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Rams-Cardinals position grades: Complementary football leads LA to victory

Sean McVay and Raheem Morris get the Rams firing on all cylinders

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Sean McVay led the Los Angeles Rams to an impressive 34-11 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night to advance to the divisional round of the playoffs. The game featured a packed and loud SoFi stadium, an imposing performance by the Rams defense, and a fast and balanced attack by the offense.

Here are the breakdowns by position and the resulting letter grade.

QUARTERBACK

Matthew Stafford threw for 13 completions over 17 attempts for 202 yards, two touchdowns, and one rushing touchdown. QB1 played a clean game with zero interceptions and zero lost fumbles and played a part in all three offensive touchdowns, throwing to Odell Beckham Jr, Cooper Kupp, and then diving in on a quarterback sneak. However, not to be overlooked was his decisions made along the way to keep the ball secure, pull it down when the throws weren't there and escape the pocket for positive gains. Stafford had three scramble plays that equated to 20 yards of forward progress on broken pass plays that, on his worse days turned into forced interceptions, but on this day created a problem for the defense and kept the ball rolling for the Rams. His passer rating was 154.4, the highest of any Rams QB in the playoffs.

GRADE: A

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

RUNNING BACK

Cam Akers looked fantastic in his full return after the test run in Week 18 producing 55 yards on 17 carries and 40 yards on one reception against the Cardinals. He also had a few chunk plays called back after penalties but through it all, the backs acceleration and cut ability were on full display. Sony Michel added 58 yards on 13 carries with a longest run of 35 yards that occurred in the first quarter to get the momentum going for the Rams. The pair combined for 145 scrimmage yards and were critical in the win that had Stafford only needing to throw the ball 17 times.

GRADE: A

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

RECEIVERS

OBJ commanded attention and it was made clear that too much focus on Cooper Kupp would be a vulnerability for the Rams opponent. OBJ had four catches for 54 yards and the first touchdown of the game. The ball was distributed well to the receivers and handed off to the running backs which had Kupp being used as a decoy for most of the first half, but in the end Kupp had five catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. Van Jefferson was targeted once and had one catch for 41 yards.

GRADE: A

Rams defeat Cardinals 34-11 in the NFC Wild Card Game Photo by David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

TIGHT ENDS

Higbee had an excellent game with three catches for 46 yards with a longest play of 22 yards. His blocking was excellent while teaming with the line to produce 140 yards rushing. He did have one drop that would have resulted in a first down.

GRADE: B-

OFFENSIVE LINE

The offensive line was strong in this game and provided the push for 140 yards rushing and allowed only one sack which was largely due to coverage. Arizona defenders JJ Watt and Chandler Jones came away with zero sacks in the game. Andrew Whitworth came out of the game for a few plays after getting rolled on but would return and during his break Joe Noteboom came in a played well. On the downside this unit contributed to the total 6 penalties for 48 yards.

GRADE: A-

DEFENSIVE LINE

Aaron Donald and company seems to have gotten back to business as usual when playing against Arizona after the temporary difficulty encountered in Week 4. The second and now third round of this matchup has set the stage for this unit to shine. Donald and Greg Gaines combined for a sack and Marquise Copeland grabbed an interception on a tipped pass. Ashawn Robinson had seven tackles. Arizona running back Chase Edmonds had only 28 yards rushing and James Connor only 19 yards rushing.

GRADE: A+

NFL: JAN 17 NFC Wild Card - Cardinals at Rams Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

LINEBACKERS

Troy Reeder made one of the plays of the game while pressuring Kyler Murray in the end zone and forcing an interception for a touchdown. Travin Howard had two key tackles and two pass deflections. Von Miller continues to build momentum proving his value in the midseason trade, in this game getting six tackles, three tackles for a loss, and a sack.

GRADE: A

Rams defeat Cardinals 34-11 in the NFC Wild Card Game Photo by David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

CORNERBACKS

David long Jr had the defensive play of the game grabbing a pick six on a heads up play. He also played well in defending against Cardinals receiver AJ Green. Along with Darious Williams, Donte Deayon, and Jalen Ramsey, this unit had 12 tackles and two pass deflections.

GRADE: A

SAFETIES

Terrell Burgess and Nick Scott were tasked with stepping in for injured Jordan Fuller and Taylor Rapp and the pair were solid. Scott made a key pass break up with the Cardinals back up that led to the Long interception on the following play. Burgess had five tackles. The secondary backed up the pass rush and allowed only 137 yards passing all game.

GRADE: A

SPECIAL TEAMS

Matt Gay went two for two on field goals and Johnny Hekker nailed one perfect punt down to the one yard line. Brandon Powells longest kick return went for 21 yards.

GRADE: A

COACHING

This was one of McVay’s best coaching games of the season. Not only did he call a great game on offense with a well prepared plan that fit the game but also won two of his challenges, both of which had a big impact on the game. His first challenge came on the Stafford sneak touchdown that was originally called short and would have ended in a fourth down, instead the Rams won the challenge and extended the lead to 14. His second challenge came on the Scott pass break up that was originally called complete. After getting the call overturned the following play resulted in an interception touchdown by the rams to extend the lead to 21. Outside of the challenge, McVay seemed to grasp that ball control is vital to success and that he had to do better with and in the run game. In this game he called on his run game 32 times and required his passer to only throw 17 times. The result was a win in both the time of possession and the turnover categories which in turn resulted in a QB rating of 154.4 and a 34-11 victory. The defensive coaching was as impactful since the Cardinals offense was almost shout out but certainly shut down. The ability to hold a playoff team to under 65 yards rushing and 150 yards passing, and produce two turnovers and a touchdown, while playing without your starting linebacker in Ernest Jones, and both your starting safeties is impressive.

GRADE: A