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Los Angeles Rams blow out Arizona Cardinals, giving QB Matthew Stafford first playoff win

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Matthew Stafford entered Monday night time’s wild-card recreation towards the Arizona Cardinals having by no means gained within the playoffs, dropping in all three of his appearances over 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions.

If solely he had a crew round him as gifted because the one he now quarterbacks.

Stafford mixed for 3 touchdowns, vastly outplaying Cardinals counterpart Kyler Murray, and the Los Angeles Rams obtained contributions from up and down their star-studded roster en path to a stress-free 34-11 win at SoFi Stadium. It stuffed the playoff gap in Stafford’s résumé and punched the Rams’ ticket to the divisional spherical, the place they will face Tom Brady and the defending champion Buccaneers on Sunday in Tampa, Florida.

Stafford’s 323 profession landing passes within the common season have been probably the most of any participant with out a playoff victory, in accordance with ESPN Stats & Info analysis.

“I am simply excited for our crew to get the win,” Stafford mentioned. “What a crew effort. Our protection performed excellent tonight, particular groups principally arrange a rating with [punter] Johnny [Hekker] pinning them down there, did an amazing job on area targets. And we have been ok on offense to attain some factors and are available away with the win. Simply completely happy to be transferring on.”

Stafford turned in considered one of his best performances of the season, even when it wasn’t his most prolific. He threw landing passes to Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp and ran for one more on a goal-line sneak for his first dashing TD since 2016. After ending the common season with eight interceptions over the ultimate 4 video games, he did not commit a turnover towards Arizona whereas ending with an almost excellent 154.5 passer ranking.

His 13 completions and 17 makes an attempt have been simply season lows, whereas his 202 passing yards have been his second fewest. His 17 makes an attempt additionally have been his fewest in a win in his profession, common season or playoffs, in accordance with ESPN Stats & Info knowledge.

With the Rams’ working recreation discovering its groove from the get-go and their protection leaving Murray wanting misplaced all night time lengthy, they did not want Stafford to hold the load.

Sony Michel, acquired simply earlier than the season through commerce within the wake of Cam Akers‘ Achilles tendon tear, rushed 13 occasions for 58 yards. Akers, in his second recreation again from that damage, went for 55 yards on 17 carries. Los Angeles’ 11 rushes within the first quarter and 38 rushes in all have been each season highs.

The Rams held the Cardinals with out a third-down conversion on 9 tries and stored them off the scoreboard till 4:11 remained within the third quarter. The 183 complete yards the Rams allowed have been a season low and their fifth fewest beneath coach Sean McVay, per ESPN Stats & Info. They neutralized Murray’s legs and intercepted him twice, together with a pick-six by cornerback David Long when Murray chucked the ball out of his personal finish zone beneath duress as a way to keep away from a security.

“Guys have been simply flying round, enjoying quick, making massive performs once we wanted it,” mentioned defensive sort out Aaron Donald, one of many Rams’ three first-team All-Professionals, together with Kupp and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. “That is what it is about. While you obtained 11 guys on the market, you anticipate everyone to make a play at any time. A bunch of men did that and did job of containing him, making the quarterback uncomfortable. He threw the ball to us; we took benefit of it.”

The Rams additionally obtained an interception from defensive sort out Marquise Copeland.

At 3 yards, Lengthy’s pick-six was the shortest in NFL postseason historical past, in accordance with Elias Sports activities Bureau analysis.

That rating gave the Rams a 21-0 lead heading into halftime. And in contrast to final week, after they led the San Francisco 49ers 17-0 solely to lose in time beyond regulation, the Rams added on within the second half.

Early within the third quarter, McVay known as a trick move that had Beckham catching a lateral from Stafford then throwing to Akers for a 40-yard completion down the sideline. In one other illustration of how dominant the Rams’ defensive effort was, that play gained 12 extra yards than the 28 Murray had thrown for to that time.

Beckham mentioned the play was put in this week and that the wind made it troublesome to execute the throw in observe. He appreciated the teaching employees for holding it within the recreation plan.

Akers could not haul in a catchable deep ball from Stafford earlier within the recreation.

“The chance got here up, I do know I obtained to somebody who’s simply gonna catch the ball,” Beckham mentioned. “All I obtained to do is put it within the neighborhood [to] Cam Akers, and he made the play.”

Beckham turned the primary participant in NFL postseason historical past to complete with a 30-yard reception and a 30-yard completion in the identical recreation. He caught 4 passes for 54 yards and hauled within the first playoff TD of his profession.

“I really feel like I’ve gotten to a sure age the place I am a realist and never an idealist, and I understood the scenario of what I used to be coming into on this crew and all the things that they have been able to,” Beckham mentioned. “And it simply feels wonderful to get that win. Get the primary one off your again. Now understanding it is simply time to place it collectively and make a run.”

The Rams signed Beckham and traded for pass-rusher Von Miller (one sack, three tackles for loss) earlier this season within the two newest cases of the crew loading up on star gamers in a bid to observe within the Bucs’ footsteps and win the Tremendous Bowl on their residence area.

That additionally included their offseason commerce for Stafford, who appeared each bit the improve over Jared Goff they envisioned.

“I believed he did an amazing job main the way in which,” McVay mentioned of Stafford. “He is nonetheless the identical nice participant to me. And he all the time was earlier than this recreation, as effectively. So I believe it is good so that you guys do not have to speak about [him not having a playoff win] anymore. So he can get that one out of the way in which. However actually happy with him. Simply so fortunate to have the ability to do that with him. He is our chief. We would not be right here with out him.”

Towards the blitz, Stafford went 7-of-8 for a season-high 148 yards and the landing move to Kupp, in accordance with ESPN Stats & Info. Stafford now has 16 TDs and one interception towards the blitz this season, together with Monday night time’s recreation. He was pressured on solely six dropbacks, one shy of his fewest dropbacks beneath stress this season.

Kupp, who turned the fourth participant since 1970 to steer the league in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, topped the Rams with 5 catches for 61 yards.

Stafford known as the looming matchup with Tampa Bay “an enormous problem,” noting the Bucs’ success at residence, the place they have been 7-1 this season at Raymond James Stadium.

“Clearly, a improbable quarterback, nice protection, a very good soccer crew,” Stafford mentioned.

The Rams have been considered one of solely three groups to beat the Bucs — 34-24 in Week 3 — throughout the common season.

“I believe their crew is totally different than once we performed them final, and I believe we’re, too, each [in] personnel and scheme a bit of bit. You all the time evolve all through the season,” Stafford mentioned. “So it’s going to be fascinating to see what they appear to be right here as of late, and we’ll go on the market, assault and see what occurs.”

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