The Los Angeles Rams converted fumbles by Oakland Raiders quarterbacks into 10 first-half points in a 19-15 victory Saturday in a preseason game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Rookie running back John Kelly recovered his own fumble in the end zone for a touchdown and Greg Zuerlein kicked 42- and 28-yard field goals later in the second quarter for the Rams (1-1).
The Raiders (1-1) scored 15 unanswered points on Chris Warren’s three-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, Mike Nugent’s 31-yard field goal with 11 minutes, 58 seconds left in the fourth quarter, and EJ Manuel’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Griff Whalen with 9:52 to play.
Oakland missed two-point conversion attempts after both touchdowns. Connor Cook threw an incomplete pass on the first and Chris Warren was tackled short of the goal line on the second.
“The first two-point play we had both guys open, we fumbled the snap,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said.
“And then the last two-point play, I changed my mind. I was going throw it, then I wanted to give Chris Warren a look, and I don’t think we blocked the point of attack very well but I don’t second guess that.”
Sam Ficken kicked a 32-yard field goal with 4:06 remaining for the Rams for the game’s final points.
In a game both teams did not use the quarterbacks and many other players expected to start when the teams meet Sept. 10 in Oakland to open the regular season, the Rams were outgained, 221 yards to 215, but led 33:33-26:27 in time of possession and 13-12 in first downs, including a 7-1 advantage in the first half.
The Rams converted two of 14 third-down opportunities. Oakland converted one of 10.
“That was a strange second preseason game,” Gruden said. “We sat down a lot of players obviously, as did the Rams, and used this as an evaluation for a lot of backup players, young players.”
Following a scoreless first quarter that included a missed 48-yard field goal attempt by Zuerlein, Kelly scored the Rams lone touchdown six plays after rookie defensive lineman Justin Lawler was credited with a sack and forced fumble by Cook on what appeared to be a pass, recovered the loose ball and returned it 16 yards to the Raiders 15-yard line.
The Rams increased their lead to 10-0 two possessions later when they drove 59 yards on five plays, including Sean Mannion’s 47-yard pass to undrafted rookie free agent KhaDarel Hodge on the first play of the drive, to set up Zuerlein’s 42-yard field goal.
“I think it was an incredible play,” Rams coach Sean McVay said of the catch by Hodge, who was signed by the Rams out of Prairie View A&M July 24, a day after rookies reported to the team’s training camp at UC Irvine.
Hodge’s 47-yard reception was the game’s longest play.
“If you look at the last couple weeks, somebody that’s been consistently showing up in terms of making plays, it’s been KhaDarel Hodge,” McVay said. “That’s a big-time play down the field where he’s got a guy draped all over him. It was going to draw a (pass interference penalty), but he ends up coming down with it.
“Then, last week, you look at the touchdown catch that he makes. He’s a guy that’s consistently showing up. Real credit to him and to (wide receivers coach) Eric Yarber. For him to continue to take these steps in the right directions and then being able to demonstrate that play-making ability has been something that you definitely can’t help but notice and it’s been good to see.”
Mannion described Hodge’s game and training camp performances as “awesome.”
“He knows where to be on every play,” said Mannion, who completed 10 of 16 passes for 84 yards in the first half and did not play in the second half.
Zuerlein kicked a 28-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, six plays after Ethan Westbrooks sacked quarterback EJ Manuel, forcing a fumble that Bryce Hager recovered at Oakland’s 26-yard line and returned 16 yards.
Ficken kicked a 35-yard field goal on the Rams second possession of the second half, increasing their lead to 16-0.
Brandon Allen replaced Mannion at quarterback at the start of the second half, completing six of 11 passes for 68 yards and had a pass in the fourth quarterback intercepted which the Raiders converted into Manuel’s touchdown pass to Whalen.
Cook, Oakland’s starting quarterback, completed six of 12 passes for 49 yards. Manuel completed 10 of 16 passes for 89 yards and one touchdown.
The game was the Raiders first at the Coliseum since they returned to Oakland in 1995 following 13 seasons in Los Angeles.
Many in the crowd wore Raider jerseys. There were 69,037 tickets distributed, but the crowd appeared smaller. NFL teams often do not announce the actual attendance.
“It was awesome being back here,” Gruden said. “If you understand the Raiders, they have a history here, a championship history here.
“There’s still a lot of fans that remember those teams and rightfully so. We appreciate their support, and hopefully in a couple weeks we’ll give them a much better ballgame.”
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