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Matthew Stafford, Rams crush Cardinals, advance to divisional round

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Matthew Stafford, Rams crush Cardinals, advance to divisional round
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) scrambles against the Arizona Cardinals during second quarter action in their NFC wild card game Monday at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. Photo by Jon SooHoo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford earned his first career playoff win, throwing for two scores and running for another in a dominant Los Angeles Rams victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the 2022 NFL wild-card round.

Stafford completed 13 of 17 passes for 202 yards in the 34-11 triumph Monday at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. The Rams out-gained the Cardinals 375 to 183 in total yards, forced two turnovers and owned an edge in time of possession of more than 11 minutes.

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"I thought he [Stafford] did a great job leading the way," Rams coach Sean McVay told reporters. "He's still the same great player to me, and he always was before this game. ... So pleased be able to do this with him.

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"He's our leader out there, and we wouldn't be here without him."

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Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray completed 19 of 34 passes for 137 yards and two interceptions. The Rams held Cardinals running backs Chase Edmonds and James Conner to 47 combined rushing yards.

"We prepared all week and all season to be where we are and that game wasn't competitive at all," Murray said. "It's disappointing that we didn't make it a game and play the football we know we are capable of playing."

The Rams (12-5) advanced to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4) in the divisional round Sunday in Tampa, Fla.

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Monday's matchup started with three consecutive punts. The Rams went on a 10-play, 52-yard drive on the game's fourth possession. Stafford ended the 6:05 drive with a 4-yard touchdown toss to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

The Rams quarterback ran for a 1-yard touchdown about 3:02 into the second quarter for a 14-0 lead. Rams cornerback David Long Jr. intercepted Murray about four minutes later. He returned the interception three yards for a score, pushing the Rams lead to 21-0.

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Murray threw another interception on the Cardinals next drive. The Rams held their three-score lead through halftime.

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Stafford pushed the advantage to 28 points with a 7-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cooper Kupp 4:24 into the third. The Cardinals answered with a 12-yard, 75-yard touchdown drive. Conner ran for a 2-yard score to end that possession. The Cardinals also completed a two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 20 points.

Kicker Matt Gay made field goals on the Rams' next two drives. Cardinals kicker Matt Gay also split the uprights with 10:13 to go. Neither team added to the scoreboard over the final four minutes.

Kupp caught five passes for 61 yards and a score for the Rams. Beckham caught four passes for 54 yards and a score. Rams running back Cam Akers gained 95 total yards on 18 touches.

The Rams battle the Buccaneers at 3 p.m. EST Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. The winner advances to the NFC Championship game.

"It's a huge challenge," Stafford said. "[We are] going to their place. It's a tough place to play. They've been really good this year. Fantastic quarterback, good defense and a really good football team. It'll be a big challenge for us."

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