Inglewood, Calif. — The Rams going into the playoffs against the Cardinals knew—the number one thing they had to do is bring a lot of pressure in Arizona’s quarterback Kyler Murray lap.
Linebacker Von Miller and lineman Aaron Donald led the defensive unit that harassed Murray all game long, forced two turnovers and dominated the Cardinals in a 34-11 victory before 70,625 at SoFi Stadium.
Rams Matthew Stafford’s 13-year quest for his first playoff victory was all but complete after Los Angeles’ dominated Arizona on both sides of the ball.
Stafford, who completed 13 of 17 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score in his first playoff win. He looked very comfortable throwing the ball down the field.
Stafford connected with receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp for touchdown passes and sneaked for another as Los Angeles advanced to a divisional-round game against the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Beckham had four catches for 54 yards, including his first career playoff touchdown catch for the Rams’ first points. He also threw a 40-yard pass during his own first postseason victory.
“What a team effort,” said Stafford. “Our defense played outstanding. Special teams set up a score with a giant play to pin them down there, did a great job on field goals, and we were good enough on offense to score some points and come away with the win.”
The Rams intercepted two passes — one that cornerback David Long Jr. returned for a touchdown — and punter Johnny Hekker consistently pinned the Cardinals back into their own territory.
Long also scored on a 3-yard interception return while the Rams’ defense pressured and made Murray uncomfortable in his playoff debut. The Rams led 28-0 before breezing along in their first playoff game at SoFi, which will feature the Super Bowl 56 next month.
After an so-so finish in the regular season, the Rams’ remained confident and played one game at a time.
“What a team effort,” Stafford said. “Our defense played outstanding tonight. Special teams basically set up a score. And we were good enough on offense to score some points and come away with the win. Just happy to be moving on.”
The San Francisco 49ers, by defeating the Cowboys in a wild-card game Sunday, saved the Rams from having to travel to freezing Green Bay to play the top-seeded Packers.
“Guys was just flying around making big plays when we needed to,” said Donald, who upped his sack total to 13.
Los Angeles were built with a mandate to repeat that feat and play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. Owner Stan Kroenke spared no expense on his $5-billion stadium and star-studded roster.
The Rams’ loss to Frisco in the season finale dropped them from the No. 2-seeded team to No. 4.
Miller had six tackles and a key early sack in his first postseason appearance since winning the MVP award in Super Bowl 50.
“I thought he did a great job leading the way,” McVay said. “He’s still the same great player to me, and he always was before this game. I think it’s good so you guys don’t have to talk about that anymore. So pleased be able to do this with him. He’s our leader out there, and we wouldn’t be here without him.”
James Conner rushed for a TD for Arizona, who have one playoff victory since the 2009 season. Murray went 7 for 17 for 28 yards and threw two interceptions in the first half that left the Cardinals trailing 21-0 with just 40 yards of offense before they managed to get their initial first down.
Murray finished the contest 19 of 34 for 137 yards and two interceptions for the Cardinals (11-7), who followed their 10-2 start with a 1-5 slide.
But it is perhaps fitting that the Rams are playing the Buccaneers, the only team to win a Super Bowl in its home stadium.
“We’re jelling at the right time,” said Miller, who set the tone early with a sack.
Arizona lost on the road for only the second time in 10 games this season under coach Kliff Kingsbury.
“We didn’t do anything right the first two quarters,” Kingsbury said. “The Rams handled the game and the atmosphere well. As an offense, we were just out of sync on a couple of things early that could have changed the game. We never got in a rhythm, and they made some big plays.”
Rams: Will travel to Tampa to play the Buccaneers Sunday, Jan. 23, 3:00 P.M.