INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — The Rams had a 20-point lead on Arizona with 4 1/2 minutes left at raucous SoFi Stadium. Matthew Stafford’s 13-year quest for his first playoff victory was all but complete after Los Angeles’ dominant performance on both sides of the ball.
The quarterback still took off running on third-and- long through the heart of the Cardinals’ defense on a gleeful, perilous scramble that ultimately ended short of a first down.
Even while shouldering enormous postseason pressure, Stafford never forgot to have fun. He was strong enough to carry it all — and the Rams are riding him on to Tampa Bay.
Stafford passed for 202 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score in his first playoff win, and the Rams roared out of the wild-card round with a 34- 11 victory over Arizona on Monday night.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp made touchdown catches for the NFC West champion Rams (13-5), who will visit the defending Super Bowl
champion Buccaneers on Sunday for a spot in the NFC championship game.
David Long also scored on a 3-yard interception return while the Rams’ defense harassed Kyler Murray into a calamitous playoff debut. Los Angeles led 28-0 before cruising in the first playoff game at SoFi, which will host Super Bowl 56 next month.
Stafford was outstanding in his first playoff game with the Rams, completing 13 of his season-low 17 passes without an interception and despite three drops. He scored his first playoff rushing TD since January 2012 on a goal-line sneak, and he coolly directed LA’s offense while seizing his first playoff win in a career that began with 12 years in Detroit, where his Lions went 0-3 in the postseason.
After an inconsistent finish to the regular season, the Rams’ constellation of big stars came together brilliantly around Stafford on the postseason stage.
Rams: A showdown with the Buccaneers and Tom Brady, who has a bit more experience under playoff pressure than Murray.