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Rams-Cardinals final score: Ernest saves Christmas

Ernest Jones gave LA momentum, Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp took it home

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The LA Rams were charged with a crime on Monday night. They are accused of stealing Matthew Stafford from the Lions. The judge in the case already made a ruling: Guilty.

Stafford threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday. More specifically, Stafford was stretching the field, having finished with three passes of 40 or more yards and always at a time when the Rams needed it.

Because they needed it all night long against the division-leading Cardinals.

LA closed the gap in the NFC West standings, dropping Arizona to 10-3 and Sean McVay improved the Rams’ record to 9-4 with a season-split in the head-to-head series.

The score was tied 13-13 at halftime, but the Rams scored 14 points in the first 5 minutes, 15 seconds of the third quarter and managed to hold off Kyler Murray and James Conner for the rest of the game. As much as they possibly could. Murray finished with 383 yards in the air and 61 on the ground, but was intercepted twice, each in critical moments.

Ernest Jones recorded his second career interception, but his first against a quarterback who doesn’t play for the Houston Texans. Jones picked off Murray at the LA 1-yard line, preventing Arizona from potentially taking an early 10-0 lead, and returning the ball to the 33.

Stafford answered with a 10-play, 68-yard touchdown drive, ending in a score to Odell Beckham, Jr.; Beckham finished with six catches for 77 yards. But not the game-high for the Rams, as Cooper Kupp added 13 catches and 123 yards to his NFL-leading totals on each category.

Kupp now has 113 catches for 1,489 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Rams next took a 10-3 lead on a 55-yard field goal by Matt Gay, but Arizona answered with a nine-play, 75 yard drive that ended in a one-yard touchdown run by James Conner, who escaped the clutches of former Pitt teammate Aaron Donald. Gay added a 35-yard field goal to give LA a 13-10 lead just before halftime, but Murray led a 40-yard drive in :35 seconds to setup Matt Prater for a 13-13 game-tying field goal.

However, Stafford answered with a 52-yard touchdown pass to Van Jefferson early in the third quarter, and that was followed by a leaping interception from Leonard Floyd moments later. Stafford then threw a four-yard touchdown to Cooper Kupp, turning the score from 13-13 to 27-13 in barely five minutes of game time.

After the Cardinals turned the ball over on downs, then forced a punt on LA’s ensuing drives, Arizona went 73 yards in three minutes, cutting the lead to 27-20 on another touchdown run by Conner. The Rams ended up allowing 13 carries for 31 yards and nine catches for 94 yards to Conner on the night.

But LA extended the lead to 10 points on their next drive, taking 6:18 off the clock, and when the Cardinals had the opportunity to cut the lead back down to a touchdown, Kliff Kingsbury opted to go for it while in field goal range. For the second time in three drives, the Cards turned the ball over on downs.

Instead of getting the ball back with 2:44 remaining and down by a touchdown, Murray got the ball back down 30-20 and having no timeouts. He got the Cardinals in range for a field goal to make it 30-23, but a recovered onside kick for Arizona was for naught when the drive went nowhere. The game ended on a sack by Aaron Donald, who had three total on the night and now 10 total through 13 games.

The Cardinals are now 7-0 on the road and 3-3 at home. The Rams are now 5-2 on the road and 4-2 at home.

Will Sean McVay be able to lead LA back into first place in the NFC West standings? That’s still being investigated. The next scene: Next Sunday at home against the Seahawks.