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Playoff Game Against Rams Gives Chance For Wild Cardinals

Rubber match between two teams leads to Divisional Round

Defensive end J.J. Watt (99) and linebacker Markus Golden (44) rush the passer during the Cardinals' win in Los Angeles earlier this season.
Defensive end J.J. Watt (99) and linebacker Markus Golden (44) rush the passer during the Cardinals' win in Los Angeles earlier this season.

Kyler Murray is not a fan of living in the past.

Any disappointments from the regular season – including the missed opportunity to clinch the NFC West title – are things Murray would rather not think about.

There's no time to reminisce on that, with the Cardinals' (11-6) upcoming NFC Wild Card showdown with the Rams (12-5) on "Monday Night Football."

Like many of his teammates, it will be Murray's first playoff appearance since entering the league in 2019. The quarterback also has the chance to earn his first primetime victory this season against a Super Bowl contender.

"These are the games that you have to step up in and make plays and execute," Murray said. "There's no shying away from this. We know who we're playing. We know the caliber of guys they've got over there, the guys who can wreck a game. We've got to match their energy and be ready to play. There's no way around it. To get to the Super Bowl, you have to beat everybody."

It will be the third meeting between the teams after splitting the regular-season series. The Cardinals won the first round, 37-20, Week 4 at SoFi Stadium but the Rams captured round two, 30-23 Week 14 at State Farm Stadium.

The matchup is also the second time two teams meet on a Monday night and then in the postseason in NFL history.

"We know them and they know us." safety Budda Baker said. "It's going to come down to who executes their job at a higher level."

The NFC West champion Rams are coached by Sean McVay, one of the NFL's bright offensive minds. They have quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is winless in postseason play but lit up the Cardinals' secondary in Week 14.

His primary offensive weapon, wideout Cooper Kupp, led the NFL in catches this season (145), yards (1,947), and touchdowns (16) to cap a 2021 triple crown campaign. In the last meeting, he was also a problem for the Cardinals – with 13 catches for 123 yards and a TD.

Aside from slowing down the first-team All-Pro receiver, the Cardinals' chances of advancing to the NFC Divisional round will hinge on slowing down Pro Bowl defensive lineman Aaron Donald.

His three-sack performance in Week 14 gave Donald 15 career sacks against the Cardinals, the second-most by any player vs. a single opponent since he entered the league in 2014.

"They have No.99, so the first goal when you play the Rams is not to let the game wrecker wreck the game," running back Chase Edmonds said. "He's the best player in the NFL and will probably go down top-two for the best defensive player in NFL history.

"We'll have to figure out how to negate him to make his impact less."

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