LA Rams huge statement win vs Cardinals. Now how far can they go?
The LA Rams truly had a statement win against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football. This Rams team was severely shorthanded due to COVID and injury issues. In fact, just a few hours before kick-off they learned they would be without their star cornerback Jalen Ramsey and TE Tyler Higbee.
This was already on the heels of missing RB Darrell Henderson, RB Buddy Howell, CB Dont’e Deayon, CB Robert Rochell, RT Rob Havenstein, TE Johnny Mundt, TE Jacob Harris, LB Travin Howard, RB Cam Akers, RB Jake Funk, WR Tutu Atwell, WR Robert Woods, OC Brian Allen, and NT Sebastian Joseph-Day. Despite all of these injuries, the Rams still found a way to turn in their best game of the season. That’s quite a large number of talented players to be missing from the football field.
Rams plundering defense
It all started with the defense setting the tone and getting after Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray early and often. Their defensive leader DT Aaron Donald had three sacks and was unblockable. He made perhaps the most crucial play of the evening when he deflected a pass deep in LA Rams territory into the outstretched arms of teammate linebacker Ernest Jones. That changed the momentum of the entire game.
Cardinals offensive linemen were holding Donald all night as well, and surprisingly the officials in the game actually called a few of the more egregious infractions. Those critical penalties helped to keep the Cardinals’ offense on its heels throughout the evening. The defense also held strong on two fourth downs that stunted the Cardinals’ momentum. The pass defense stepped up without All-Pro defensive back Jalen Ramsey. Both outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and inside linebacker Earnest Jones picked Kyler Murray’s pocket to come down with an interception. Both interceptions were converted into touchdowns by the offense.
Rams high powered offense
The LA Rams offense started slow, but quarterback Matthew Stafford turned in his arguably finest performance of the season by throwing for three touchdowns with just under 300 yards and seven incompletions in 30 attempts. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp led all receivers with 13 catches and 123 yards, plus adding a touchdown. Kupp is on pace to have a historic season for the Rams, and perhaps for the entire NFL.
Kupp leads the NFL with 113 catches, 1,489 receiving yards, and 12 touchdown receptions. Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin is the closest to Kupp with 92 catches and 1,054 yards. The Rams’ newest addition, Odell Beckham Jr., is starting to fit in nicely, He had six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. The emergence of second-year wide receiver Van Jefferson has continued to help the Rams absorb the absence of Robert Woods. He caught a 52-yard bomb for a touchdown and also added 10 yards rushing. Even running back Sony Michael once again stepped out with Darrell Henderson and he was solid with 79 rushing yards, many of which were hard-fought runs that not only advanced the football but chewed up the clock.
The magnitude of the win
This win was a huge statement for the Rams as they kept themselves alive in the NFC West race. After the win, they are now 9-4 and on the heels of the 10-3 Cardinals. Unfortunately, the Rams currently lose tiebreakers against the Cards, so the Rams will need to finish the season with a better record than the Cardinals.
A loss would’ve all but knocked them out of contention in the West. If the season ended today, the Rams would play the Dallas Cowboys in the matchup between the fourth and fifth-seeded teams in the NFC Playoffs, with the winner likely facing the top-seeded Green Bay Packers. This is a big ‘if’ because this season has been so wild and unpredictable that almost anything can happen these last four weeks.
Last four games and where do the Rams end up?
The Rams finish up with the Seattle Seahawks, at the Minnesota Vikings, at the Baltimore Ravens, and finally host the San Francisco 49ers. That is going to be a very tough stretch run, and even the Seahawks shouldn’t be taken lightly. The Rams could sweep the board after their surprising success against the NFL’s best team, but the best-case probable scenario is a 3-1 finish. If they aren’t careful it could be 2-2.
I’ll predict that they go 3-1 and finish the season with a record of 12-5. I think that will leave them just one game short of the Cardinals for the division. In the NFC, the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the only teams that would be favored to win. In the end, this Rams team could end up getting to the NFC championship game, but I don’t see them going further than that.