Rams vs. Cardinals score: Matthew Stafford earns first career playoff win in rout of Arizona

There were a number of blowouts over the course of Super Wild Card Weekend and Monday added another to that collection. The Los Angeles Rams were able to advance to the divisional round after decimating the Arizona Cardinals for four quarters en-route to the 34-11 win. 

It was a fundamental breakdown for Kliff Kingsbury's team right out of the gate as they barely were able to gain positive yardage throughout the first half. When they weren't punting, Kyler Murray was throwing interceptions that helped the Rams build up a three-score lead at the break. The second half didn't prove much better as the Rams opened up the third quarter with a 75-yard touchdown drive to go up 28-0 and truly put a hammer down on this game. 

Matthew Stafford finished his night completing 13 of his 17 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns with a 154.5 passer rating. Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. were his two main targets as they combined for 115 yards receiving on nine total catches along with a touchdown scored apiece. On the Cardinals side, Kyler Murray completed just 19 of his 34 throws for 137 yards and two picks. As a team, Arizona rushed for 60 yards on 3.3 yards per carry. 

For a more detailed breakdown of how this playoff matchup unfolded, check out our takeaways below. 

Why the Rams won

The biggest thing for the Rams was that they were able to play mistake-free football and capitalized on the Cardinals inability to get anything rolling throughout the evening. Defensively, L.A. was able to completely shut down the Cardinals offense and allowed very few yards after the catch as Kyler Murray opened the game throwing the ball around the line of scrimmage. That led to four straight three-and-outs followed up by two turnovers by the defense that effectively put the game away by the middle of the second quarter. 

Matthew Stafford was sharp as he marched to his first-ever playoff win. He led back-to-back touchdown drives where he would complete a perfectly thrown corner pass to Odell Beckham Jr. and then rush for a score on the second trip. While he was stellar throughout, the Cardinals struggles did create some easy lifting for him as well as he went into the locker room at halftime with a three-score lead after throwing just nine passes. After finishing out the regular season with eight interceptions over his final four games, the biggest thing for Stafford was that he did not turn the ball over to give the Cardinals any free momentum. All in all, it was a near-perfect night for the Rams QB. 

Why the Cardinals lost

Simply put, Arizona failed to show up. The Cardinals had a nightmarish start to his game where they had four-straight three-and-outs that had them in the negatives in terms of total yards of offense. 

After those four punts, Kyler Murray had back-to-back drives that resulted in interceptions. The first pick was unquestionably the worst of the two as the Cardinals were deep in their own end as Murray felt pressure and lofted the football to the right side of the field as he tried to avoid the safety. That ball hung in the air and was eventually picked off by Los Angeles and returned for a touchdown that extended the Rams lead to 21. At the time of that pick-six, the Rams defense now has more yards of total offense (3) and points than the Cardinals offense (-1).

For the first half, the Cardinals had just 40 yards of offense and three first downs. 

While the Arizona offense couldn't find its footing, the defense wasn't able to stop the bleeding much either. Matthew Stafford was able to throw and rush for a touchdown on back-to-back drives that gave L.A. the 14-0 lead. That type of effort isn't going to get you a win during a random game in Week 6 let alone in the opening round of the playoffs. 

Turning point

While the game already started to get out of hand, things fell completely off the rails for Arizona midway through the second quarter. On a second-and-7 play from the Arizona 4-yard line, Kyle Murray threw a 22-yard pass to A.J. Green. The veteran receiver initially appeared to make the catch with Rams defender Nick Scott then delivering a big hit to force the fumble, which fell out of bounds. 

However, Sean McVay challenged the play, arguing that Green did not bring down the catch, which proved to be the right decision as the play was overturned in Los Angeles' favor. That put the Cardinals back deep in their own territory and facing a third-and -7. On that very next play, Murray was pressured from his left and, instead of taking the safety, softly lofted the ball to the right side of the field. That ball was then picked off by Rams corner David Long Jr., who walked in for the touchdown. 

That put the Rams up by 21 and gave them a cushion to completely run away with the win. 

Play of the game 

The Rams went into their bag of tricks in the second half when Matthew Stafford tossed the ball back to Odell Beckham Jr. at L.A. 45-yard line. The receiver then cocked back and threw a 40-yard pass to running back Cam Akers that put the Rams deep in the red zone. Just two plays later, Stafford would find Cooper Kupp for the touchdown to extend the L.A. lead to 28. 

Not only was this a great play for the Rams, but it also rubbed some salt in the wound for the Cardinals, who failed to convert a double pass play earlier in this contest as they were penalized for an illegal forward pass on their play. 

Meanwhile, Beckham finished with four catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. That performance also helped him earn a $500k incentive with the Rams on Monday, so it was a productive day all around for the star receiver. 

What's next

From here, the Los Angeles Rams will advance to the Divisional Round and face the Buccaneers, who are fresh off their own blowout win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. That game will be kick off at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday from Raymond James Stadium. 

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@RamsNFL via Twitter
January 18, 2022, 4:28 AM
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The Cardinals were the NFL's last remaining undefeated team this year at 7-0. They went 4-7 down the stretch. Lots to figure out.

January 18, 2022, 4:25 AM
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January 18, 2022, 4:21 AM
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Two minutes left, and the Rams will be moving on. It'll be L.A. at Tampa in the divisional round, along with San Francisco at Green Bay.

January 18, 2022, 4:20 AM
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@RamsNFL via Twitter
January 18, 2022, 4:18 AM
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@RamsNFL via Twitter
January 18, 2022, 4:17 AM
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Relatively good news on Budda Baker here. 

January 18, 2022, 4:13 AM
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Bad tackling from the Cardinals here. Kupp made three guys miss after catching a short pass and turned it into another big gain.

January 18, 2022, 4:06 AM
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Biggest play of the night for Kupp, beats Byron Murphy over the middle. Bracket comes way too late, which is not the way to play Kupp.

January 18, 2022, 4:05 AM
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The Cardinals are down 23 points and kicking a field goal to cut the lead to 20. Either way, they still need three touchdowns. Can't say I understand this decision.

January 18, 2022, 3:56 AM
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@RamsNFL via Twitter
January 18, 2022, 3:56 AM
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Floating a jump ball for Antoine Wesley down the left sideline is not the same as doing so to DeAndre Hopkins, folks. (Wesley is the backup left WR for the Cardinals, who tend to play very static formations.)

January 18, 2022, 3:54 AM
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@RamsNFL via Twitter
January 18, 2022, 3:53 AM
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Cardinals need to have more urgency at the line of scrimmage. Can't be snapping the ball with 10 on the play clock at this point. They need three scores and at least two stops. Gotta be moving more quickly than this.

January 18, 2022, 3:51 AM
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@RamsNFL via Twitter
January 18, 2022, 3:51 AM
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@RamsNFL via Twitter
January 18, 2022, 3:40 AM
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Vicious hit to Baker's head at the end of the run. Akers appeared to gesture that Baker was too small, after the play, apparently not knowing that Baker was knocked out. 

January 18, 2022, 3:40 AM
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Oh no... This does not look good. Cam Akers lowered his shoulder at the end of his run and Budda Baker is down on the ground, with medical personnel running out to check on him.

January 18, 2022, 3:36 AM
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The Rams just keep hitting on big plays down the field. This time it's Van Jefferson beating Marco Wilson on a deep over route, and the safety can't get over the top of it in time. 

January 18, 2022, 3:34 AM
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@RamsNFL via Twitter
January 18, 2022, 3:34 AM
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@RamsNFL via Twitter
January 18, 2022, 3:28 AM
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James Conner got cracked again on his way into the end zone, but hey, the Cardinals are in the end zone for the first time all night. Back to a three-score game.

January 18, 2022, 3:28 AM
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Easily the biggest play of the night for the Cardinals offense, with Christian Kirk open over the middle for 23 yards. Where has that been all game?

January 18, 2022, 3:25 AM
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