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Rams gear up for primetime playoff battle against familiar opponent in Cardinals

The last time the Rams and the Cardinals faced off in primetime, the Rams won a thriller to split the regular season series.

Now, the decisive third game comes in primetime once again – Monday Night Football in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, in the first NFL playoff game at SoFi Stadium.

"We're going to spend our energy on things that we can control," Rams head coach Sean McVay said earlier this week. "We're playing on Monday night, so the positive approach is we get an extra day of getting recovered and rejuvenated from a good, tough game yesterday. So, looking forward to a great atmosphere at SoFi on Monday night."

Each of the first two meetings captured opposite ends of the results spectrum.

In Week 4, the Cardinals leaned on their run game and explosive pass plays and took advantage of a pair of Rams turnovers to earn a 37-20 victory in Los Angeles. Ten weeks later, the Rams avenged that loss with a 30-23 in Arizona victory behind a strong pass rush led by defensive lineman Aaron Donald's dominant three-sack performance.

"It's going to be tough," said Rams outside linebacker Von Miller, when asked how the front line tries to replicate its Week 14 performance. "The first game was tough. I don't know what it looked like, but it was definitely tough. You got (Cardinals quarterback) Kyler Murray – and everybody knows about Kyler Murray and big-time games. He's been playing big-time games his whole entire life – in college and in high school. He's going to be ready for this moment. We know that and we're just going to have to play to the best of our abilities to have a shot at doing this thing."

A big game from wide receiver Cooper Kupp (13 catches, 123 yards, one touchdown) and efficient outings from quarterback Matthew Stafford (23 of 30, 287 passing yards, three touchdowns) and running back Sony Michel (20 carries, 79 yards) also helped the cause in Week 14.

When asked what he pulls from each of those games that he will take with him into Monday's matchup, Stafford made a simple connection.

"You look at those two games and that's like kind of winning and losing, one on one," Stafford said. "Turning the football over, not playing good in all three phases, and the first time leads to a loss, and then you go take care of the football, play great in all three phases like we did at their place, and you win the football game. So, what it's going to boil down to is playing good in that three-hour window and making the plays to win the game, which we were able to do once and the other time we didn't. So, just got to go out there and execute them."

McVay on Wednesday said given the trajectory of the season, Week 14 was very different from when the Rams played the Cardinals in Week 4. While both games are used to prepare for the third matchup, more stock is put into the most recent game, as well as the latest games the Cardinals have played, pertaining to personnel and schematic evolution. However, "the familiarity definitely changes the approach where you've seen every single one of their games," McVay said.

"Familiarity is the biggest thing, but (we've) still got to go play in those three-hour windows and do a great job of playing our best ball to see if we can move on and advance," McVay said Monday. "It's March Madness in the NFL now."

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