LOS ANGELES (AP) — Philip Rivers, Joey Bosa and the rest of the Los Angeles Chargers appear ready to start wooing their new home market for real.
The Los Angeles Rams, particularly Jared Goff, have some work to do.
Rivers capped the game’s opening drive with a 45-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin and Bosa’s strip sack of Goff led to Melvin Ingram’s 76-yard fumble return for a score. The Chargers raced to a 21-0 first-quarter lead and held on to beat the Rams 21-19 Saturday night at the Coliseum.
This was the most significant exhibition game, when most starters played into the second quarter. Few if any are expected to play in the fourth and final exhibition.
After a bitter split from their home of 56 years in San Diego, the Chargers relocated to the Los Angeles area in January, a year after the Rams moved back from St. Louis. The Chargers train in Costa Mesa in Orange County and play at the StubHub Center, a 27,000-seat soccer stadium in Carson in Los Angeles County.
They have some work to do after winning only nine games the last two seasons. But after losing their first two exhibition games in front of less-than-capacity crowds at StubHub, the first-teamers looked sharp.
Rivers, a father of eight who will commute this season from his home in northern San Diego, was 4 for 4 on the opening drive, including the long TD pass when Benjamin got behind double coverage and hauled it in at about the 10.
Goff moved the Rams to the Chargers 8 on the next possession. But as he dropped back on third down, Bosa hit him and jarred loose the ball. Ingram scooped it up and was gone.
If Bosa and Ingram stay healthy, they’re expected to be forces. Bosa, the Chargers’ first-round draft pick in 2016, missed his rookie training camp in a contract spat and then missed the first four games with a hamstring injury. He finished with 10 ½ sacks in 12 games and was voted Defensive Rookie of the Year. Ingram signed a four-year deal that can be worth up to $66 million after making eight sacks last year, giving him 18 ½ in two years.
Three plays into the next Rams drive, Goff was intercepted by Jason Verrett. That set up a 2-yard TD run by Melvin Gordon for a 21-0 lead.
Rivers was 6 of 6 for 85 yards. Goff was 4 of 6 for 49 yards.
The Chargers played all their stars except tight end Antonio Gates, 37, who’s in the final year of a two-year deal he signed in 2016. His first TD catch in the regular season will be his 112th and the most in NFL history by a tight end.
The Rams held out running back Todd Gurley and wide receivers Tavon Austin and Cooper Kupp, who have injuries.
The Rams’ Sean Mannion played well, including throwing a 38-yard TD pass to Josh Reynolds in the third quarter. Travis Coons kicked a 53-yard field goal after starter Greg Zuerlein made field goals of 42, 21 and 57 yards. But Coons was wide right on a potential go-ahead, 33-yard try with 7:50 to go.
Cardale Jones, obtained by the Chargers from Buffalo just before training camp, threw an interception for the second straight week when Dominique Hatfield muscled the ball away from Benjamin late in the second quarter.
After failing to get a new stadium built in San Diego, Chargers chairman Dean Spanos announced on Jan. 12 he was moving the team to the saturated Los Angeles market. Their marketing slogan , “Fight For LA,” has been roundly mocked by fans in San Diego and by Rams fans. When the Chargers took the field before the game, they were greeted by the War song “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” as well as by boos.
Chargers: WR Isaiah Burse left with a concussion in the third quarter.
Rams: TE Temarrick Hemingway was taken off the field on a cart after suffering an undisclosed injury early in the second quarter.