Rams, Matthew Stafford take care of ball and Cardinals – Press Enterprise

INGLEWOOD – As we entered the Rams’ game against the Arizona Cardinals Monday night, the question was whether Matthew Stafford could finally win a playoff game.

When one gets out of it, the question is why he would stop with just one.

The Playoff Stafford turns out to be the best Stafford all season.

After passing two touchdowns, sneaking after another and letting Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray make the big mistakes, the Stafford Rams led to a 34-11 victory in an NFC wild-card game in front of 70,625 fans at SoFi Stadium.

The fourth-seeded Rams advance to meet the second-seeded Buccaneers in Tampa Bay Sunday at noon PT.

Fifth-seeded Cardinals and quarterback Kyler Murray take their regrets home to Phoenix after losing for the fifth time in six games.

Nor was it as if the Rams were excited about how they ended the regular season as they blew a 17-point lead in the first half and lost to the San Francisco 49ers in their final.

But after lectures from their coaches during the week to start and After finishing strong and avoiding turnover, the Rams showed what happens when they do.

The Rams led 28-0 after Stafford hit Cooper Kupp for a 7-yard touchdown to end their first drive of the second half before the Cardinals came on target.

The Rams’ most risky pass was not thrown by Stafford, but by wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who took Stafford’s lateral pass and threw deep to Cam Akers for a 40-yard win to put Kupp touchdown.

Akers was on his way to a night that ended his quick comeback after an Achilles tendon injury in July. Akers had gotten wet feet with a couple of carries and catches against the 49s. On Monday, he stretched his legs, hurried 17 times in 55 yards and caught one pass in 40.

And Stafford was on track for the most careful and best playoff performance of his career, completing 13 of 17 for 202 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions while being fired only once.

It was his first outing without interception in five games. He was tied for the NFL lead in interceptions in the regular season.

Both quarterbacks sought their first playoff wins, Stafford had won 0-3 in 12 years in Detroit, and Murray had reached the offseason for the first time in three years in Arizona.

That part was seen, gaping in Monday night’s spotlight. Murray threw two interceptions in the first half. The first was a catastrophic mistake.

After 14-0, still looking for Arizona’s initial first down after four possessions, Murray fell back to his own end zone on a third-and-7 and was put on by inside linebacker Troy Reeder. Desperate to avoid being tackled for safety, Murray threw the ball to the right end of the Cardinals’ line. No cardinal was close to capturing it.

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