On Super Bowl Sunday, I held a party at my house. Of the attendees, roughly 90 percent were rooting for the Rams. As the game went on, this contingency grew quiet. By the fourth quarter, most had left the party altogether, leaving behind a small number of vocal Patriots supporters. The Rams reached a Super Bowl in just their third season since relocating from St. Louis, but it’s clear that their strength as a team is still a work in progress. McVay needs to improve his in-game adjustments, Goff needs to grow more comfortable under pressure and Gurley needs to be given the ball more, especially in creative ways (the Rams never threw a screen to Gurley on Sunday, despite the Patriots’ near-constant penetration). Looming cap restraints mean these improvements will need to happen sooner rather than later. Unlike the Patriots, who build through the draft and regularly cut veterans when they get too expensive, the Rams took a shortcut to reach the Super Bowl. They added a bevy of high-profile free agents in the off-season, giving the franchise short-term success but long-term instability. In order for Los Angeles to become consistent winners, the team will need to take a page out of the Patriots’ playbook and combine stars with late-round diamonds in the rough. It’s unlikely the Rams will be capable of fielding as many former first-round picks and Pro-Bowlers as it did this season. If the Rams do regress from this season — which is not only possible but likely — it’s fair to wonder how their fans will respond. USC’s attendance at football games dropped drastically in 2018 during its first losing season in nearly 20 years, and the Trojans didn’t pack up and leave for a generation, like the Rams infamously did. How would Rams fans respond to a four- or five-win drop-off from last season? Trevor Denton is a junior writing about sports. His column, “T-Time,” runs every other Wednesday. So, where do the Rams go from here? Luckily, the team shouldn’t expect a drastic drop-off in 2019. The Rams will likely lose some starters, such as defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, safety Lamarcus Joyner and tackle Andrew Whitworth due to cap restrictions, age or both. But the team’s true selling point — the exciting young core of Goff, Gurley, Donald and receiver Brandin Cooks — is likely to remain intact. The team’s biggest salary cap challenge will come when Goff is due for a contract extension in 2020, which could blow the Rams’ cap flexibility to shreds, resulting in less available room for stars. Afterward, head coach Sean McVay rightfully admitted he was out-coached by living legend Bill Belichick. All season, McVay has been the face of a new generation of offensive innovation. Yet, by confusing Goff and successfully neutralizing one-man wrecking crew Aaron Donald on Sunday, it was Belichick who remained one step ahead of the young whipper-snapper. This example may or may not be indicative of the Rams’ fanbase as a whole, but the Patriots’ striking home-field advantage in Atlanta paints a similar picture (media outlets reported an 80-to-20 ratio of Patriots fans to Rams fans in Mercedes-Benz Stadium). Despite the Rams’ dream Super Bowl run and breakneck style of play, the team has yet to win over its city in a meaningful way. Unfortunately for the franchise, a dull, listless performance at the sport’s grandest stage is unlikely to inspire the loyalty it desperately needs — especially with a new stadium set to open in Inglewood in 2020. The coming weeks, months and years will test whether McVay’s Rams will become a long-term contender or a flash in the pan. But more so than that, time will test Angelenos’ patience for a team still in its infancy in the city. Once the Rams’ chances looked dim, their “fans” — at least those in my household — bailed on them and didn’t turn back. In the weeks leading up to the game, I heard several L.A. natives hyping themselves up for a possible parade from Downtown to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. However, they weren’t prepared for how they would handle a potential loss, let alone a loss in which the Rams showed less fight than a high sloth. And so, they left. McVay, Goff and the fan base will either grow together or grow apart. Winning will be the main decider. In many ways, the team’s unseasoned play in Super Bowl LIII reflected its underdeveloped fanbase. At 24 years old, quarterback Jared Goff looked downright befuddled by the Patriots’ creative pressures and disguised coverages. He was slow to make reads and quick to panic when plays fell apart. It didn’t help that the Patriots shut down the Rams’ league-leading rushing attack, taking away play action passes — Goff’s greatest strength by a mile. Running back Todd Gurley’s versatile skill-set was barely utilized. When he did manage to get his hands on the ball, however, he struggled to find open turf and averaged 3.5 yards per touch.
A late strike from Willian ensured Chelsea beat Everton 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday to remain seven points clear at the top of the Premier League.Tim Howard looked set to deny the leaders victory on his return from injury, but the Everton goalkeeper was unable to keep out a deflected strike from Brazil midfielder Willian just a minute from time in a dramatic finale.Eden Hazard, Willian and Nemanja Matic were all thwarted by the former Manchester United man and Branislav Ivanovic had a late goal disallowed for offside before Willian secured an 11th win from 12 top-flight home games.Romelu Lukaku was denied by a fine save from the recalled Petr Cech and also went close in the first half for the visitors, who had Gareth Barry sent off for a second bookable offence just before Willian struck.Manchester City’s 4-1 victory at Stoke City ensured Chelsea’s advantage at the summit remains seven points, while Everton have won just one of their last nine Premier League games.Juan Cuadrado made his first Chelsea start, while Cech, Kurt Zouma and Loic Remy also came into the side. Oscar was not risked due to injury, but fit-again midfielder Cesc Fabregas was named among the substitutes Howard started at the expense of Joel Robles, while Aaron Lennon was handed a first start for the club and Ross Barkley was recalled.Matic almost made an early impact with a goal when he beat two Everton players before firing a left-footed strike over the crossbar.Fellow midfielder Willian went even closer with a dipping shot from just outside the penalty area, before Lukaku almost struck at the other end against his former club when he raced into the box. His low effort was kept out by the feet of Cech after only seven minutes.Cuadrado looked a threat and the big-money deadline-day recruit dragged a shot wide of the far post and then Howard saved a Remy header in a frantic start.The lively Hazard went agonisingly close to getting on the end of Cesar Azpilicueta’s fine cross as Everton struggled to contain the leaders, but Chelsea were unable to find the back of the net before the break. Everton manager Roberto Martinez replaced Muhamed Besic, who was shown an early yellow card, with James McCarthy at half-time and Chelsea were soon back on the front foot after the break.Hazard was a constant menace to the Everton defence and the Belgium winger fired the ball across the face of the goal, but Bryan Oviedo was well positioned to avert the danger.The outstanding Hazard then surged into the area, after producing some fine close control, before forcing a save from Howard. The Everton goalkeeper also had to be at his best to save Matic’s well-executed free-kick.The busy Howard again demonstrated why Martinez was so eager to recall him when he produced a diving stop to keep out a measured Willian effort, before Cech showed his class at the other end to thwart an unmarked Lukaku.Belgium striker Lukaku looked certain to convert Oviedo’s ball in from the left, but Cech stood up to keep out his finish from only six yards out. Jose Mourinho replaced Cuadrado and Remy with Fabregas and Didier Drogba 20 minutes from time and Chelsea had a late goal disallowed when Matic’s shot was deflected in off Ivanovic, who was offside.Barry was then dismissed for a challenge on Willian which sparked a mass confrontation and there was more drama to come, as Howard fisted away a cross into Willian’s path and he rifled home with the aid of a defletion to stun Everton.
“I’m excited for Brett,” Roberts said. “It’s been a long road back for him. To get him back, it’s obviously a good thing for us.”McCarthy, meanwhile, threw another bullpen session Thursday in search of the fastball command that deserted him in recent starts. McCarthy walked a career-high five batters in each of his past two starts, failing to complete four innings in either one.McCarthy described his lack of command as feeling “weird” during those starts but said everything “felt very normal this week” while throwing in the bullpen. McCarthy said he made some minor adjustments in his delivery centered on his timing and release point during those bullpen sessions with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.“A lot of it is just getting the natural feel back,” said McCarthy who has made seven starts since returning from Tommy John surgery. “It feels like something has been found. Now it’s just making sure that’s it.”Puig talk Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error LOS ANGELES >> The Dodgers will use a couple familiar pieces to assemble their rotation puzzle this time around.After throwing two bullpen sessions this week, right-hander Brandon McCarthy will make his scheduled start on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. And left-hander Brett Anderson will return from back surgery to make his 2016 debut on Sunday.With those two veterans available, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said rookie left-hander Julio Urias will move to the bullpen and pitch in a multi-inning role if needed. However, the Dodgers will need to make a roster move to add Anderson on Sunday and could make another when lefty reliever Adam Liberatore (elbow inflammation) is eligible to return Sunday as well.Anderson was pronounced ready to go after pitching 12 innings over three minor-league rehab starts and a bullpen session on Thursday at Dodger Stadium. He has not faced major-league hitters since Game 3 of the Dodgers’ NL Division Series loss to the New York Mets last October. Demoted outfielder Yasiel Puig played his first home game for Triple-A Oklahoma City Friday night. Before the game, he spoke with reporters and answered questions about the move by the Dodgers.“I’m here to become a better player,” Puig said through an interpreter. “That was their decision. I don’t feel like this was a punishment. I feel like this is going to help me grow.“I’m here because I was not doing the right things over there. I’m here to improve myself. I’m here to become a better athlete again. … There’s a reason why I’m here. But I’m going to do my best to become the player that I was.”Puig referred to becoming the player “I was in 2013, 2014” and stuck to his talking points about being focused on “being a better teammate.and a better person.”Puig said the party videos he posted Sunday were a mistake. The Dodgers issued a statement at the time saying they were “disappointed” with the behavior of Puig and his teammates shown on the videos.“I really didn’t know how to use Snapchat,” he said. “I was just playing around with my teammates. I just did something that was wrong.”Then he went out and had three hits — a single, triple and home run — and drove in four runs for the OKC Dodgers Friday. In four games since reporting to the Triple-A team, Puig is 7 for 16 (.438) with four extra-base hits (a double, triple and two home runs) and nine RBIs.“I do want to go back to the major leagues,” Puig said. “That’s my dream and it’s still my dream to go back.“I need to do what my teammates (in Los Angeles) are doing because I’m not there. I don’t feel like I’m on the level that they are so I need to work on that. I want to be a part of the team and be at the same level as my teammates. … I know I’m not a perfect guy. But I want to be a better teammate. That’s what I’m here for.”NotesClayton Kershaw played catch again Friday and is expected to repeat the throwing session Saturday, according to Roberts. The Dodgers’ manager was hesitant to say anything about Kershaw’s progress — or lack of it — in his recovery from a back injury. But Roberts remains optimistic that further progress is “on the horizon.” … Left-hander Rich Hill threw another bullpen session before Friday’s game. He has had starts tentatively scheduled twice only to have them pushed back in order to give his injured finger more time to heal. … Reliever Joe Blanton rejoined the Dodgers Friday and was activated from the bereavement list. Left-hander Luis Avilan was returned to Triple-A Oklahoma City to clear a roster spot.