INGLEWOOD, California – Matthew Stafford passed 202 yards and two touchdowns and ran after another goal in his first playoff victory, and the Los Angeles Rams roared out of the wildcard round with a 34-11 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday. night.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp got touchdown catches for the NFC West champion Rams (13-5), who will visit defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday for a spot in the NFC Championship. Los Angeles advanced in the off-season for the third time in the last four years under coach Sean McVay.
David Long also scored on a 3-yard interception return, while the Rams’ defense harassed Kyler Murray for a disastrous playoff debut. Los Angeles jumped to a 28-0 lead and crossed in the first playoff game at SoFi Stadium, which will host Super Bowl 56 next month.
After an inconsistent end to the regular season, the Rams’ constellation of big stars came together brilliantly on the postseason stage.
Stafford excelled in his first playoff game with the Rams, playing 13 of 17 without an interception and coolly directing LA’s offense while taking his first playoff win in 13 NFL seasons – the first 12 spent in Detroit.
Beckham had four catches on 54 yards, including his first career playoff touchdown catch for the Rams’ first point. He also threw a 40-yard pass during his own first postseason victory. Linebacker Von Miller added six tackles and an important early firing in his first postseason appearance since winning the MVP award in Super Bowl 50.
Murray went 19 of 34 for 137 yards and two interceptions for the Cardinals (11-7), which followed their 10-2 start with a 1-5 slide. Arizona lost away for only the second time in 10 games this season under coach Kliff Kingsbury, but fell to the Rams for the 10th time in the NFC West rivals’ last 11 meetings.
James Conner rushed after a TD for the Cardinals, which has a playoff win since the 2009 season. Murray went 7 for 17 for 28 yards and threw two interceptions in a terrible first half that left the Cardinals behind 21-0 with just 40 yards offensive.
Los Angeles went up 21-0 when linebacker Troy Reeder’s pressure caused Murray to throw the ball blindly out of the end zone to avoid a safety. Long made an interception and took a step to score the shortest pick-6 in NFL playoff history.
The Rams even won with a quiet night from NFL receiving manager Kupp, who had three 16-yard receptions while the game was still in doubt. Coup finished with five catches on 61 yards, not getting 90 yards for just the second game this season – both times against Arizona.
The Rams ended their second offensive drive with Stafford’s accurate 4-yard throw to Beckham. The eight-year veteran widow has had six TD catches in his last eight games since joining the Rams in mid-season and filling the void left by injured Robert Woods.
Stafford scored its first playoff-rushing TD since January 2012 to finish the Rams’ next drive.
After Longs TD, the Cardinals finally got a first try seven minutes before the break, but Ram’s lineman Marquise Copeland got his first career interception on a rejected pass.
Kupp’s TD catch after the break was set up by Beckham’s 40-yard pass down the sideline to Cam Akers – the sixth completion of Beckham’s eight-year career.
Eric Weddle got significant playing time for the Rams in the 37-year-old veteran’s first NFL game since the season finale in 2019. The two-time All-Pro safety ended his retirement last week to help after Los Angeles lost starter Taylor Rapp to a concussion and Jordan Fuller to an ankle injury that ended the season.
Cardinal safety Budda Baker left the pitch on a stretcher in the third quarter after a helmet-to-helmet hit with Akers. The players knelt around Baker in concern before being taken off the field. He was taken to a hospital for further evaluation but had mobility in the extremities.
JJ Watt had three tackles for Arizona in his first game since late October. The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year underwent shoulder surgery but hurried back to help the Cardinals.
Long (knee) and Ram’s left tackle Andrew Whitworth (ankle) both missed time in the second half.
Cardinals: An offseason evaluation of what went wrong late in such a promising season.
Rams: A showdown with the Buccaneers and Tom Brady, who have a little more experience with playoff pressure than Murray.
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