NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 17 PFF ReFocused: Los Angeles Rams 18, Arizona Cardinals 7

Jan 3, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers (23) is pursued by Arizona Cardinals free safety Jalen Thompson (34) in the second half at SoFi Stadium. The Rams defeated the Cardinals 18-7. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams leaned on their defense and special teams to defeat the Arizona Cardinals 18-7, sending Sean McVay back to the postseason for the third time in four seasons. The Cardinals are going home after skidding to 2-5 in their last seven games.

Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.

Story of the Game

Sloppy execution by both offenses kept the game close through the first half. Rams QB John Wolford threw an interception on his first career pass, which led to a Cardinals touchdown on a short field. Cam Akers fumbled on the verge of reaching the goal line, but the Cardinals’ offense committed a holding penalty in the end zone for a safety on the following drive.

Kyler Murray exited the game in the first quarter with an injury, and backup Chris Streveler threw a pick-six right before halftime. Troy Hill returned the interception 84 yards for a touchdown. 

Wolford looked adequate, considering he has not taken a single NFL snap since the 2019 preseason. He flashed during his stint as the starting quarterback of the Arizona Hotshots in the short-lived AAF, leading the league in passer rating from a clean pocket (114.0).

The Cardinals’ pass-rush put Wolford through the ringer today with pressure on 35.7% of his dropbacks. The Rams’ signal-caller found a way to nullify some of the heat he faced with his mobility, scrambling for 24 of his 56 rushing yards. The Wake Forest grad finished his college career with more than 1,100 yards on the ground. 

The Rams defense is the second-highest-graded unit in the NFL (83.1), and it is the main reason this team could make a run at the Super Bowl. Jalen Ramsey continues to be a bad matchup for DeAndre Hopkins, spanning all the way back to their time in the AFC South. For the season, Ramsey has allowed three receptions for 20 yards on 11 targets as the primary defender in coverage against Hopkins.

Despite the Rams’ pass-rush failing to affect Streveler, the Cardinals’ QB committed three turnover worthy plays upon first review. Wherever he went with the ball, he had a difficult time finding completions. Not a single Rams defender surrendered more than 35 yards in coverage.

Rookie Watch

Akers may have finished the game with only 34 yards rushing on 21 attempts, but his role appears to have changed — he functioned as a dynamic pass-catcher out of the backfield. Akers caught every single one of his targets, including a huge chunk play for 38 yards. Teammate Van Jefferson played 42 snaps on offense with four receptions for 40 yards. 

For the Cardinals, first-round pick Isaiah Simmons continues to be a head-scratcher of an evaluation. He played a career-high 71 snaps in Week 15, yet his playing time has decreased ever since. He logged 24 snaps this afternoon against the Rams.

ELITE subscribers can view player grades, advanced statistics, positional snap counts and more in Premium Stats 2.0.

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