Rapid reactions: Cardinals remain unbeaten with dominant win over Rams
The Arizona Cardinals waltzed into Los Angeles and came away with a 37-20 win on Sunday.
Just like that, the Rams’ 8-0 winning streak over the Cardinals was snapped behind a balanced offense and stout defense.
The victory moves Arizona to 4-0 on the season and first in the NFC West. The win also moves the Cardinals into contender territory.
Here are the main takeaways from our Arizona Sports hosts, reporters and editors.
Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta:
The Arizona Cardinals sent one to the Los Angeles Rams and the rest of the NFL with a totally dominant 37-20 win at SoFi Stadium.
Offensively, the Cardinals looked like a well-oiled machine. They racked up 465 yards and 37 points. Kyler Murray is putting the ball wherever he wants to — although that streak of completing 80% of his passes ended at two games (he completed a paltry 75% Sunday). The ball continues to be shared in the passing game, to the point that Maxx Williams has become a legitimate concern for opposing defenses. Chase Edmonds and James Conner pace the running game. A revamped offensive line rendered Aaron Donald almost invisible.
The defense did allow 401 yards, but 149 yards of that total came on the Rams’ last two possessions when the game was already pretty much sealed. The Rams had one touchdown drive in the second quarter where it looked like they’d be able to run at will, but the Cardinals got tougher against the run as the game wore on. An injury to Byron Murphy was pretty much overcome. Jalen Thompson and Budda Baker were all over the field.
A 4-0 start is not something I expected, especially with three of the four games at the top of the schedule coming on the road. But the Cardinals have handled it very well all while avoiding the flat performances that plagued them last year when things started to look promising. But the biggest difference with this year’s team is Murray. He’s a different type of leader and quarterback than he’s been. He didn’t put the football in jeopardy at all in Sunday’s game and that had been his weak spot in Arizona’s first three games. If that playmaking-to-turnover ratio resembles what it was on Sunday, the sky is the limit for this offense.
Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo
If you’re a six percenter, congratulations. You had hope and optimism and belief that I certainly couldn’t muster up. I might have even mocked you a little. On Friday, we had a poll question on our show. Will the Cards; A) win big; B) win close; C) win big; D) win close. Six percent of the 2,500 listeners who voted chose the Cards-win-big option. Whether it was endless optimism or unfiltered devotion, you were right.
The Cards mauled the Rams. Kyler dipped into his bag of magic and pulled out a couple of those how-the-hell-did-he-do-that type of plays all while completing 75% of his passes and zero interceptions. The run game mashed the Rams to the tune of 5.7 yards per carry (minus the Colt McCoy kneel-downs). The Cardinals routinely converted third and longs. The defense forced a Rams team that had played clean and mostly error-free football all year long into two turnovers that were then turned into touchdowns. Save for the garbage time touchdown at the end, the Cardinals defense held the Rams to scores on just three of their nine possessions. Yes, there were a few things that need work but they were so insignificant compared to the final outcome I won’t even bring them up.
There are two undefeated teams left in the NFL and the Cards might be standing alone if the Chargers beat the Raiders tomorrow night. Get ready; they’re going to be the flavor of the week in the NFL and rightfully so. They’ve earned it. Kyler, Kliff Kingsbury and the Cards are about to be showered with the kind of talk reserved for MVP’s and true contenders. They belong there but it’s precisely the position their vanquished division rivals were in this time a week ago. The attention is fun but it can be fleeting. It probably sounds cheesy but as long as they keep working on getting better, staying humble when all the attention flows in and, most importantly, Kyler keeps playing like this, I think they’ll be in a great spot all season long.
Kellan Olson, ArizonaSports.com editor and reporter: What would be the percentage of people who would have said before Sunday that Matthew Stafford was a better quarterback than Kyler Murray? 60%? 75%? 90%?
Whatever the case may be, all this game came down to was the quarterback play. Neither defense in the first half was that stout, and Stafford was simply off for the majority of the afternoon. On the other end of it, Murray was sensational, doing his usual half-dozen incredible throws/runs/play extenders that no other QB in the league could do at once.
That’s what an elite QB can do for a football team. It dramatically shrinks the margin of error for the opposition. Murray shredded the Rams up and challenged Stafford to match him. Stafford wasn’t close and the score reflected that, despite the Cardinals’ pass rush and run defense not offering much before the momentum had swung too far in one direction.
Murray is a superstar and now in the driver’s seat to win the league’s MVP. This leap he’s undergoing, after being pretty darn good already last year, changes just about everything for the Cardinals.
Tyler Drake, Cardinals reporter and ArizonaSports.com editor: The Cardinals answered everyone’s Week 1 questions with a shellacking of the Titans.
They absolutely turned heads across the NFL landscape with Sunday’s 37-20 victory over the Rams. Talk about a statement made.
Now, there might have been some of you that picked the Cardinals to win Sunday, but certainly not like that.
Despite starting out the gate a little sluggish, both sides of the football dug in. The defense kept Matthew Stafford at bay, getting him mortal after winning two NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Byron Murphy continues to show he is the new CB1 on the roster, making his third INT in two games.
On the other side of the football, Kyler Murray went to work, continuing his efficient start to the season. Not only did he find pay dirt more than once, he spaced the ball out and didn’t put the ball in jeopardy throughout the afternoon.
The running game made the opposition pay behind James Conner’s bruising running style and A.J. Green is playing like we thought he could be during training camp.
Compared to their first three tests of the season, Week 4 represented an SAT, the toughest one by far. The Cardinals aced it.
Let the national media hype train begin!
Luke Lapinski, co-host of Wolf & Luke
What better way to end the losing streak against Sean McVay than by winning so emphatically you put the rest of the league on notice at the same time?
The Cardinals didn’t just squeak out a last second win over the Rams, they dismantled them on both sides of the ball. And they did it in LA. Kyler Murray and the offense continued to roll right along as if it doesn’t even matter which defense they’re facing. And maybe it doesn’t. Arizona’s averaging 35 points per game, and they aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. Other than maybe the 49ers next week, who do you look at on the schedule as a team that can stop this offense? The Rams were supposed to be that team. Turns out they aren’t.
The scoring wasn’t the story today though. This team was built to score points, and Kyler has clearly taken the next step. The fact that they put up 37 might raise some eyebrows, but it’s hardly a surprise. The defense shutting down Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp for most of the afternoon was what swung things. Byron Murphy keeps evolving, and the Arizona defense has playmakers that can change the game at any time. When you combine that with their offense, the Cardinals are dangerous.
To be fair, it’s Week 4. The Rams will be fine, and the Cardinals still have a long season in front of them. But you couldn’t ask for a better start. And there is something to be said for finally beating the team that has had your number for the last four years – especially when they’re in your division. The Cardinals know they’ll have to go through the Rams to get where they ultimately want to go, and today was proof they can do it. This was the game everyone circled when the schedule came out, because McVay’s team represented the one opponent we weren’t entirely sure Arizona could beat – simply because we hadn’t seen it yet. Now we have.
So get ready for the onslaught of national experts who finally just watched a full Cardinals game for the first time telling you how good this team is and proclaiming them a Super Bowl contender. That’s coming on Monday. But it’s a small price to pay as Phoenix garners more respect in the sports world. This team isn’t perfect by any means. They’re not unbeatable. But it’s going to be really hard to discount what they did in LA this afternoon, with everyone watching.
Put another way: the start of this football season is starting to feel more and more like the start of the basketball season we just experienced in the Valley.