Rams see room for growth after ‘strange’ win over Cardinals

Immediately after that, the Rams had no trouble finding accurate descriptive words.

They knew their 20-12 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at State Farm Stadium lacked momentum. Highlight reel games were far from plentiful.

It was tantamount to a boring – albeit victorious – performance in the desert.

Not that the Rams complained. Not after they won the NFC West opener and improved their record to 2-1.

“A strange game,” said Rams coach Sean McVay.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford agreed.

“Definitely an odd flow at that,” he said.

No argument from Security Nick Scott.

“A bit odd per se,” Scott said.

How strange?

For the first time since 2020, the last of his 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions, Stafford did not go for a touchdown.

Star receiver Cooper Kupp scored a 20-yard touchdown – on a jet sweep.

The Rams only forced one turnover – a blocked punt by Michael Hoecht.

But thanks largely to a defense that choked quarterback Kyler Murray and kept the Cardinals out of the end zone, the Rams remained a thriving factory with plans to return to the same stadium in February for Super Bowl LVII.

After being routed by the Buffalo Bills in their opener and losing nearly a 21-point lead in a win over the Atlanta Falcons, the Rams neutralized the Cardinals and did enough on offense to start their game with confidence going on October 3 against the San Francisco 49ers via “Monday Night Football”.

“A Super Bowl isn’t won in the first three weeks,” said receiver Ben Skowronek, who caught four passes for a team-best 66 yards. “There is a lot of room for growth.”

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey (5) cuts a pass intended for Cardinals wide receiver AJ Green in the first half.

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey (5) cuts a pass intended for Cardinals wide receiver AJ Green in the first half.

(Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

The Rams entered the game after making a number of moves throughout the week to strengthen the offensive line and tight end, running back, cornerback, and edge-rushing positions.

Despite the absence of three injured defensemen — safety Jordan Fuller and cornerbacks David Long and Cobie Durant — the Rams kept Murray at bay and limited the Cardinals to four field goals.

Rookie Derion Kendrick started at cornerback and had nine tackles as team-best, many of them on receiver Marquise Brown, who caught 14 passes for 140 yards. Kendrick was evaluated for a concussion after the game, a Rams official said.

Sophomore cornerback Robert Rochell and recently signed cornerback Grant Haley also played extended snaps.

Murray completed 37 of 58 passes for 314 yards. He only ran eight yards as the Cardinals fell to 2-1.

Rams defenseman Aaron Donald is chasing Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray.

Rams defenseman Aaron Donald is chasing Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. Donald had a bag of Murray for his career 100th.

(Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

“It wasn’t perfect at times,” said defenseman Aaron Donald, who recorded his 100th career sack, “but overall I think we were strong.”

Linebacker Bobby Wagner said, “Keeping a team like that on field goals is a great thing.”

The Rams started quickly and took a 10-0 lead on Kupp’s touchdown run. But two more first-half drives faltered, and they settled for field goals and a 13-6 lead at halftime.

The Rams went three and out on their first possession of the second half, and the Cardinals used a field goal to go four points.

The Rams’ offense seemed permanently bogged down until Stafford made the game of the game with a third down. He spun to avoid a sack, then fired a sidearm pass at Kupp for a first down. On the next play, tight end Tyler Higbee turned a short pass into a 26-yard gain.

Running back Cam Akers then carried the ball in four straight games and finished the drive with a 14-yard touchdown run for a 20-9 lead.

Akers, who rushed for 61 yards in 12 carries, had a chance to seal the win but fumbled at the one-yard line.

“I just got greedy,” he said. “Try to put the ball out. It’s something that can’t happen.”

The Rams held on to give McVay his 11th win in 12 games against the Cardinals.

Stafford completed 18 of 25 passes for 249 yards.

“I’m sure everyone on this team is sitting there and going, ‘Man, there’s a couple of games,'” Stafford said, wishing they had it back. “It’s nice to be able to do that while winning the football game and correct those mistakes.”

McVay was pleased with how the offense started the game. The finish could use work.

“There are ways to play more complete games,” he said, “and that’s what we’re chasing.”

Now playing the 49ers, who defeated the Rams three times in a row at Levi’s Stadium.

“San Fran is a totally different beast – they have their totally different way of playing,” said Scott. “We are looking forward to this matchup.

“We’re always happy about it.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-09-25/rams-defeat-cardinals-stafford-kupp-nfl-recap Rams see room for growth after ‘strange’ win over Cardinals

Emma Bowman

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