LOS ANGELES — Philip Rivers, Joey Bosa and the rest of the Los Angeles Chargers appear ready to start wooing their new home market for real.
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.
Knowing they have to win to attract fans in a saturated market that doesn’t tolerate losing, the Chargers (1-2) hope to see much more mayhem from Bosa and Ingram.
After Rivers capped the opening drive with the long TD pass to Benjamin, the Rams moved to the Chargers 8. But as Jared Goff dropped back on third down, Bosa hit him and jarred loose the ball. Ingram scooped it up and was gone.
“It’s just fun to finally get to the quarterback,” said Bosa, who added he’s focusing more on knocking the ball loose than simply hitting the QB.
He said he knew Ingram “was going to get there. He better not let some O-lineman run him down. I was watching him pick it up and hoping he didn’t fumble it and have to fall on it. I was cheering for him, but I didn’t run all the way down there. I was cheering from afar.”
If Bosa and Ingram stay healthy, they’re expected to be major 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.
“That whole D-line, we’re deep and we’ve got guys who can rush the passer,” Bosa said. “So It’ll be a fun year.”
Seeing Bosa and Ingram up front, “Man, that makes my job a lot easier,” said cornerback Jason Verrett, who had an interception in his first game action since tearing a knee ligament in the fourth game last year.
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 (2-1) 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.
Verrett’s pickoff set up Melvin Ingram’s 2-yard touchdown run for a 21-0 lead.
Rams rookie coach Sean McVay said that over the course of a full game, Goff would get a chance to redeem himself.
“What you like about Jared is he is unfazed by that,” McVay said of the two plays fans will remember.
“There was obviously a couple I’d like back,” Goff said. “I felt like we moved the ball pretty well on that first drive, got all the way down there and, unfortunately, turned it over, and they were able to take it the other way. But it’s all good stuff to learn from.”
Rivers was 6 of 6 for 85 yards. Goff was 4 of 6 for 49 yards.
The Chargers held out star tight end Antonio Gates, 37. 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 injured an ankle in the second quarter and was taken off the field on a cart. G Jamon Brown tweaked a hamstring trying to run down Ingram on fumble return, but could have returned if it was a regular-season game.