INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Helped by defensive scoring, a trio of kicker Matt Gay field goals and a blocked Cardinals field goal attempt, the Rams (10-6, 3-3 NFC West) defeated the Cardinals 18-7 Sunday afternoon at SoFi Stadium to clinch a playoff berth.
Cornerback Troy Hill returned an interception 84 yards for a touchdown for his third defensive score of the season, defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson drew a holding penalty against the Cardinals in the endzone for a safety and was responsible for the blocked field goal, and Gay was a perfect 3 for 3 on field goal attempts as the Rams earned their 30th postseason appearance in franchise history and third in four seasons under head coach Sean McVay.
In his first NFL start, Rams quarterback John Wolford completed 22 of 38 pass attempts for 231 yards with an interception, also rushing six times for 56 yards.
Here is the full game recap, presented by SoFi:
The Rams defense forced the Cardinals (8-8, 2-4) to punt on the opening drive, but the Cardinals got the ball back quickly, intercepting Rams quarterback John Wolford's first pass attempt two plays later. With backup Chris Streveler replacing starter Kyler Murray, who left the game with an ankle injury and didn't return until early in the fourth quarter, Arizona turned the takeaway into points via an 11-yard touchdown pass from Streveler to running back Jonathan Ward for an early 7-0 lead.
Los Angeles saw progress on its third offensive possession, reaching the Arizona 1 after a pass interference penalty against Arizona on 3rd and goal from the 2 gave the a fresh set of downs. However, back-to-back false start penalties stalled the 16-play, near-8-minute drive and forced L.A. to settle for a 28-yard field goal by kicker Gay with 14:17 left in the second quarter.
Driving again midway through the second quarter, the Rams' fourth possession ended without points after the Cardinals recovered an Akers fumble at the Arizona 1-yard line. However, the steep field position was unkind to the Cardinals, whose holding penalty in the endzone resulted in a safety and two points for the Rams, cutting their deficit to 7-5 with 5:21 left in the first half.
A strip-sack by Floyd on the ensuing series forced the Cardinals to punt and gave the ball back to the Rams with two minutes remaining until halftime, but the Rams offense went 3-and-out and was forced to punt the ball back to the Cardinals. The Rams defense would step up, however, as Hill's pick-six gave Los Angeles a 12-7 halftime lead.
Receiving the second half kickoff, the Rams mounted a near-9-minute scoring drive on the opening series which ended with a 34-yard field goal by Gay to extend their lead to 15-7.
The Cardinals reached midfield on the ensuing possession, but offensive pass interference and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins collectively cost them 25 yards. Faced with a 1st-and-35 from their own 25, the Cardinals were eventually forced to punt from on 4th and 8 from the Rams 48.
A 27-yard yard field goal by Gay on the following possession extended the Rams lead to 18-7 with 14:25 left in the fourth quarter.
With Murray back under center, the Cardinals answered Gay's field goal with a 26-yard completion to Sherfield and a 25-yard completion to tight end Dan Arnold on back-to-back plays to move into Rams territory. Although Arizona reached the Los Angeles 11, a sack by outside linebacker Samson Ebukam, pass-breakup by Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey in the endzone on a Murray pass intended for Hopkins and Robinson blocking kicker Mike Nugent's 37-yard field goal attempt ensured Arizona wouldn't come away with points.
The Rams forced the Cardinals to punt with 4:31 left and chewed off the next 3 minutes and 12 seconds on the ensuing possession. Although they were forced to punt at the end of it, the Rams only left the Cardinals with 19 seconds, not enough time for Arizona to mount any meaningful rally facing an 11-point deficit.