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By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

Rams win Game 2, battle the Cardinals on Sunday


September 22, 2022

Javone Moore

Rams tight end Tyler Higbee (89) follows the his escort of blockers tackle Rob Havenstein (79), left, and guard David Edwards to gain yards against the Falcons last Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

For the umpteenth time during the Sean McVay era the Los Angeles Rams had to rely on their resolute defense to save the day. Despite having blown out the Atlanta Falcons 31-10 with 12 minutes remaining in the game, the defending Champion Rams had to rely on the league's best defensive player Aaron Donald, All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey and company to win by the skin of their teeth.

"I've been doing it long enough to know you never take a win for granted in this league. It's too difficult to come by," said Rams head coach Sean McVay after their win over the Falcons. "Really it was turnovers. We gave them a lot of opportunities. But again, don't take away the credit that they deserve for being able to make those plays. But we've got to be more poised and more resilient."

They'll get a bigger test this Sunday in Glendale, Arizona against the Cardinals, a team led by quarterback Kyler Murray that pulled off a miracle comeback in an overtime win against the Las Vegas Raiders last Sunday. Both games were virtual mirrors of each other, except that Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota isn't quite the threat that Murray poses. The Rams are fortunate to be 1-1 but the continual lack of a killer instinct is certainly a concern.

The Cardinals got crushed in their season opener at home, losing 44-21 to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Game 2 against the Raiders was trending in the same direction. Their first score came with six minutes remaining in the third quarter. They were tied 23-23 on the final play of the fourth quarter with Murray scrambling for a 3-yard touchdown and a successful 2-point conversion pass to wide receiver A.J. Green.

With Las Vegas marching in overtime, Cardinal cornerback Byron Murphy recovered and returned a fumble 59 yards for the 29-23 victory. Murray was simple and direct via the Cards' website: "I had to take over. That was my mindset." The Rams jumped out to a 28-0 lead over the Cardinals when the teams last met in last season's playoffs, before closing with a 34-11 victory to begin their journey to the 2021 NFL title. The teams split the two regular season matchups with each winning in the other's stadium.

The Rams had the ball and cruising with a 28-3 lead in the third quarter against the Falcons with quarterback Matthew Stafford spreading the ball around to four receivers. He hit wide receiver Allen Robinson with a one-yard touchdown pass for the Rams' first score. Running back Darrel Henderson scored on an 8-yard run in the second quarter before wide receiver Cooper Kupp caught a 3-yard touchdown pass to give the Rams a 21-3 halftime lead.

Kupp caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to complete a 75-yard 10-play drive to open the second half. Kupp ended the game with 11 receptions on 14 targets for 108 yards. Tight end Tyler Higbee caught seven passes for 71 yards. Allen Robinson had a productive game with four catches for 53 yards after only getting two looks in the home opening loss the previous week. Wide receiver Ben Skowronek caught two of three passes for 16 yards.

"I felt like I was seeing it really good," said Stafford. "Getting us in and out of plays when pressures were coming and getting the ball underneath to guys that were trying to play as deep to short bringing simulated pressures. They didn't really come after us too much until late in the game. They played some man, but not a lot of man in there, a bunch of zone."

Stafford threw his second interception of the game deep in Los Angeles territory when the Rams could have slammed the door shut. That rejuvenated Falcons with Mariota directing two touchdowns to trail 31-17 with 8:14 remaining in the game. Disaster struck on the Rams next possession when punter Riley Dixon had his punt blocked and returned for a touchdown by Atlanta's Troy Andersen.

Following a Rams' 3-and-out, Jalen Ramsey appeared to lock the game up with a 25-yard interception return with 1:07 on the clock. Somehow the Rams were forced to punt in less than a minute which gave the Falcons one last chance for a Hail Mary play from the 50-yard line. Thankfully for the Rams, Aaron Donald recovered a fumble from a forced sack on Mariota by edge rusher Justin Hollins as time expired.

McVay continued to say, "We had enough mental toughness, physical toughness to be able to find a way to still finish it out and come away with the win. We found a way to be able to get it done against what I believe is a very tough, physical football team, and then we'll move forward to next week."

"I'm happy to get a win. I'll take them anyway I can get them," said Stafford following the win over Atlanta. I'll take a peek at the film and find ways to be better. There's no question about it. We can do it in all three phases, so I feel great about getting the win under our belt and learning from it."


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