As far as Arizona is concerned, blowout win over Rams was in the Cards
The Rams, with their shiny 3-0 record and deserved spot atop most everyone’s power rankings, had their fingers crossed Sunday for a drama-free game against Arizona.
Unfortunately for them, they got one.
The upstart Cardinals, undefeated themselves, landed a roundhouse to the jaw of the budding bully in the NFC West with a 37-20 victory that silenced SoFi Stadium.
This was a seismic shift. The Cardinals had lost eight in a row to the Rams, last beating them in the 2016 finale when the interim John Fassel was keeping the coaching seat warm between the end of Jeff Fisher’s era and the beginning of Sean McVay’s.
What’s more, in their first two games in their dazzling new palace, the Rams had never trailed, had three touchdown passes of more than 50 yards, and twice lit up the oculus — their dangling halo of videoboard — with 34 points.
As for the reaction of Arizona players after this landmark, incredibly uplifting victory? They were positively … boring. You see, they now expect to play this way. It’s not like beating the Rams called for breaking out the champagne.
“We did what we were supposed to do today,” Arizona safety Budda Baker said. “… We’re just going to keep taking it day by day, week by week, and just keep playing Cardinals football.”
Just about everyone was as Zen as Budda, including quarterback Kyler Murray, who threw for 268 yards, ran for 39 more, and repeatedly escaped pressure with his cartoonish speed and elusiveness.
“As far as being 4-0, we’re trying to go 1-0 each and every week,” said Murray, wearing his letterman’s jacket from Allen (Texas) High, and sounding low-key at the podium as he is electrifying away from it.
Yes, as with the Rams, the Cardinals came into the game 3-0. But Arizona’s wins came against Tennessee, Minnesota and Jacksonville, at best so-so in comparison to the SoFi dwellers. Even though the Cardinals scored 38, 34 and 31 in their first three games, they came into this one as five-point underdogs.
Sunday’s blowout changed all that and, for the moment, rearranged the pecking order in a division that’s only now beginning to come into focus. Week 5 will tell us a lot, because the Rams play at Seattle on Thursday night, and San Francisco — which Sunday lost at home to the Seahawks, 28-21 — plays at Arizona.
As dynamic as the Rams were in their first three games, they looked flat as the Mojave against the Cardinals. In the waning minutes, as most of the crowd had left, the cheer of “Whose house? Rams’ house!” rang hollow. Robert Woods caught a meaningless touchdown pass with little more than a minute remaining and didn’t hide his disgust, discarding the ball as if tossing away a crumpled Dixie cup.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford looked pretty average — some good throws, some memorable misses — and the Arizona offensive line did a phenomenal job of neutralizing Aaron Donald, whose stat line had four tackle assists followed by more zeros than the national debt.
The aptly-named Chase Edmonds — the Los Angeles defense did a lot of chasing — tore off a 54-yard run up the middle in the fourth quarter, bumping his rushing total to 120 yards. The Cardinals rolled up 216 on the ground, allowing Murray to effectively use the run-pass option to keep the Rams on their heels.
Edmonds, in his fourth season with the Cardinals, allowed himself to feel Sunday’s victory a bit more than his teammates, at least when speaking to reporters. This was big. The Cardinals are 4-0 for the first time since 2012 and already have won more games than they did in their abysmal 3-13 season of 2018.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Edmonds, a cellophane wrap swaddling his right shoulder in ice packs. “I was 0-6 against them boys since I’ve been here, so me and [receiver Christian Kirk] always talk about it. It’s a little bit different when you get out of the mud. I don’t take this for granted because I was on a 3-13 team that was the worst in the NFL. I remember it like it was yesterday. Me and Kirk always talk about it. We really had to grind for this.”
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury beat his good friend McVay for the first time but deflected questions on how good that might feel. The regular season, now 17 games, isn’t even out of the first quarter.
“We just wanted to get a week better,” he said. “We liked how we had progressed throughout the season, I thought we had our best week of practice, so the mantra was just let’s get a week better.”
Big plans to luxuriate in the win?
“Not so much,” he said. “I’ll watch `’Ted Lasso’ tonight and that’s about it.”
Kingsbury feels some simpatico with the Jason Sudeikis eternally-optimistic character from that hit Apple TV show about the successful college football coach who takes the helm of an English soccer team.
“There are some real parallels between Ted Lasso and myself,” he said. “The epic YouTube dance video. You look at my first press conference and it was essentially the same press conference as Ted Lasso had, like, ‘Is this some kind of a joke?’ And then he’s weirdly positive all the time.”
Kingsbury should be positive after Sunday’s performance. And not weirdly.
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