INGLEWOOD (CBSLA) — In the first ever playoff game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, the Los Angeles Rams scored early and often in a dominant victory over their divisional rival Arizona Cardinals, 34-11.
Fans across the Southland converged to watch as the Rams earned their spot in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, now slated to take on the reigning Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Matthew Stafford earned his first career playoff victory on Monday evening, with a stellar performance, totaling 202 yards and two touchdowns, adding one rushing touchdown to his game totals.
L.A.'s offensive onslaught came on the back of a 100+ yard rushing performance and 200+ yard passing performance. Both Sony Michel and Cam Akers had more than 50 yards, 58 and 55, respectively.
In a shocking turn of events, Stafford out-rushed the Cardinals' Kyler Murray, known for his blazing speed and quick feet - 22 yards to 6; tied for the third-worst rushing performance on the season from Murray, who finished the year with 423 yards on the ground.
After a series of punts from each team to begin the game, the Rams struck first when Matthew Stafford connected on a four-yard lob over the outstretched hands of Cardinals' defensive back Marco Wilson into those of Odell Beckham Jr. for a four-yard touchdown - the first playoff touchdown of Beckham's NFL career.
Stafford would get his first rushing touchdown since 2016 just a few minutes later on a one-yard quarterback sneak - the third consecutive run up the middle from the Rams, making the score 14-0 in the second quarter.
Perhaps the biggest storyline of the night was the Rams defense, which proved more than capable of handling the Cardinals' star quarterback in Kyler Murray. He started the game 6-for-16, including two interceptions on back-to-back drives in the second quarter.
The first pick came on an over-the-shoulder heave from Murray, who's last-ditch effort to avoid a safety turned into an interception returned for a touchdown by Rams' safety David Long Jr. The interception, returned for just three-yards, was the shortest pick-6 in NFL Playoffs history, making the score a steep 21-0 in favor of the Rams heading into halftime.
The second interception of the night would be the first for one player - Marquise Copeland, who snagged the deflected pass for his first career NFL interception.
Murray was sacked twice in the first half - once each by Von Miller and Aaron Donald - part of the immense pressure the Rams defense placed on the Cardinals field general, who threw for just 118 yards through the first three quarters . He finished the night with 137 yards, his second-worst total on the season. He was 19-for-34, with his average pass going for just 4-yards.
Los Angeles would use a little trickery on their way to another touchdown to start the second half, when Odell Beckham Jr.'s deep rainbow-of-a-pass hit running back Cam Akers in stride for 40-yards. This would lead to a 7-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to his favorite target - Cooper Kupp, on what was just his third reception of the game at the time.
Arizona was helped under 200 yards on the night, with just 175 - 122 passing and 61 rushing. Their lone touchdown on the night came in the third quarter on a two-yard rush from running back James Conner, followed by a successful two-point conversion from Murray to wide receiver Antoine Wesley. They added an additional three points on a 55-yard Matt Prater field goal in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late.
The Rams now have their own steep task at hand, when they head to Tampa Bay to take on future Hall of Famer and seven-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. Their game is slated to begin on January 23, at 12 p.m.
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