Rams return to Los Angeles with electric victory

"Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to welcome home the Los Angeles Rams!" The public address announcer bellows with special emphasis on Los Angeles.

The stadium is half-full three minutes before the scheduled kickoff, but cheers wail as if the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum were at capacity. The Rams expected 91,000 fans for their preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys at the Coliseum. Official attendance stood at 89,140, breaking the NFL's all-time record for largest U.S. preseason attendance.

The Rams run out to a warm welcome -- from the L.A. weather and from pillars spewing fire and popping fireworks at the edge of the tunnel. It is loud. Woo's echo around the bowl of the stadium, but little clapping can be heard, as most of the fans hold phones to capture the Rams' first steps onto a Los Angeles home field since 1994, and their first home game back in the Coliseum since 1979.

Unfortunately for the fans, the record attendance ties up the cell phone towers, leaving them without enough service to post immediately to Snapchat or Twitter.

Celebrities and famous former Rams take their own pictures from the sidelines. Near the end zone, Rams legend Eric Dickerson chats with Ty Burell, known best for his role as Phil in the TV show Modern Family.

Through the star-studded chaos, Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson runs up to the stands. His mom leans over the cement wall to grab the back of his head. Her thick braided bun presses up against his helmet as she says something in his ear. You can see her lips move, but the cheers drown out her words. Johnson pulls away and runs to the field for kick off.

The Cowboys win the toss and elect to receive first.

Rams placekicker Greg Zuerlein kicks it deep, 66 yards into Dallas's end zone. Cowboys kick returner Lucky Whitehead catches it and takes off, christening the Rams' new home by taking it 101 yards to the house.

Lynatta Johnson, Trumaine's mom, shakes her head and sits down. She pulls on her shirt, which has a picture of her son spray-painted on the front and "Tru's mom" and "Rams Nation" written on the back. Cowboys fans sit two rows behind her cheering in a frenzy.

"I'm so scared," she said. "I'm watching with my eyes closed."

She's nervous but excited. Johnson is from Stockton, about a four-and-a-half-hour drive from L.A., but a lot closer than the 30-hour drive to St. Louis. She's thrilled to have her son back in their home state.

"This crowd is unbelievable," she said. "There are more people and more excited people here than at any regular season game I've been to in St. Louis, and I've been to a lot of games."

Rams coach Jeff Fisher later agrees, saying, "The response from the guys was, 'hey, this is really cool.' Some of them had not had that in their professional career."

The crowd was mostly filled out toward the end of the first quarter.

Terry Crews, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 11th round of the 1991 draft before pursuing a successful acting career, flexes his hulking biceps for the Jumbotron on the "Flex Cam." Clayton Kershaw, pitcher for the L.A. Dodgers, waves as the announcer publicizes his presence.

The Cowboys score another touchdown. The Coliseum erupts. Gauging team attendance by noise level suggests it's about equal, Cowboys fans to Rams.

Michael Ochoa, a Dallas fan from California, doesn't care that it's the Rams' homecoming. More importantly to him, it's the Cowboys' first preseason game. He's been tailgating since 8 a.m. with friends who flew in from Texas, Arizona and Nevada just to see the 'Boys.

Jackie Slater, who played his entire 20-season career with the Rams, and Rosey Grier, who was part of the Fearsome Foursome in the 1960s, make appearances on the video board as the game clock winds down.

With 1:41 left in the first quarter, running back Benny Cunningham scrambles 14 yards for the Rams' first touchdown in the City of Angels this century.

Lynatta jumps to her feet, cheering. The Cowboys fans behind her fall silent.

But at the half it's 24-7, Dallas.

The Rams have had nine straight losing seasons and no team has ever won more than eight games in its first season in a new location. Skeptics of the Rams' move to the Entertainment Capital of the World say there's too much to do in the city for a perennial 7-9 team to attract enough attention.

However, during halftime, Ashley Taylor, at the game with her three football-playing sons, isn't concerned.

"We still watch the Lakers and they lose all the time," she said.

Lucky for them, today they didn't have to watch the Rams lose.

"Whose house?" The PA announcer asked the crowd.

"Our house!" The crowd responded in unison.

With the sun all but gone and just a burnt orange haze behind the Jumbotron, the clock reads 0:00 and the score, 28-24, Rams.

"They stayed until the fourth quarter of a preseason game and were on their feet for the whole fourth quarter," Rams rookie quarterback Jared Goff said. "You can kind of tell right there what it means to them and how exciting it is to have a team back here."

"I had to remind them it was a preseason game," Fisher said of his players. "As far as those guys are concerned it's like we clinched playoffs."

"I hope this city knows that we are going to fight hard for them every time we step on that field," quarterback Case Keenum said.

But it's just the beginning and despite the mood in the Coliseum, it's just a preseason game.

Ashley Taylor and Lynatta Johnson will return during the regular season to fight stand-still traffic and pay between $50 to $80 for parking to watch their team play. But whether the rest of Los Angeles will follow suit remains to be seen.

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