INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Matthew Stafford entered Monday night’s wild-card game against the Arizona Cardinals having never won in the playoffs, losing in all three of his appearances over 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions.
If only he had a team around him as talented as the one he now quarterbacks.
Stafford accounted for three touchdowns, vastly outplaying Cardinals counterpart Kyler Murray, and the Los Angeles Rams got contributions from up and down their star-studded roster en route to a stress-free 34-11 win at SoFi Stadium. It filled the playoff hole in Stafford’s résumé and punched the Rams’ ticket to the divisional round, where they’ll face Tom Brady and the defending champion Buccaneers next Sunday in Tampa Bay.
Stafford turned in one of his most efficient performances in several weeks, even if it wasn’t his most prolific. He threw touchdown passes to Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp and ran for another on a goal-line sneak. After finishing the regular season with eight interceptions over the final four games, he didn’t commit a turnover while completing 13 of 17 passes for 202 yards.
His 17 attempts were easily a season low.
With the Rams’ running game finding its groove from the get-go and their defense leaving Murray looking lost all night long, they didn’t need Stafford to carry the load.
Sony Michel, acquired just before the season via trade in the wake of Cam Akers‘ Achilles tear, rushed 13 times for 58 yards. Akers, in his second game back, went for 55 yards on 17 carries. Los Angeles’ 11 rushes were its most in a first quarter this season and tied for the Rams’ third most under coach Sean McVay, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
The Rams led 21-0 at halftime and kept Arizona off the scoreboard until 4:11 remained in the third quarter. In another sign of how dominant their defensive effort was, Murray had only 28 passing yards early in the third quarter when Beckham completed a 40-yard pass to Akers on a trick play.
Beckham became the first player in NFL postseason history to finish with a 30-yard reception and a 30-yard completion in the same game. He caught four passes for 54 yards and caught the first playoff TD of his career.