes over at the Rams 47.
The Chargers gained 5 yards on their first three plays of the next drive before choosing to go for it on fourth down as the Rams did before them. This time, cornerback Fakhir Brown made a brilliant open field tackle, keeping the Chargers short by 3 yards and giving the Rams the ball back at San Diego’s 40 with a chance to tie it up.
The Rams held again defensively and ran it twice to end the half with possession going their way to begin the third quarter.
San Diego got off to a fast start in the opening quarter, opening a 14-0 lead over the Rams at the end of one.
The Chargers had a patented Marty Schottenheimer drive to open the game, using almost eight minutes on 12 plays to travel 80 yards. LaDainian Tomlinson scored from 2 yards out on a drive that featured plenty of balance including a 27-yard catch and run by tight end Antonio Gates to set up the score.
After getting a quick three and out, San Diego didn’t waste any time scoring on its second possession. After a 16-yard completion to Gates, Tomlinson burst through a gaping hole on the right side, stiff armed safety Oshiomogho Atogwe out of the way and took it all the way from 38 yards away to give the Chargers a 14-0 lead with 3:33 to go in the quarter.