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Rams Shut Out Cardinals in London, Improve to 5-2

Posted Oct 22, 2017

The Rams recorded their first shutout since 2014, beating the Cardinals in London 33-0.

Updated 10/22, 5:05 p.m. PT

TWICKENHAM, England — The Rams used their most complete performance to date in 2017 to blank the Cardinals, 33-0, in London.

It’s the Rams’ first shutout since December 2014 and the first time the franchise has shutout the Cardinals since a 21-0 victory in 1979.

“It was a great win for our team today,” Head coach Sean McVay said postgame. “I thought all three phases did an excellent job.”

What’s more is that the dominant victory came at the tail end of an 11-day road trip that had the Rams practicing in two different continents over the last five days in preparation for their divisional opponent. Despite all the potential challenges and pitfalls, Los Angeles was clearly ready to play from the opening whistle and outplayed Arizona from cover to cover.

“We’ve got mature players, we’ve got high-character guys in that locker room and they knew that we were coming on a business trip,” McVay said. “They did a great job of just staying one day at a time, focusing on our process that weekly, daily, and hourly rhythm and that was a credit to our players.”

“Just a credit to our head coach and the players itself for having everything laid out, and guys coming in knowing that we still have to get the work done the way we need to get done and get ready to play,” middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “You just love the energy that’s around, and guys enjoy playing. When you have that it’s easy to come in and work and we like being around each other.”

After rushing for 134 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week in his Cardinals debut, Adrian Peterson managed just 21 yards on 11 carries agains the Rams’ defense. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had just three receptions for 29 yards. And Arizona finished 15-of-32 passing for 184 yards with two interceptions. Starting signal-caller Carson Palmer exited the game in the second quarter with a left arm injury after getting hit hard on an interception and did not return, ending the day 10-of-18 passing for 122 yards.

Since halftime of the Week 4 matchup against Dallas, Los Angeles has allowed only 39 points, and just 15 total second-half points in the last four weeks.

“Goose egg,” defensive tackle Aaron Donald — who recorded his third sack — said of the performance. “Anytime you let the offense get zero points — definitely with the offense they have with the players on their offense, and you do something like that — it’s confidence. A lot to build off of.”

But the Rams dominated offensively, too, recording 425 total yards, 28 first downs, and finishing 13-of-19 — 68 percent — in third down efficiency. Running back Todd Gurley broke the Cardinals’ 19-game streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher, as he took 22 carries for 106 yards with a touchdown.

“Coaches and players, receivers, tight ends, and the line — those guys did a good job of getting me three, four, five yards per carry,” Gurley said. “Those guys have been working their tail off all year.”

Quarterback Jared Goff continued to show progress, finishing 22-of-37 passing for 235 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The signal-caller also had a rushing touchdown, taking in a keeper on a zone-read from nine-yards out.

“I’ve been begging [McVay] to call that for a long time now. I just keep [saying], ‘Call it, call it, call it,’” Goff said with a laugh. “And so when it came in I was like, ‘Alright, here we go.’ Sure enough, the read was there and we blocked well downfield.”

The Rams led in time of possession 23:50 to 6:10 in the second half — 39:01 to 20:59 overall — in part because of a 16-play, 80-yard drive that took 10:19 off the clock in the fourth quarter. The series ended with an 18-yard touchdown pass on a screen to the left from Goff to wide receiver Cooper Kupp — the rookie’s third touchdown of the season. That score put the Rams up by their winning margin.

“We take a lot of pride in that and finishing off with a touchdown was huge,” Goff said of the possession. “It was a good way to finish a game we maybe didn’t feel great about before that.”

Los Angeles began the game with some of the same red zone woes the club has faced over the last few weeks. After Arizona kicker Phil Dawson missed a 32-yard field goal on the game’s opening drive, the Rams responded by moving all the way down to Arizona’s five-yard line. But a pair of incomplete passes on 2nd-and-4 and 3rd-and-4 left the Rams settling for a 23-yard field goal to go up 3-0.

The two teams traded punts before Los Angeles got back on the board in the second quarter, but the club again could not execute in the red zone. Goff again had consecutive throws fall incomplete on 2nd-and-4 and 3rd-and-4, though this time Zuerlein kicked a 33-yard field goal through the uprights for a 6-0 lead.

Later in the period, safety Lamarcus Joyner — returning to his starting spot after being inactive for the last three games with a hamstring injury — intercepted Palmer. Ogletree hit the quarterback hard on the play, inducing the errant pass. Joyner picked off the ball at the Arizona 47 and returned it to the Cardinals’ 18-yard line.

“Lamarcus made a great play in picking it off,” Ogletree said. “It was definitely a big play, one of many big plays we had tonight but we just practice on stuff like that and try to take advantage of our opportunities to make plays and create turnovers to get our offense the ball back.”

Unfortunately for Arizona, Palmer apparently broke his left arm on the play and will be out for eight weeks, according to Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians.

“You hate to see that happen to anybody, especially another quarterback and a guy I respect tremendously,” Goff said. “His game is really, really impressive the way that he plays and I think a lot of the little things he does go unnoticed from guys that don’t play quarterback. So I wish him the best in his recovery and I’m a big fan of his.”

Nevertheless, the Rams would be able to capitalize on that opportunity in the red zone with a touchdown, as Gurley took a handoff to the left 18 yards on the first play of the drive to pay dirt. Wide receiver Tavon Austin had a nice block on the outside after faking a jet sweep to spring Gurley for his eighth touchdown of 2017.

Later in the second quarter, the Rams got the ball at their own 12 with 2:04 left in the period and no timeouts. Goff, however, was able to engineer an eight-play, 88-yard drive that ended with his zone-read touchdown run. Gurley had a 35-yard reception where he made one defender miss, then had the presence of mind to drag another out of bounds to stop the clock on the series.

Cardinals backup quarterback Drew Stanton tossed an interception to linebacker Mark Barron on the Rams’ ensuing drive, leaving L.A. with enough time for Zuerlein to nail a 53-yard field goal for a 23-0 halftime lead.

Zuerlein would add a 34-yard field goal on Los Angeles’ opening drive of the third quarter. And Kupp’s 18-yard touchdown would close out the scoring in the fourth.

With the victory, the Rams are now 5-2 for the first time since 2003. The club will head back to Los Angeles on Monday morning and review film on Tuesday before the players have a few days off for the bye week.

“We’ve experienced a lot of things in these first seven games, but by no means have we arrived,” McVay said. “It’s a one-game-at-a-time mindset — we haven’t arrived by any stretch, but 5-2 is a good feeling. But that’s all it is right now and there are nine games left for sure, and we’re focused on the next one when we get back for preparation after the bye.”