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Cardinals Prove Ram Tough In Ending Streak Against Los Angeles

With dominating 37-20 win, team is alone in first place in NFC West

Wide receiver A.J. Green hauls in a touchdown pass against the Rams Sunday in Los Angeles.
Wide receiver A.J. Green hauls in a touchdown pass against the Rams Sunday in Los Angeles.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The streak, it's over.

So are any possible remaining questions whether the Cardinals might be a true contender this season.

There is no other way to view Sunday's 37-20 dismantling of the Rams at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, a game only that close because of a meaningless late L.A. score. The first win for the franchise against a Sean McVay-coached team – eight straight losses are a distant memory now – allowed the Cardinals to take hold of first place in the NFC West by themselves.

They are 4-0, the Rams are no longer undefeated, and the Cardinals will now have the NFL's attention for sure.

"We finally got over that little hump," running back Chase Edmonds said, but, he added, the Cardinals have proved "nothing."

"I don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves. It's a small step in the right direction."

The Cardinals have scored at least 30 points and had at least 400 yards of offense in every game this season, impressive enough. The Rams hadn't allowed 30 points in a game for 16 straight games, and the Cards ended that with an exclamation point.

But, coach Kliff Kingsbury said, the Cardinals still need to get better offensively – a scary thought.

Kingsbury was having nothing about the streak-busting Sunday. That was by design.

"That's what we tried to avoid all week," Kingsbury said. "Just get a week better."

Said safety Budda Baker, "I don't watch a lot of predictions or projections. I watch film."

The conversations – of which there will be many this week nationally for one of only two remaining undefeated teams, with the 3-0 Raiders playing Monday night – are going to take on fawning flavor. That's impossible to avoid.

It's way too early to talk MVP, but Kyler Murray has earned whatever praise comes his way. He was fantastic Sunday, showing his maturity in both his play and the way he conducted the offense, completing 24 of 32 passes for 268 yards, two touchdowns, 39 yards rushing – including a crucial 18-yard scamper on a third-and-long to preserve one scoring drive – was exquisite.

Murray called it the "best game plan I've been a part of" since arriving in the NFL.

"We have to continue to prove it," Murray said. "I'm not really too worried about what other people think. I think the guys in the locker room understand what we're doing, what we're capable of and where we can take it."

Defensively, the Cardinals made life hell for Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford. He ended up with decent stats, with 280 yards passing and two touchdowns, but he was picked off by Byron Murphy early in the game to set up a touchdown drive and a later fumble by running back Sony Michel was turned into another score. The Cardinals held the league's leading receiver, Cooper Kupp, to five catches for 64 yards.

For a Rams team that had lit up the scoreboard in two previous home games, it was a rude afternoon.

"As a defense, we have a standard we want top hold," Murphy said, although when he was asked what point total that was, Murphy smiled. "I mean, zero. But you know how that goes."

There were no real stars to what the Cards did, and that too spoke to how this team has blossomed into a full unit. DeAndre Hopkins (4 catches for 67 yards), A.J. Green (5-67 and a TD) and tight end Maxx Williams (5-66-1) were the leading receivers.

James Conner had two rushing touchdowns with his 50 yards, but it was Edmonds who had 120 yards on only 12 carries, buoyed by a career-best 54-yard run in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals rushed for 216 yards, a season best.

"It's another element when you can run the ball like we did today," center Rodney Hudson said.

A sequence in the fourth quarter summed up the game for the Cardinals, and perhaps the kind of well-rounded team they have become. The defense first was able to stop the Rams at the Arizona 1 when backup inside linebacker Tanner Vallejo broke up a pass in the flat on fourth down.

With 99 yards to go, Conner grinded out a pair of carries for breathing room of the goal line, and then Edmonds broke his 54-yarder and officially broke the collective back of the Rams.

"We have to get rid of this Air Raid kind of terminology and really just find a way to win the game in the fourth quarter," Edmonds said with a small smile. "That's playoff football, that's December football."

The Cardinals moved all the way inside the Rams 5 without trying a pass, finally settling for their final field goal with the game in hand.

Murphy said the Cardinal are "building toward something." Kingsbury warned that the Cards get the 49ers next week – the same team that, decimated by injury, essentially doomed the Cardinals' playoff chances last season.

"The Rams have had our number for a while, but this is a new year, a new Cardinals team," Baker said.

With the Niners and then a road trip to Cleveland, the schedule does not let up. But the Cardinals are good, and the NFL world knows it now.

"I don't take none of this for granted," Edmonds said. "I was on that 3-13 team (in 2018) that was worst in the NFL."

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