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Rams-Chargers final score: Stetson Bennett a bright spot amid many growing pains

The Rams lose 34-17 and have a lot of questions to answer on defense and special teams

Los Angeles Chargers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

If there’s a best case scenario to put out the fires that could be caused by the Rams’ opening preseason loss to the Chargers on Saturday night, it is that the performance could be explained by “rookie jitters”. If there’s a worse case scenario, the Los Angeles Rams are in for a long season that won’t look much different than the 5-12 campaign of 2022.

The Rams lost 34-17 at SoFi Stadium but the score doesn’t even begin to explain the challenge ahead for head coach Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris with Week 1’s game against the Seattle Seahawks only a month away. What would begin to tell that story is the fact that the Chargers sat essentially every important player on Saturday night, but the Rams played quite a few who are either expected to start or currently competing to start or have key roles.

This includes many of the players who saw the field on defense, the side of the ball that has the least amount of experience—perhaps among any team’s offense or defense in the entire NFL—as well as a special teams unit that saw rookie Tanner Brown miss a 46-yard field goal and the punt coverage unit give up a touchdown.

In the first half and part of the third quarter, Chargers backup quarterback Easton Stick went 14-of-21 for 109 yards and a touchdown against the Rams defense. In the second half of the game, undrafted free agent running back Elijah Dotson, a player just trying to make the roster as a long shot, had six carries for 92 yards and two touchdowns. On nine carries, Joshua Kelley had 54 yards, averaging 6.0 yards per carry, while Chargers teammate Isaiah Spiller averaged 5.4 yards per carry on five attempts.

As much as we should keep in mind that Saturday was a preseason game, among the names who got considerable snaps on defense were expected starting edge rushers Michael Hoecht and Byron Young; expected starting defensive linemen Bobby Brown III and Marquise Copeland, plus Kobie Turner and Earnest Jones IV; players competing to start at linebacker next to Ernest Jones like Christian Rozeboom and Jake Hummel; and key secondary depth like Robert Rochell, Russ Yeast, Quentin Lake, and Tre Tomlinson.

Offensively, guard Tremayne Anchrum played more than half of the game, potentially indicating that McVay eventually plans to move either Joe Noteboom or Coleman Shelton over to that position. We also saw Steve Avila play most of the first half, with Demarcus Robinson, Puka Nacua, and Ben Skowronek getting first half targets.

At least Stetson Bennett gave fans something to watch in the second half.

The two-time national champion finished 16-of-27 for 182 yards with a touchdown and led two touchdown drives. Brett Rypien started the game by went 3-of-6 for 11 yards.

Nacua caught three passes for 32 yards with the one touchdown pass. Tyler Johnson led the team with 70 receiving yards on five catches and Zach Evans had eight carries for a team-high 34 yards.

Keir Thomas had 1.5 sacks, while Tanner Ingle had one.