Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp Lead Rams Past Kyler Murray, Cardinals in MNF Showdown

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVDecember 14, 2021

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 13: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Los Angeles Rams throws the ball in the first quarter of the game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on December 13, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The NFC West race isn't over yet.

The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals 30-23 in Monday's divisional showdown at State Farm Stadium. Matthew Stafford was brilliant and led the way for the victors, who improved to 9-4 with their second straight win.

Los Angeles Rams @RamsNFL

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? <a href="https://t.co/seYNqLX1xG">pic.twitter.com/seYNqLX1xG</a>

Arizona is still in first place but fell to 10-3 despite two touchdowns from James Conner. It is now tied with the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the race for the NFC's only first-round bye.

It had an opportunity to tie the game and force overtime after recovering an onside kick in the final minute, but time expired after Kyler Murray was sacked by Aaron Donald.

Notable Player Stats

  • Matthew Stafford, QB, LA: 23-of-30 passing for 287 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs
  • Cooper Kupp, WR, LA: 13 catches for 123 yards, 1 TD
  • Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LA: 6 catches for 77 yards, 1 TD
  • Van Jefferson, WR, LA: 2 catches for 58 yards, 1 TD
  • Kyler Murray, QB, AZ: 32-of-49 passing for 383 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs; 7 carries for 61 yards
  • James Conner, RB, AZ: 13 carries for 31 yards, 2 TDs; 9 catches for 94 yards

Matthew Stafford Unstoppable in Road Win

Battling the loaded Cardinals is a daunting enough task at full strength, which made it all the more concerning for the Rams when ESPN's Adam Schefter noted before the game that cornerback Jalen Ramsey, tight end Tyler Higbee, running back Darrell Henderson Jr, offensive lineman Rob Havenstein and cornerback Dont'e Deayon were all on the Reserve/COVID list.

Yet it was the visitors who set the tone at times in the first half with multiple Matt Gay field goals, one of which was from 55 yards out, and a vintage performance from Odell Beckham Jr.

Beckham consistently broke free with much of the defense's attention on Cooper Kupp and hauled in the game's first touchdown while finding success against the Arizona secondary. He looked far more explosive than he did during his time with the Cleveland Browns earlier this season and gave Los Angeles a dangerous one-two punch at wide receiver.

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

OBJ slides in for the Rams first TD of the game πŸ”₯<br> <br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/olK6scg8I8">pic.twitter.com/olK6scg8I8</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Odell's been working on his DUST training 🀣 <a href="https://t.co/ln9I0PYhYV">pic.twitter.com/ln9I0PYhYV</a>

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

.<a href="https://twitter.com/VanJefferson12?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@VanJefferson12</a> with the 52-yard TD πŸ”₯🀯<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/zQ3x9xWCrE">pic.twitter.com/zQ3x9xWCrE</a>

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Rams capitalizing off the INT for another TD πŸ‘€πŸ˜³<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/RudKQyLqCD">pic.twitter.com/RudKQyLqCD</a>

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Aaron Donald is already off to a hot start πŸ”₯ 🀣<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/fWviXsrvmG">pic.twitter.com/fWviXsrvmG</a>

Throw in Sony Michel finding success between the tackles in place of Henderson, and the shorthanded Rams entered the second half deadlocked against the Super Bowl contenders before taking the lead on Stafford's 52-yard strike to Van Jefferson to start the second half.

It turns out that was just a hint of what was to come from No. 9 with the game on the line.

He capitalized on a short field after an Arizona turnover by rolling out and finding Kupp for a touchdown to open up a two-score lead with perfect ball placement into a tight window. When the Cardinals seized some momentum with a fourth-quarter touchdown, he responded with an unbelievable deep ball to Kupp to set up a field goal after the officials missed a clear facemask call that should have preserved the drive.

Stafford was dialed in while spreading the ball around to different receivers with multiple dazzling throws. He was the best quarterback on the field in a matchup with Murray and will elevate the Rams' ceiling if he maintains Monday's level.

Cardinals Miss Chance to Put Division on Ice

Arizona had a golden opportunity to essentially clinch the division at home by moving three games ahead with four remaining, but it didn't exactly come out of the gates in dominant fashion.

Its first scoring drive stalled in a field goal, Murray threw an interception to Ernest Jones inside the Rams' 5-yard line and Aaron Donald notched multiple sacks as a menace for the Arizona offensive line.

The slow start was partially a credit to Donald and the Rams defense, but the Cardinals eventually found the end zone when Conner broke through the star defender's tackle attempt on a critical fourth-down play near the goal line.

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

AD forced the INT πŸ’ͺ <br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/zPVhPlJGhb">pic.twitter.com/zPVhPlJGhb</a>

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

This one-hand snag by Conner 🀯<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/uktyMmUS5c">pic.twitter.com/uktyMmUS5c</a>

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Kyler Murray just threw a DIME for 42 yards πŸ”₯<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/YrVMi3RDvl">pic.twitter.com/YrVMi3RDvl</a>

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Conner just makes it look too easy 😀<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/VQpFofelSy">pic.twitter.com/VQpFofelSy</a>

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

That man is a bully 😀 <br><br>James Conner scores his 2nd TD of the night πŸ’ͺ <br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/s73YAgC0cl">pic.twitter.com/s73YAgC0cl</a>

Murray helped set up that touchdown with a beautiful deep ball to Christian Kirk on the move and then put Matt Prater in position to tie the game at halftime with a well-timed scramble that ended with him going out of bounds with one second remaining in the second quarter.

It seemed as if that would create some momentum that carried over into the second half, but that was not the case. Murray threw an ugly interception to Leonard Floyd on Arizona's first drive after intermission before DeAndre Hopkins had an uncharacteristic drop on fourth down in the red zone on the next.

The Cardinals wouldn't go down without a fight, though, as Murray bounced back with a deep ball to A.J. Green to set up Conner's second touchdown of the game to cut the deficit in half in the fourth quarter.

That was the last time it looked like Arizona had a true chance until the onside kick, as its defense failed to notch a clutch stop down the stretch before Conner was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 attempt. It may be in first place, but it was outplayed throughout the game and is now in a legitimate battle for the division crown in the season's final stretch.         

What's Next?

Both teams are in action in Week 15 when the Cardinals travel to face the Detroit Lions and the Rams host the Seattle Seahawks.