The Rams put together a punishing 34-11 beatdown on the Cardinals, punching their ticket to the Divisional Round where L.A. will hit the road and face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With a game that saw the Rams dominate on offense, defense and special teams now in the rearview, there’s a lot to unpack on how that bodes well for the team moving ahead.
Here are five key takeaways from the Rams' lopsided victory over the Cardinals:
1. Matthew Stafford got his mojo back
Stafford entered the playoffs having committed nine turnovers in his last four games. He had fallen into a rut that was not favorable to the Rams' offense or sustainable for success against quality opponents. But the minute he laced up his cleats and took the field for Monday night's showing against the Cardinals, Stafford looked locked in as ever.
Stafford was efficient with his passes, completing 76.5% of his attempts for 202 yards and two touchdowns without surrendering a turnover. Stafford earned his first playoff win and did it in a big way, registering a 154.5 passer rating, the highest in Rams franchise history in the playoffs, according to NFL Research. Like most passers, Stafford is a guy that thrives on momentum and he got that back against Arizona's defense in which he'll look to reciprocate the rhythm he found in next week's contest.
2. The duo of Sony Michel and Cam Akers can be a special pairing
Akers saw an uptick in snaps Monday night. After playing just 20% of the offensive snaps in his season debut last week, Akers' involvement accelerated to 53% on Monday night. Not only did he receive more opportunities, but Akers also thrived when called upon. The Rams used him as a wide receiver in addition to his rushing ability, propelling him to 95 total yards in the Rams' win over the Cardinals.
Akers worked in stride alongside Michel, the team's starting running back across its last six games. The two look like a pairing that can do damage feeding off one another. Michel added 58 yards of his own, bringing the Rams total of 113 rushing yards between the two rushers. This one-two punch is a downhill rushing attack that serves the Rams' offense well as they look to get through the NFC's elite teams.
3. Odell Beckham Jr. continues to ascend
Beckham's role with the Rams has taken on a life of its own. He was initially brought aboard as the team's third or fourth option in the receiving game but following a devastating season-ending injury to Robert Woods, Beckham has transformed into a scoring threat once again – something he did a lot of early on in his career.
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Beckham caught four passes for 54 yards and one touchdown, while also throwing a 40-yard pass to Akers on a trick play. Beckham has evolved into a critical part of the Rams' offense, logging a touchdown grab in six of his last eight games with the Rams.
4. Rams defense showed what they’re made of despite being short-handed in the secondary
The Rams lost safety Jordan Fuller for the remainder of the season due to an ankle injury and safety Taylor Rapp was inactive as he remained in concussion protocol. That put the Rams' secondary in a pinch and they pivoted by calling Eric Weddle and convincing him to come out of retirement. Weddle rotated in alongside Nick Scott and Terrell Burgess between the two safety spots.
On one hand, you have three players who haven’t endured much starting experience this season which led to the belief that the Cardinals would presumably attack that area of the field. Meanwhile, the Rams defense evidently had other ideas, as they took it to the Cardinals offense, holding them to 183 net yards and didn’t allow a third-down conversion on the night.
5. Rams defense got contributions from other players than just their stars
The defense is highlighted by the likes of Aaron Donald, Von Miller, Leonard Floyd and Jalen Ramsey. And while each member of this star-studded group delivered, the Rams received a lift from other members of the defense.
Cornerback David Long Jr. recorded a pix-six when Murray tried getting off a pass with pressure coming, which ultimately turned into six points for the Rams. Marquise Copeland also logged an interception, stealing a screen pass from Murray in the second half. The Rams are a team that leans heavily on its stars but it was a complete effort that saw contributions from rotational players in key moments to help put the game on ice.
More from Ram Digest:
- Rams' Midseason Additions Pave the Way in 34-11 Wild Card Round Victory Over Cardinals
- Matthew Stafford Earns First Playoff Win in Rams' 34-11 Rout Over Cardinals
- Rams vs. Cardinals Halftime Report
- Rams vs. Cardinals Wild Card Round: Point Spread, Over/Under, Moneyline
- Rams Elevate Eric Weddle, Blake Countess From Practice Squad to Active Roster
- Pressure Heats Up for Mathew Stafford to Steer the Ship Toward a Successful Rams' Playoff Run
- Rams vs. Cardinals Wild Card Round: 3 Bold Predictions
- Rams vs. Cardinals: Wild Card Round Prediction and Picks
- Rams' Final Injury Report for Wild Card Round vs. Cardinals
- Rams OC Kevin O'Connell Receives Second Interview Request for Head Coaching Job