GLENDALE, Ariz. – Already short-handed with three starters placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list over the weekend, the Rams saw two more join them early Monday afternoon in tight end Tyler Higbee and cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
"Found that out, it was definitely shocking," Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said. "Jalen sent a text to me, and I told him we was going to hold it down for him."
Donald certainly did his part with a tone-setting, three-sack performance in Los Angeles' 30-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals Monday night at State Farm Stadium.
And he didn't wait long to do so, either.
His first sack came on the first play of the game, as Donald bull-dozed Cardinals right guard Max Garcia into quarterback Kyler Murray on the very first play of the game.
Late in the first quarter, he used a spin move to disrupt his blocker and pressure Murray, then tipped Murray's pass intended for tight end Zach Ertz, leading to a goal-line interception and 31-yard return by Rams rookie linebacker Ernest Jones. The ensuing drive ended with the Rams' first points, a 2-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
"I've seen it from afar, I've seen it up close," Stafford said postgame. "I mean, I've been on the other end of that dang thing. No, he's a special player, he's a great teammate, a great leader on that defense really without saying much. He just goes out there and plays and plays at a high level."
Sack No. 2 for Donald led to a 55-yard field goal and 10-3 Rams lead midway through the second quarter. He then bookended the performance with the game-clinching sack for his third of the game.
Overall, it brought Donald to 10 sacks this season, marking his fifth-straight season with double digits in that category.
"I felt good man," Donald said. "Definitely had some one-on-one opportunities and took advantage of them."
Given the number of key absences Monday night, the Rams would be counting on both young and veteran players to step up.
Donald rose to the occasion.
"That's what the best do. They play their best when their best is required," Rams head coach Sean McVay said. "We talk about competitive greatness all the time. This guy is the epitome of competitive greatness. Really proud at Aaron, not at all surprised. He's a special player, special person. You felt his presence from the very first snap and then to the last one. He was outstanding tonight. If he doesn't win 'NFC Defensive Player of the Week', something is wrong."