The Los Angeles Rams are headed to the second round of the playoffs for the third time in four years.
Los Angeles defeated the Arizona Cardinals 34-11 in Monday's NFC Wild Card Round matchup at SoFi Stadium. Matthew Stafford accounted for three touchdowns for the victors, who earned the most important win over their divisional rival after splitting their two regular-season games.
Kyler Murray struggled on the other side for the Cardinals, who remain without a playoff win since the 2015 campaign.
Notable Player Stats
- Matthew Stafford, QB, LA: 13-of-17 passing for 202 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs; 6 carries for 22 yards, 1 TD
- Cooper Kupp, WR, LA: 5 catches for 61 yards, 1 TD
- Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LA: 4 catches for 54 yards, 1 TD; 1-of-1 passing for 40 yards
- Kyler Murray, QB, AZ: 19-of-34 passing for 137 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs
- James Conner, RB, AZ: 4 carries for 19 yards, 1 TD; 1 catch for 5 yards
Rams Roll to Stafford's 1st Career Playoff Win
The biggest storyline from Los Angeles' perspective was rather obvious considering Stafford was going for his first postseason win after losing all three of his playoff games with the Detroit Lions.
One way to put any nerves to rest is getting out to a quick start, and the Rams did just that while jumping out to a 21-0 halftime lead. While Stafford-to-Cooper Kupp has been the go-to connection all season, it was the supporting cast that shone the brightest with the Cardinals focusing so much attention on the No. 1 wideout.
Odell Beckham Jr. hauled in the opening touchdown on a fade route in the corner of the end zone and broke free multiple times, while Tyler Higbee found some openings underneath. Sony Michel and Cam Akers also found some running room, and Stafford scored the second touchdown with a quarterback sneak.
There goes that man. <a href="https://twitter.com/CooperKupp?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CooperKupp</a> secures the TD to put the <a href="https://twitter.com/RamsNFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RamsNFL</a> up 28-0!<br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AZvsLAR?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AZvsLAR</a> on ABC/ESPN/ESPN2<br>📱: NFL app <a href="https://t.co/Egcjjujfc6">pic.twitter.com/Egcjjujfc6</a>
Throw in a dominant showing from the defense, and the home team was in full cruise control mode by the start of the second half.
Cruise control meant the Rams could have some fun, and they did just that with a trick play that saw Beckham complete a 40-yard pass to Akers. It also felt like just a matter of time before Kupp got involved, and the trick play set up his touchdown catch on a perfectly placed ball from Stafford.
The Rams didn't need No. 9 to make many throws with the way the game unfolded, but he looked perfectly comfortable when he unleashed another dime downfield to Van Jefferson to set up a field goal.
While upsetting the great Tom Brady in the next round may be a different story, Stafford was anything but overwhelmed by the moment. The Rams traded for him to win games like this, and they delivered in convincing fashion.
Cardinals Can't Overcome Early Mistakes
Murray wasted little time announcing himself as a star after the Cardinals selected him with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2019 NFL draft, but Monday was the first opportunity of his career to play on a playoff stage.
It quickly turned into a nightmare.
The Cardinals finished the first quarter with minus-three total yards from scrimmage as they struggled to block Aaron Donald and Von Miller up front. Mistakes also proved costly, as A.J. Green dropped a pass and a trick play lateral from Christian Kirk to James Conner was ruled a forward pass and a penalty.
Things went from bad to worse when Murray just threw the ball up for grabs while trying to avoid a safety for what turned into the easiest pick-six David Long Jr. will have in his career. He also threw another pick when a screen pass bounced straight up off Conner's hands and into the waiting arms of Marquise Copeland.
Everything's coming up Rams. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RamsHouse?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RamsHouse</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SuperWildCard?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SuperWildCard</a><br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AZvsLAR?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AZvsLAR</a> on ABC/ESPN/ESPN2<br>📱: NFL app <a href="https://t.co/69n0o5wMuU">pic.twitter.com/69n0o5wMuU</a>
James Conner is still a TD machine. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RedSea?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RedSea</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SuperWildCard?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SuperWildCard</a><br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AZvsLAR?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AZvsLAR</a> on ABC/ESPN/ESPN2<br>📱: NFL app <a href="https://t.co/ENUfTPnmq4">pic.twitter.com/ENUfTPnmq4</a>
The Cardinals finally broke through with a touchdown on their first possession of the second half, but even that wasn't without its problems considering they were down 28-0 at the start of a drive that lasted 12 plays and more than six minutes. Murray scrambled for a fourth-down conversion to keep the long drive alive before Conner scored, but time was a real factor at that point.
It was the only bright spot for the visitors while the game was even somewhat up for grabs, and there were even bigger concerns than the game when Budda Baker was carted off the field.
Murray will surely have more postseason opportunities in the future, but the Cardinals were outplayed from the start and looked nothing like the team that started 10-2 before a late collapse that continued into the playoffs.
The Rams advanced to the NFC Divisional Round where they will face the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road.