NFL News & Analysis

NFL Wild Card Game Recap: Los Angeles Rams 34, Arizona Cardinals 11

Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) and quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) celebrate after a touchdown during the second half of an NFC Wild Card playoff football game at SoFi Stadium. The Rams defeated the Cardinals 34-11. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Monday night's contest between the Los Angeles Rams and the Arizona Cardinals, like many of the games this weekend, was over shortly after it started. 


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The Rams built a big lead early behind Matthew Stafford and the offense's efficient play in addition to the defense's ability to pressure and force Kyler Murray into several costly mistakes. They took that early lead and coasted to a 34-11 victory.  

Los Angeles will now face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round as winners of six of their last seven games.

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Los Angeles Rams

Quarterback

Stafford avoided the catastrophic mistakes that have been an issue at times this season, and he shredded Arizona’s defense over the middle of the field. Stafford went 7-of-8 for 135 yards on throws between the numbers. His only incompletion on a pass between the numbers came on a dropped pass. 

Running back

Cam Akers split time with Sony Michel, but he earned a larger share of the work in his second game back. 

Player Snaps Carries Targets
Akers 32 17 2
Michel 24 13 0

Akers only averaged 3.2 yards per carry, but he flashed impressive burst on several plays given that he’s less than six months removed from a torn Achilles.

Wide receivers/Tight ends

This performance signaled why the Rams signed Odell Beckham Jr. after he was released by the Cleveland Browns. He created separation over the middle of the field and showed his body control and ball skills on an early endzone fade. 

The production was evenly split across Rams’ receivers with Beckham, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee and Van Jefferson all recording between 40 and 65 receiving yards. 

Offensive line

This was a nice bounceback performance from the Rams offensive line after one of its worst outings of the season in Week 18 against the San Francisco 49ers. Stafford was pressured on just three of his 21 dropbacks, and Los Angeles runners averaged 1.5 rushing yards before contact per attempt. 

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth’s status is worth monitoring after he left the game with a knee injury and was replaced by Joseph Noteboom.

Defensive line

Aaron Donald was a consistent presence in Arizona’s backfield. Per PFF’s first-run analysis, he led the Rams with four quarterback pressures and four additional pass-rush wins that didn’t result in pressure. He now gets to turn his attention to Tom Brady next week.

Linebackers

Neither Troy Reeder nor Travin Howard posted gaudy stat lines, but the duo didn't have many negative plays, either. 

Pending review, Reeder was one of the Rams’ highest-graded run defenders, and Howard allowed just three of his eight targets to be completed (two forced incompletions). 

Secondary

David Long Jr. was the opportunistic recipient of Rams defense's biggest play of the game with his three-yard interception return for a touchdown, but it was a strong all-around performance for the secondary.

Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams combined to allow two receptions for 14 yards into their coverage, per PFF’s first-run analysis. Eric Weddle played 16 snaps in his return to the NFL.

Arizona Cardinals

Quarterback

Murray never looked comfortable against this Rams defense. He started to settle in after halftime, but the game was largely decided at that point. 

First half Second half
Average time to throw 3.1 seconds 2.4 seconds
% of dropbacks pressured 47% 33%

That extra time in the pocket early on gave Aaron Donald and company extra time to get home as pass-rusher. Per PFF’s first-run analysis, Murray went just 4-of-12 for 22 yards and an interception with two sacks when pressured. 

Running back

In a big deficit early, the Cardinals weren’t in a position to lean on Chase Edmonds and James Conner in the run game. Edmonds and Conner weren't featured in the passing attack, either. The two combined for just 52 total yards on 13 touches. 

Both players enter free agency this offseason.

Wide receivers/Tight ends

The Cardinals have sorely missed DeAndre Hopkins since his injury, and this game wasn't any different. Christian Kirk (10 targets) and Rondale Moore (seven targets) led the way for Arizona, but they managed just 51 and 32 receiving yards, respectively, from those targets. 

Arizona's pass-catchers combined to bring in just two of six contested targets.

Offensive line

The only Cardinals offensive lineman who earned an overall PFF grade above 50.0 on first-run analysis of this game was left tackle D.J. Humphries, and he didn’t clear that threshold by much. 

The Cardinals offensive line's issues in pass protection and the run game were a key factor in the team's loss.

Defensive line

Markus Golden was the only Cardinals defender who had any semblance of success as a pass-rusher  — one sack, one hurry and an additional win that didn’t result in pressure. J.J. Watt was the defensive line’s highest-graded run defender in his return from injury, recording two run stops in the game. 

Linebackers

The Cardinals have spent two first-round picks on off-ball linebackers — Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins — in the past two NFL drafts, but they were out-snapped by Jordan Hicks and Tanner Vallejo Monday night. Hicks recorded one of the lowest PFF coverage grades on Arizona's defense, pending review. 

Secondary

Marco Wilson was the weakest link in Arizona’s secondary, as he allowed three receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown as the primary coverage defender, which increases to 100 yards when including plays nullified by penalty. Beckham beat him on several occasions. 

Arizona had to close the game without All-Pro safety Budda Baker, who was stretchered off the field after a collision with Akers in the second half.

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