The Rams are in first place again.
Facing the Cardinals for the seventh time in his career as a head coach, Sean McVay improved to 7-0 against Arizona with a 38-28 victory on Sunday. While the Rams will be take some “improvement opportunities” in their meeting this week, the offense discovered some of its lost luster and scored more than 30 points for the first time since Week 3 against the Bills.
And a solid rushing effort helped quarterback Jared Goff put his recent error-prone games behind him for at least a week.
Goff finished 37-of-47 for 351 yards and most importantly kept the ball from going to the other team’s defense; Sunday was Goff’s first game with at least 300 yards passing and no turnovers since Week 17 of last season, also a victory over the Cardinals. LA’s leading presence at running back was rookie Cam Akers, who had a career-high 21 attempts, but it was a 38-yard run by Darrell Henderson in the fourth quarter that helped the Rams pull out to a 31-21 lead the proved to be too big to come back from for Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray.
That was even more clear when Rams linebacker Justin Hollins stripped Murray of the ball midway through the fourth and teammate Greg Gaines recovered the fumble.
LA did as good of a job against Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins as any team this season, holding him to 52 yards on 13 targets, and Jalen Ramsey deserves plenty of credit for another outstanding performance since the Rams made him the highest-paid defensive back in the league.
Troy Hill chimed in late in the game for a pick-six off of Murray, his second touchdown in as many weeks.
Aaron Donald was officially credited with one sack and LA’s defense held Murray to 21-of-39 for 173 yards and while he did throw three touchdowns, it was clear that he was ill prepared for one of the NFL’s elite defenses; the Cardinals’ lack of a second threat on offense next to Hopkins meant that Murray was left without many options to consider once his number one target was mitigated.
The win improves the Rams to 8-4 on the season and an earlier loss by the Seahawks to the Giants dropped them to an identical 8-4 record. Because LA beat Seattle once already this season, the Rams take back the top spot in the NFC West. The Cardinals dropped to 6-6 and are in danger of falling out of a wild card position with four weeks remaining in the season.
The Rams and Cardinals next face in Week 17.
Many expected Goff to have more success against Arizona than he had in recent weeks, so long as he was able to beat them on the move in play action and get some help with his running backs. Those things happened and the Rams can say that they’re on the road to a new winning streak.
If he can keep it up against a better New England defense next Sunday, that’ll be even more encouraging for LA’s playoff aspirations.