NFL

Stafford ends playoff hoodoo as Rams blow out Cardinals

By Sports Desk January 18, 2022

Matthew Stafford celebrated the end of his long wait for an NFL playoff win as the Los Angeles Rams sealed a stress-free victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday.

The quarterback produced an immaculate performance as the Rams won 34-11 at SoFi Stadium, the venue for this year's Super Bowl, in the first match to be played on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Stafford was 0-3 in playoff games over 12 years with the Detroit Lions but threw touchdown passes for Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp while running for another to ensure there would be no disappointment this time.

His reward is a showdown with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Florida next Sunday in the divisional round. The Rams were one of just three teams to beat the reigning champions in the regular season – a 34-24 win back in Week 3.

A 52-yard drive in the first quarter ended with Stafford finding OBJ with a four-yard pass for the opening TD of the game, the latter's first in the postseason.

It marked what would prove to be a display of efficiency from Stafford, who threw 13 of 17 passes – his lowest of the season – for 202 yards but did not commit a single turnover.

Von Miller – playing in his first postseason game since being MVP of Super Bowl 50 – sacked Kyler Murray as the Cardinals failed to respond, and in the first drive of the second quarter, Stafford found Beckham again for a 31-yard gain that led to his chance to run in touchdown number two.

Things went from bad to worse for the Cardinals as a Rams punt ended on the Arizona 1, and Murray thought he finally had a first down when he threw to AJ Green, but Nick Scott tackled the ball away from him to what was eventually called an incomplete pass. On the next play, Murray was panicked into rushing his throw from his own endzone, leading to a pick six as David Long intercepted and ran in for the TD.

It took until more than halfway through the second quarter for the Cardinals to get a first down as they fell 21-0 behind at halftime, and they were not back on the scoreboard until a little over four minutes remained in the third quarter.

Having surrendered a 17-0 lead over the San Francisco 49ers last week, the Rams were determined to avoid a repeat, Beckham making NFL history as the first player in the postseason to finish with 30-yard receptions and completions in the same game.

Stafford's seven-yard pass let Kupp, who finished with a team-high five catches for 61 yards, quell any fears of a late Arizona response.

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