As the Cardinals get set to face the Rams a third time this season, two constants carryover as focal points of their preparation: Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp and a pass rush led by defensive lineman Aaron Donald.
Heading into Monday night's Wild Card game at SoFi Stadium (5:15 p.m. pacific time, , limiting both will be at the top of mind for Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Kupp finished the regular season as the NFL's first receiving triple crown winner – as in, league-leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns – since 2005 and fourth of the Super Bowl era with his 145 receptions for 1,947 receiving yards and 16 receiving touchdowns in the first season of the NFL's 17-game era. He was five receptions shy of breaking Michael Thomas' NFL single-season receptions record and 18 yards shy of breaking Calvin Johnson's NFL single-season receiving yards record.
Within that, he had five receptions for 64 yards against the Cardinals in Week 4, then 13 catches for 123 yards and one touchdown when the two teams met again in Week 14.
"Nobody's slowed him down," Kingsbury told Arizona reporters Wednesday, when asked about Kupp. "He's got his numbers every week, regardless of coverages or player or whatever people have been trying to do to stop him. And so that's a credit to him. He has such a great feel for the game, great understanding of their system, great understanding of how to create space and separation. I just can't say enough good things about him. So it's going to be a group effort trying to slow him down, but you know he's going to get his. You just gotta try to contain it as best as you can."
Like Kupp, Donald had a dominant performance against the Cardinals in Week 14, turning in five total tackles (three for loss), three sacks, three QB hits and a pass breakup that led directly to an interception compared to four total tackles alone in Week 4. It helped state his case as eventual NFC Defensive Player of the Month for December.
While an up-tempo approach would seemingly help keep Donald and the Rams' pass rush at bay, Kingsbury indicated longer drives would serve the Cardinals better.
"Anytime you play a d-line likes this, it's going to be a huge challenge, whether you try to go up-tempo or not," Kingsbury said. "They've handled that well in the past when we've gone against them. You really just want to try and on schedule, and if you can, keep those guys on the field as many plays as possible. That's really the only chance you have to try and slow down Donald and some of those pass-rushers they have. So consistently making the routine plays, staying on schedule, extending drives, that's going to be a huge part of us trying to win the game."
Beyond Donald and Kupp, there's the overall challenge of preparing for a familiar opponent they split the regular season series with.
"Luckily we're 1-1 against this opponent," Kingsbury told Arizona reporters Monday. "I just think there's so much parity in this league that when you go against a team who has a bunch of great competitors like the Rams do, and they know you and you know them, it just makes it tough. You've already put together two gameplans, you're trying to get together a third to try and defeat them in all three phases, and it's a tall task. You've got to have a lot of things go right when two teams know each other that well."