By Cedric Williams
The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals 32-16 on Sunday, giving LA its sixth win in its last seven games, which clinched the franchise’s first winning season since 2003. All-time greats Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Orlando Pace were on that team, and Marc Bulger was the quarterback.
On Sunday, the Rams didn’t need any future Hall of Famers on offense to carry its team. Instead, it was the defense and special teams who led the way for LA’s fifth road victory of the season.
Just for good measure though, QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley had good games, too. And that’s why we once again have high marks all around for the NFC West-leading Rams.
Goff threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns, and Gurley led LA in rushing and receiving with 158 yards total to lead a Rams offense that finished the day with 303 total yards.
After rallying to get back into the game in the second quarter, Arizona did play LA tougher in the second half, but the Rams managed to score on three of their five possessions of the second half. Arizona only managed one field goal, which helped LA put the game away with ease.
The Rams defense was just sensational on Sunday, especially in the early going, when they produced two fantastic interceptions that led directly to the team’s first two touchdowns. Lamarcus Joyner nabbed the first one and returned it 46 yards to set up a score, then Alec Ogletree grabbed one of his own and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown of his own.
As mentioned earlier, Arizona got itself going in the second quarter and made Sunday’s contest a game again by cutting the Rams’ lead to 16-13. But from that point on, the Rams outscored the Cardinals 16-3 to cruise to their ninth victory of the season.
The Rams’ pass rush was a key part of that, as they produced six sacks on the day, including two apiece from Ethan Westbrooks and Aaron Donald.
Special Teams: A+
If it was possible to give a grade better than an A-plus, the Rams would have earned it on Sunday.
Kicker Greg Zuerlein was dynamite again, as he connected on all four of his field goal attempts, including a 56-yarder on the first possession of the game, which gave LA a lead it would never relinquish. Punter Johnny Hekker was equally as good, as he averaged a whopping 51.8 yards on four punts, including a booming 70-yarder, which backed Arizona up, led to a three-and-out, and then led to LA scoring the only touchdown of the second half.
And just for good measure, the Rams also blocked an Arizona field goal attempt, which all but put the game away early in the fourth quarter.
The last time the Rams went on the road, they got pummeled by the now 10-2 Minnesota Vikings. We realize the Cardinals aren’t the Vikings, but Arizona was 5-6 coming into Sunday’s matchup and a win could’ve gotten themselves at least back into the discussion of playoff possibilities.
But the Rams were having none of that. LA jumped on Arizona early, and then after the Cardinals put up some fight in the middle part of the game, the Rams knocked them down again and wouldn’t let them back up.
It’s been clear for two weeks now that the Rams learned what they needed to from that trip up north, and now they’re playing as well as anybody in the conference. You have to credit rookie head coach Sean McVay and his staff for running a team that learns from its mistakes and understands the key to winning in this league is getting teams down and not letting them back up.
Up Next: The Rams have a tough Week 14 contest at home against the Philadelphia Eagles (10-2).