By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer
The tone was deafening at SoFi Stadium as Ram fans got to see the team get it first play-off win in America’s newest dream stadium. The Rams came away with a big win.
Monday was a crucial step toward to the Super Bowl when the Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals, 34-11, in the N.F.C.’s wild-card round, the first playoff win in Matthew Stafford’s 13-year career in front of 71,458.
In 12 years with Detroit the QB was 0-3 in the post season.
Stafford completed 13 of 17 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and advanced the Rams to this weekend’s divisional round where the team will play at the No. 2-seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady Sunday.
“I thought he did a great job leading the way,” Sean McVay said. “He’s still the same great player to me, and he always was before this game. I think it’s good so you guys don’t have to talk about that anymore. So pleased be able to do this with him. He’s our leader out there, and we wouldn’t be here without him.”
The Rams defense picked off the Cards Kyler Murray twice on consecutive drives in the second quarter. The running back tandem of Sony Michel and Cam Akers rushed for a combined 113 yards. The two alternated smoothly throughout the game.
Odell Beckham Jr. had four catches for 54 yards, including his first career playoff touchdown catch for the Rams’ first points. He also threw a 40-yard pass during his own first postseason victory connecting with Van Jefferson.
There were two occasions head coach Sean McVay called for challenges and they both were reversed. One was a sneak by Stafford that resulted in a TD.
Linebacker Troy Reeder’s pressure prompted Cards QB Tyler Murray to fling the ball blindly out of the end zone to avoid a safety. Long made a shoe-top interception and took one stride to score the shortest pick-6 in NFL playoff history.
Von Miller added six tackles and a key early sack in his first postseason appearance since winning the MVP award in Super Bowl 50.
“I feel like we were dominant out there,” All-Pro Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said. “I feel like the quarterback wasn’t comfortable at all.”
The Bucs are up next and McVay asked about the challenge “I mean, he’s got so much experience. He’s so smart. He’s so twitchy in his upper half and can beat it up. He recognizes exactly what’s going on. And so, I think the best way is try to influence and affect – move him off his spot, be able to win with your rushes. Easier said than done. It’s why he’s the most successful quarterback of all time.”