INGLEWOOD—On Monday, January 17 at SoFi Stadium, the Los Angeles Rams began their playoff quest by crushing the Arizona Cardinals 34-11. Setting the tone early, the ferocious defense forced two key interceptions completely stifling the Cardinals, while Quarterback Matthew Stafford and the offense was humming all night.
Stafford, after 185 games, and a 0-3 record in the postseason, was able to earn a victory going 13 of 17, for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
Up next, the Rams face off against the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers led by Tom Brady at Raymond James Stadium on January 23 at 12 PST. In the past, the Rams have knocked off the Bucs the last two times they met.
SoFi was reverberating from the loud and lively Rams fans from the kickoff, in contrast to last week’s pro 49ers crowd. Stafford was facing pressure and criticism leading up to the wildcard win. Stafford found wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on the Rams second drive of the game for a remarkable 7-yard touchdown catch, OBJ caught the ball with his tremendous wingspan in the corner of the end zone on a critical third down, putting the Rams up 7-0.
Shutting down the Cardinals offense and Cardinals Quarterback Kyler Murray, the defense was key to the victory, as Murray was harassed all night and threw two interceptions.
The Rams offense achieved balance, with a potent running attack to complement the air attack. Rams running back Cam Akers was returning from a torn Achillies suffered in July, and his energy combined with his speed makes an already dangerous offense lethal.
Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp made touchdown catches for the NFC West champion Rams. Los Angeles advanced in the postseason for the third time in the last four years under coach Sean McVay.
The Rams defense was angry and dominant, holding the Cardinals to a measly 40 total yards in the first half. On a third down deep inside Cardinals territory, Murray was swung like a rag doll before weakly throwing a ball which was picked off by David Long and was returned four yards for a Rams touchdown making it 21-0 and the rout was on. This play was typical of the one-sided affair.
This was the third meeting between the Rams and Cardinals, with each team winning on the road. Down the stretch, the Cardinals faltered, losing four of their final five games to end the regular season. The battle between the Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers likely will prove to be a playoff classic.