INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Leading into Monday night's Wild Card game, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford didn't feel the need to prove himself, because he said he does that every time he goes out onto the field.
A 13-year veteran, Stafford had gone winless in his three previous trips to the postseason in 12 seasons with the Lions. That changed against the Cardinals, helping the Rams earn a 34-11 victory and trip to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers in the divisional round, giving him his first career playoff victory.
While Stafford was finally able to put that to rest, helping the Rams advance ultimately meant more to him than the personal milestone.
"I'm just excited for our team to get the win," Stafford said postgame. "Obviously, what a team effort. I mean, our defense played outstanding tonight. Special teams basically set up a score with (punter) Johnny (Hekker) pinning them down there. Did a great job on field goals. We were good enough on offense to score some points and come away with a win. Just happy to be moving on."
Stafford completed 13 of 17 pass attempts for 202 yards and two touchdowns, also rushing six times for 22 yards and another touchdown. His 154.5 passer rating set a franchise playoff record, according to NFL Research.
Stafford last week said football is a team game, but also acknowledged a team has a better chance to win when its quarterback plays well. He accounted for three of Los Angeles' four touchdowns as it built a 28-0 lead by the 10:36 mark of the third quarter.
Of Stafford's 13 completions, seven went for 14 or more yards. Those also happened to be seven of the Rams' 10 longest plays in Monday night's game.
"I felt like I was putting the ball in the right place for the majority of the night," Stafford said. "I had to throw one away towards (wide receiver) Coop(er) (Kupp) one time. But other than that, I felt like the ball was going to the right place in a pretty good spot. Our guys made great plays. That's how I expect to go out and play every game. It doesn't always happen that way. But just felt good out there, felt comfortable and our team played great."
That production helped complement a stout performance by the Rams' defense.
"Matthew Stafford, he's a great player," Rams outside linebacker Von Miller said. "He deserved this win."
Rams head coach Sean McVay also did not buy into the notion that Stafford had anything to prove based on his past playoff history.
McVay said last week that Stafford's resume speaks for itself, and that he was an instrumental part of their success this season – Stafford tied a franchise record with 41 passing touchdowns while helping lead the Rams to their first NFC West division title since 2018.
"I thought he did a great job leading the way," McVay said. "He's still the same great player to me, and he always was before this game as well. I think it's good so you guys don't have to talk about that anymore so he can get that one out of the way. But really proud of him. Just so lucky to be able to do this with him. He's our leader. We wouldn't be here without him."
Asked what it meant to him personally to get that first career playoff win, Stafford again emphasized the importance of the team getting to the next round of the playoffs.
"I think it means a lot more to you guys and all that," Stafford said. "I just want to be a part of this team and help us win. I trust in myself, trust in my abilities, trust in my teammates. I'll go out there and play and let the chips fall where they may."