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Chargers’ Brandon Staley gets the better of Rams and Sean McVay

INGLEWOOD — Rams coach Sean McVay and Brandon Staley had fierce battles on the Rams’ practice field when Staley was the team’s defensive coordinator in 2020.

Besides the change of venue and Staley’s job title, not much changed when the two play-callers met again Sunday for the L.A. showdown between the Chargers and Rams at SoFi Stadium.

McVay’s Rams offense found success on the ground versus Staley’s Chargers defense, but there are reasons why McVay said earlier in the week that the Chargers can beat teams in multiple ways.

Cam Akers’ stellar rushing performance kept the Rams in the game before the Chargers pulled away for a 31-10 victory on New Year’s Day. The combination of quarterback Justin Herbert, wide receiver Mike Williams and running back Austin Ekeler was too much for the Rams’ defense to withstand in the second half.

Herbert connected with tight end Donald Parham Jr. for a 3-yard touchdown pass to give the Rams a 21-point deficit early in the fourth quarter. Herbert was soon pulled for backup Chase Daniel. The Chargers have bigger plans because they are headed to the postseason in a few weeks.

McVay often found himself frustrated going against Staley’s Rams defense on the hidden practice field above the campus of Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. McVay likely felt the same way Sunday after the Chargers’ defense made second-half adjustments to slow down Akers and the Rams’ rushing attack.

It also didn’t help that the Rams’ defense struggled to contain Ekeler, who surpassed 100 rushing yards early in the third quarter. Ekeler became the first player to rush for at least 100 yards in a game against the Rams this season. The Chargers opened the second half with an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 6-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to tight end Gerald Everett with 8:46 in the third quarter.

The L.A. squads combined for four rushing touchdowns and 265 ground yards in the first half. The Chargers had 133 rushing yards when they entered the locker room with a 17-10 advantage. Akers had 97 of the Rams’ 132 rushing yards in the opening half.

Rams running back Malcolm Brown recorded a 23-yard run up the middle to trim the Chargers’ lead to 14-10 with 4:04 remaining in the second quarter.

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Akers continued his late-season surge by ripping off a 42-yard run to ignite the Rams’ first scoring drive Sunday. The Rams, however, stalled at the Chargers’ 5-yard line and settled for a 23-yard field goal from kicker Matt Gay to take a 3-0 lead with 1:09 in the first quarter.

Akers nearly had a touchdown reception during the Rams’ opening drive, but he bobbled Baker Mayfield’s pass with plenty of open space on the left sideline. Akers quickly made up for it by recording 71 of the team’s 83 rushing yards in the opening quarter.

Ekeler quickly matched Akers’ hot start by recording two rushing touchdowns to give his team a 14-3 advantage in the first half. Ekeler’s second score went for 72 yards, giving him 98 rushing yards midway through the second quarter. The Chargers only needed five plays on their first two scoring drives.

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