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Rams Defense Showed They're Equipped to Overcome Short-Handed Secondary

The Rams defense produced a classic performance in their dominant win over the Cardinals in the Wild Card Round on Monday night.

With 7:59 remaining in the second quarter, cornerback David Long Jr. made the play of the day for the Los Angeles Rams. Long jumped in front of a desperation pass from quarterback Kyler Murray and returned it 3 yards for a touchdown.

That touchdown put the Rams up 21-0, a deficit that Murray and the Cardinals could not begin to overcome. L.A. held Murray to 137 passing yards and limited the Arizona rushing game to 61 yards on the ground. In a game where the Rams needed quarterback Matthew Stafford to be cool, calm and collective, he did just that. And the defense held up their end of the bargain too.

“The defense was great from the jump,” Rams coach Sean McVay said after his team's playoff win. 

Aaron Donald spoke on behalf of linebacker Troy Reeder, who served the role of the defensive play-caller, wearing the green dot with safety Jordan Fuller sidelined for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury. Fuller's counterpart Taylor Rapp also missed the contest as he remains in concussion protocol.

Despite a short-handed secondary, the Rams didn't miss a beat.

The Rams defense ranked sixth against the run this season, but many of their contest developed into air-bound shootouts. The Rams pass-rush did their best to keep Murray in the pocket, limiting his scrambling efforts and that was largely kept to a minimum.

Von Miller had himself quite the night, extending his sack-streak to five games. Miller’s six tackles, three for a loss and one sack led the Rams defense in the type of performance that defensive coordinator Raheem Morris knew Miller had in store when the team pulled off the in-season trade to acquire his talents.

With a 28-0 lead before the Cardinals found the endzone, both sides of the ball for L.A. were focused with a commanding lead. The defense was able to play free, keying in on rushing the passer as the Cardinals were forced to abandon the run and solely rely on the pass.

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Although beating a divisional foe in the playoffs is always nice, the Rams have their toughest challenge of the season coming up next week. They'll travel to Tampa Bay to face Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.

The Rams debated the Bucs 34-24 in Week 3, but everyone knows that postseason football brings the best out in Brady.

This momentum built by Miller and the Rams defense has to remain with them in Tampa Bay. The Rams will perhaps enter Sunday's game with a profound confidence after exposing the Cardinals in the Wild Card Round and already having beat the Bucs, but as the stakes rise, so does the pressure. 

When thinking about facing the defending Super Bowl champions, Donald said it best.

“It’s a new year," he said.

While it may be a new year, the Rams are hoping some of their old defensive magic from their first Super Bowl run returns and remains against the ageless Brady and the Bucs. 


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