The Raiders were back. The Rams were better.
Rookie John Kelly rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown, and the Los Angeles Rams welcomed the Raiders back to the Coliseum with a 19-15 preseason victory over Oakland on Saturday.
Chris Warren rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown for the Raiders in their return to the venerable stadium that was their home for 13 seasons during their largely successful tenure in Los Angeles. Their still-passionate Southern California fan base turned out in force, filling the 95-year-old arena with black jerseys and loud cheers.
There was more excitement in the stands than on the field for long stretches of a preseason game that was even more meaningless than the usual August affair.
Both teams rested nearly all of their presumptive starters and used no significant parts of their playbook, thanks in part to a weird NFL scheduling decision that forced these teams to play an exhibition 23 days before they meet in their regular-season opener in Oakland.
Although both coaches revealed as little about their teams as possible, Sean McVay still got his first chance to face Jon Gruden, who employed McVay as a 22-year-old assistant wide receivers coach on his final staff with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008. McVay frequently cites Gruden and his brother, Jay, as major influences on his coaching style and mentality.
The Rams' backups dominated the Raiders' reserves in the first half, taking a 13-0 lead while holding Oakland to 58 yards and one first down. Oakland trailed 16-0 before mounting a rally, but the Raiders failed on their second 2-point conversion attempt of the day following Griff Whalen's 10-yard TD catch with 9:52 to play.
Sam Ficken hit his second field goal for the Rams with 5:46 left, and Marcus Martin stopped the Raiders' ensuing drive with a third-down sack of Manuel.
Rams backup Sean Mannion rebounded from a rocky preseason debut last week in Baltimore, going 10 of 16 for 84 yards while completing passes to eight receivers. Third-stringer Brandon Allen wasn't as sharp, going 6 for 11 and throwing a terrible interception in the fourth quarter to put Oakland in position for its second TD.
The Raiders' offense didn't record its second first down of the day until late in the third quarter, but Warren capped the 75-yard drive with a 3-yard TD run. The undrafted free-agent running back from Texas had 86 yards in his preseason debut against Detroit.
E.J. Manuel went 10 for 16 for 89 yards and a touchdown, but also fumbled for the second straight week.
The Raiders' backup offensive line struggled to keep the Rams' pressure off Manuel and Connor Cook, who went 6 for 12.
Al Davis moved the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1982, and their home crowds at the Coliseum quickly developed a reputation for rowdiness and occasional violence. But the Raiders also won the hearts of a generation of Los Angeles football fans with their swagger and success, including a Super Bowl title in their second season in town. The Rams spent the 1980s in Anaheim, further opening the way for the Raiders to become Generation X's favorite team in LA.
Both franchises moved after the 1994 season, and the Rams returned home two years ago. The Raiders missed out on the chance to return to LA when the Chargers made their move last year, but the Raiders will be only about 260 miles from Los Angeles when they move to Las Vegas in 2020, making it even easier for LA's silver-and-black fans to back their team.
After turning out impressively in Carson on New Year's Eve for a Chargers home game, the Raiders' LA fans showed up in force for this downtown homecoming, filling the Coliseum parking lots and the cavernous stadium.
They were vocal during pregame warmups, even booing the Rams' cheerleaders — but the Rams' own sizable fan base wasn't overwhelmed, however. There were relatively few clashes in the stands, with both fan bases likely sensing the unimportance of this particular reunion.
Raiders rookie Maurice Hurst got his first NFL sack early in the second half, dropping Brandon Allen. The Michigan All-American dropped to the fifth round of last spring's draft amid concerns about a heart condition.
Raiders: CB Gareon Conley played after being slowed by injuries this month.
Rams: RB Justin Davis didn't play because of a hamstring injury, depriving the USC product of a chance to compete for the backup job.
There were no apparent protests during the national anthem.
Raiders: Host the Green Bay Packers on Aug. 24.
Rams: Host the Houston Texans on Aug. 25.