The Arizona Cardinals entered Week 4’s matchup knowing they needed one of their best games defensively against an unbeaten Los Angeles Rams team led by two-time 2021 NFC Offensive Player of the Week Matthew Stafford.
They got just that.
Stafford was held mostly at bay in Arizona’s dominant 37-20 victory over Los Angeles. His 280 yards are the second-fewest of the year for the signal caller.
It was an impressive effort by a defense that was tested right out of the gate by Stafford and an electric Rams offense.
Driving down the field with ease on the first possession of the game, Stafford and the Rams looked poised to find pay dirt to take an early 7-0 lead.
Instead, Arizona’s defense dug in, holding Los Angeles to a 42-yard field goal with an impressive stand at its own 23-yard line. It was no doubt a win with how the Rams started the game.
The defense doubled down on its play on the ensuing Rams drive.
Following a three-and-out from the offense, Arizona’s defense was back out quicker than expected.
Luckily for the Cardinals, cornerback Byron Murphy once again stepped up when called upon, coming down with an interception on just the second play of the drive.
The pick marked Murphy’s third in two games. In Cardinals franchise history, only two other players had more interceptions over the first four games than Murphy. The offense turned the pick into points after quarterback Kyler Murray connected with wide receiver A.J. Green for the 41-yard touchdown.
It was a sign of things to come for Arizona’s defense.
While Stafford wouldn’t be denied the end zone, Arizona had an answer for Los Angeles’ offense throughout the first half, remaining opportunistic in the turnover department.
Much like the team’s first takeaway, the Cardinals cashed in, turning a fumble into a one-yard touchdown run from James Conner in the second quarter.
Even when the Rams looked like they may have figured things out offensively, the defense was right there to shut the door throughout the afternoon.
Los Angeles finished the day 2-for-4 in red zone trips, highlighted by an 0-for-2 mark in goal-to-go situations. And while Stafford found the end zone twice in the losing effort, one of the touchdown passes came with the game well out of reach in the second half.
The performance was reflective of how the team handled business during practice this week.
“We got better, there’s no doubt,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury told Cardinals reporter Paul Calvisi after the game on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “I thought it was our best week of practice so far. Great focus, great energy all week.
“I could tell pregame guys were dialed in and came in and executed at a high level. Really excited we took a step from last week.”
The win now positions the Cardinals atop the NFC West standings nearly a quarter of the way into the year.