Cardinals hand Rams their first loss
October 7, 2021
The previously undefeated 3-1 Los Angeles Rams had no answers for quarterback Kyler Murray and the still undefeated 4-0 Arizona Cardinals last Sunday afternoon at SoFi Stadium. And they have very little time to dwell on the 37-20 loss as they prepare for another NFC West matchup in this week's Thursday Night Football game at Seattle. The Seahawks improved their record to 2-2 with a 28-21 win over the other 2-2 NFC West team, the San Francisco 49ers.
"Make no excuses about it," said Rams head coach Sean McVay. "I didn't do a good enough job to get our guys ready to go. But fortunately for us, we've got a chance on a short week to be able to respond the way that we expect to, the way that we want to. And that's exactly what we're going to do moving forward."
Undeniably, Murray was the difference. And Rams defense didn't make it easy for him. Sebastian Joseph, Leonard Floyd, and Terrell Lewis each sacked the 3rd-year Cardinal along with delivering two QB hits. Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey deflected two passes. "We had some flashes of some of the old stuff, many penalties and stuff like that, but for the most part we overcame. We fought through the adversity that we faced today but it was good," said Murray"
Murray was constantly chased from the pocket, only to often reset in motion to deliver blow after blow against the Rams defense. He finished the game with two touchdown passes, no interceptions while completing 24 of 32 passes for 268 yards. The Cards scored on seven of their nine offensive drives.
"No monkey on my back. No monkey on my back," replied Murray when asked about beating the Rams for the first time in five games dating back to his rookie season in 2019. "I just go play. Like I said, the past is the past, but we don't live in the past. It is what it is. It was a good one today and I'm proud of the guys."
Murray played poorly but showed flashes of brilliance in his previous four losses versus the Rams. He was 19 of 34 for 163 yards, throwing no touchdowns, one interception, while getting sacked six times in his very first game against them. He started showing promise in their next three contests, reducing the total number of sacks to five and allowing only one interception in the losses. The 2021 version of Murray is still improving, an obvious concern for the rest of the league.
"Yeah, he did a great job," said McVay acknowledging Murray's impact. "That's the athleticism and just the great playmaker that he is. He's a playmaker. He's been doing this for the last couple years. But it's especially been illustrated the first three weeks of this season. And it was on display today. Hats off to him. He did a nice job."
The Rams offense started with a 42-yard field goal by kicker Matt Gay capping off the game's opening drive. The Rams defense responded by stopping Arizona on three-and-out, Floyd sacking Murray to force a punt. But Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a deep interception to Card cornerback Byron Murphy while attempting to connect with wide receiver DeSean Jackson on only the second play of the subsequent drive.
"There was some opportunities early in that game for us to score points and for me to make some throws. And I didn't make those. It's obviously disappointing," said Stafford. "That's one of those plays going, 'Man, I wish I would have seen it a little bit different and put it to a different spot.' DeSean did a good job of getting open. I just got to find the right throw there and get it to him."
Murray started operating, including a 25-yard pass to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins that put the ball in Rams territory. The 87-yard six-play drive culminated with a 41-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green. That prompted Stafford to drive the Rams 75 yards in nine plays mostly on the ground, retaking the first-quarter lead, 10-7. The drive ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Van Jefferson, his second of the season.
Unfortunately for the Rams, the Cardinals scored the next two touchdowns to start the second quarter. Murray drove the Cards 69 yards in nine plays before hitting tight end Maxx Williams with a 14-yard touchdown pass. The critical turning point of the game occurred on the very next play from scrimmage when Rams running back Sony Michel fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Arizona free safety Budda Baker at the Los Angeles 21-yard line. Five plays later running back James Conner rushed for a one-yard touchdown and a 21-10 Cardinal lead.
The Rams answered with Matt Gay's 22-yard field goal after squandering a first-and-goal opportunity from the 10-yard line, uncharacteristically unsuccessful with two incomplete passes to Stafford's favorite target, wide receiver Cooper Kupp. The Cardinals kept the pressure on with a 23-yard field goal from kicker Matt Prater to lead 24-13 at halftime.
Murray and the Cardinals couldn't be stopped in the second half, scoring all four times they had the ball (disregarding two kneel down plays to seal the game). Prater kicked a 55-yard field goal on the half's opening drive. The Rams didn't counter when Matt Gay pulled his 46-yard field goal attempt wide. Next, Conner scored his second one-yard rushing touchdown for a 34-13 lead at 1:14 of the third quarter.
The Rams failed at the Arizona one-yard line on their next drive early in the fourth quarter, though Stafford's 7-yard scramble up the middle appeared to have rushed it into the endzone two plays earlier. Murray then drove the Cardinals 99 yards ending with another Prater 23-yard field goal. The Rams scored on their last drive, with Stafford tossing a 14-yard touchdown to wide receiver Robert Woods.
Thursday Night's Match will feature Seattle's Russell Wilson, who is currently the NFL's top-rated quarterback (129.9). Wilson has completed 72.5% of his passes, has thrown nine touchdowns and zero interceptions despite the fact that the Seahawks have lost two games already. Wide receivers D.K. Metcalfe and Tyler Lockett will once again figure prominently as Wilson's favorite targets.
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who has seen plenty of Wilson over the past eight years: "He's been there since I've been here. So, that's probably why the sacks have been like that. I just play my game. When plays present themselves, I try to take advantage and make my plays when I can... A lot of respect for him the way he plays the game. I've got to find ways to pressure him or find ways to affect him."
Stafford, who's about to play only his fifth game with the Rams was asked about the team's rivalry with the Seahawks: "You just know that there are two teams that have a bunch of pride. They both play at a high level. Really well coached teams with a bunch of recent success. So, I'm excited to be a part of it. It's exciting to get my first taste of it on Thursday."