Greg Zuerlein

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Rams clinch 1st NFC West title since ’03, beat Titans 27-23

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Jared Goff threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp with 11:51 left, and the Los Angeles Rams held off the Tennessee Titans 27-23 on Sunday to clinch their first NFC West title since 2003.

The Rams (11-4) came in needing a win or a loss by Seattle to secure the division. They took care of business themselves, with Todd Gurley II and Goff leading the way again.

Gurley bolstered his argument for NFL MVP with 118 yards rushing and 158 yards receiving with two TDs. Goff finished with four touchdowns and 301 yards passing.

The Titans (8-7) lost their third straight game, damaging their chances of ending their own playoff drought stretching to 2008.

The Titans had the ball and a chance to win late in the game. On fourth-and-4 at the Rams 44, Marcus Mariota rolled right and chucked the ball incomplete under pressure from Connor Barwin.

The Rams ran out the final 1:35 for their second straight victory and fourth in five games.

OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES

The Titans scored only one offensive TD on DeMarco Murray‘s 6-yard run. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard scored Tennessee’s first defensive TD of the season on a 4-yard fumble return. Ryan Succop kicked three field goals and missed a 45-yarder wide right.

MISSING ZUERLEIN

Greg Zuerlein was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, and the Rams really missed their Pro Bowl kicker. Instead of letting Sam Ficken kick with Los Angeles at the Titans 32 on their opening drive, the Rams picked up a delay of game penalty the Titans declined. Then punter Johnny Hekker‘s pass intended for Michael Thomas was batted down. Ficken also missed his first point after attempt.

When the Rams turned first-and-goal at the Titans 7 into fourth-and-18, McVay sent Ficken out for a 36-yard field-goal try. The kick bounced off the right upright no good.

ONSIDE CONFUSION

It looked as if the Rams benefited from a confusing sequence in the third quarter. After Murray scored on a 6-yard run, the Titans recovered an onside kick. But officials threw a flag, and referee Walt Anderson announced the Rams took their first timeout just before kickoff. Then he announced there was no timeout because the ball had not been put in play. Then he said, “First down.” The Titans kicked deep, and fans booed heavily.

MORE TURNOVERS

The Rams forced a turnover on the opening drive for the eighth time this season. Linebacker Cory Littleton, starting with Mark Barron scratched, intercepted Mariota on the Titans’ second play from scrimmage.

INJURIES

Rams left guard Rodger Safford hurt his ribs late in the game, and Rams safety Marqui Christian hurt a shoulder.

Murray was helped to the sideline with 2:23 left with an injured right foot.

UP NEXT

Rams: Host 49ers.

Titans: Host Jaguars.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL.

Follow Teresa M. Walker at http://www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

Siemian solidifies QB job in Denver’s 17-9 win over Rams

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DENVER (AP) Trevor Siemian thinks he’s done enough to win the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback job.

If he feels the same way, coach Gary Kubiak isn’t saying just yet.

“I’m going to make a decision this week … but I’ve got a lot of things going on, so I’ll take my time, do it the right way,” Kubiak said after watching Siemian throw his first TD pass of the preseason in Denver’s 17-9 win over the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night.

Siemian was more impressive than his stat line – 10 of 17 for 122 yards, one TD and one arguable interception – showing off his strong right arm and just the kind of patience, poise and precision required of Peyton Manning’s successor as Denver defends its Super Bowl title.

“I feel confident,” Siemian said when asked if this was his job. “Ultimately, that’s up to Kubes.”

Asked if he felt he’d done enough, Siemian said, “I do, but again, that’s not my call.”

Aside from his 1-yard TD strike to Virgil Green, he had a beautiful pass to Demaryius Thomas streaking down the Rams sideline for a 43-yard gain that set up the go-ahead score.

“I’m impressed,” Kubiak said. “I think he’s very calm. I can tell by the way he handles the team in the huddle, he’s got control of what’s going on. What I see is I see a guy getting better every time out.”

Rookie Paxton Lynch was also more impressive than his stats – 6 of 13 for 57 yards – leading a scoring drive that ended with Ronnie Hillman‘s 7-yard TD run.

That left Mark Sanchez as the odd man out on this night and, possibly, come cut-down day.

If he’s not on the 53-man roster, the Broncos will save $3.5 million and the seventh-round draft pick they would have owed the Eagles.

After announcing Siemian would make his second straight start, Kubiak decided he’d play his first-round pick and sit Sanchez, something he told him about over breakfast.

“Bottom line, I’ve got a lot to go off of on Mark. He’s played a lot of football. But we needed to see these other two kids play again,” Kubiak said.

Sanchez left the stadium without comment.

It was Sanchez’s job to lose when training camp began and he’s apparently done just that with a slew of turnovers in the preseason.

An afterthought while taking just one snap – a kneel-down – as a rookie last season, Siemian has emerged as the best option to lead the team with Manning on the links and Brock Osweiler in Houston.

Siemian’s only blemish came on a deep ball that went off receiver Cody Latimer‘s hands at the goal line and hit the ground, but was still ruled an interception by safety Cody Davis.

The Rams settled for three field goals by Greg Zuerlein.

M-V-P! M-V-P!

Super Bowl MVP Von Miller recorded his first sack of the preseason, a 9-yard takedown of Case Keenum on the Rams’ first series.

“I feel better than I ever have before with my conditioning,” Miller said. “I’m feeling comfortable out there. We’re ready to go back to the regular season.”

Miller’s was the first of six sacks by the Broncos, including 2 1-2 by LB Dekoda Watson, but the biggest hit was LB Vontarrius Dora‘s clean shot to the chest of No. 1 overall draft pick Jared Goff just before he left the game in the third quarter.

TALIB TROUBLE

Broncos CB Aqib Talib was pulled following his 15-yard penalty for hitting Keenum out of bounds on a scramble in which the Rams QB was heading for the sideline, not turning upfield.

“You don’t like to see that happen, especially in a preseason game,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said.

Keenum, for one, didn’t see it happen.

“It all happened pretty fast,” he said. “I was on the ground before I knew it.”

Kayvon Webster came in and made several nice plays in Talib’s place, including a pass breakup on a fourth-and-1 toss from Jared Goff to Michael Thomas.

ROOKIE WATCH

Rams: Goff was 4 of 12 for 45 yards and was sacked for a 10-yard loss.

Broncos: G Connor McGovern went in at center midway through the fourth quarter.

POSITION BATTLES

Rams: While most of L.A.’s starters played through the first half, RB Todd Gurley sat this one out.

Broncos: Riley Dixon, a seventh-round draft pick, got the start ahead of Britton Colquitt, who has a $4 million hit against the cap this season. Dixon’s night included a 56-yard punt and a nice hold on the 50-yard FG.

INJURY UPDATE

Rams: DE Robert Quinn received his first playing time since undergoing back surgery in December.

Broncos: Anderson needed stiches to close a cut on his right ear. Latimer suffered a knee injury while blocking on a punt return in the third quarter. Kubiak said he didn’t think it was serious. FB Andy Janovich injured a shoulder.

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton