2021 NFL season, Week 14: What we learned from Rams' win over Cardinals on Monday night

Los Angeles Rams
2021 · 9-4-0
Arizona Cardinals
2021 · 10-3-0

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  1. The consternation regarding the Rams' offense is overblown. Matthew Stafford is rounding back into form thanks to an expertly called offense that moved Cooper Kupp around to get him open Monday night. Odell Beckham Jr. is getting his feet under him and looks more like the superstar he once was than he has at any other point in the last four years (on Monday night, he posted his fastest top speed as a ball carrier since tearing his ACL last season). Sony Michel is running hard. Van Jefferson continues to make strides of improvement and is rounding into a sneaky receiving threat, a lesson the Cardinals learned in the third quarter Monday night. Things are OK, and against a top-five defense, the Rams were the ones making the statement on the scoreboard. L.A. might be getting it together at the perfect time.
  2. Cooper Kupp would have a strong case for MVP if we ever considered giving it to a non-quarterback. Kupp has been the No. 1 focus of opposing defenses for a while now, yet he still shredded the Cardinals. It didn't matter what Arizona attempted to do to stop him -- Kupp finished with a career-high 13 receptions, racking up 123 yards and scoring an incredible touchdown on a perfectly placed pass from Stafford to push the Rams' lead to 27-13. It's tough to imagine the Rams winning a game like this without Kupp's performance, which wasn't simply a matter of beating defensive backs -- it was a total team effort, from the scheme to the route-running to the throwing and finally, the catching, especially in key moments. Kupp is the best receiver in the NFL in terms of statistics and the most valuable. He led the Rams to a win in a huge spot.
  3. Kyler Murray's MVP campaign didn't improve Monday night. A prime-time game was the perfect stage for Murray to cement himself as a legitimate contender for the league's top honor, and he responded by throwing two interceptions. It's fair to argue the first might have been intercepted even if it wasn't tipped by dependable game-wrecker Aaron Donald, and the second, though an impressive athletic feat by Leonard Floyd, was also ill-advised. Murray resurrected the effects of his performance by playing his special brand of backyard football well enough to move the Cardinals within seven points, then further kept it afloat by finding Christian Kirk on a 47-yard pass inside the two-minute warning, but his giveaways proved to be the difference. The game's dysfunctional final sequence certainly didn't help, either.
  4. The Cardinals might have an issue with the bright lights of prime time. Arizona has lost just three games this season, and two have come at night on a national stage at State Farm Stadium. The first produced a stunning result via an improbable Rasul Douglas interception. The second was more the product of the Cardinals simply not playing well enough to defeat a fellow heavyweight. Arizona dug itself a hole in the second half by giving up an explosive touchdown to Jefferson, then following that with a Murray interception, which the Rams turned into another touchdown. One team (the Rams) capitalized on opportunity, while the other (the Cardinals) failed to create enough of its own and gave too many to the opposition. A 10-3 record is still great, but the Cardinals need to learn how to win these types of games, because that's precisely what awaits them in the postseason.
  5. Los Angeles just made a statement for the football world to hear, and it wore No. 99. Donald was a force all night, opening the game with a sack of Murray and drawing multiple holding penalties that erased gains for the Cardinals simply because he can rarely be blocked by just one lineman. His tip of Murray's goal line pass produced an interception for the Rams and an early advantage, while another holding flag wiped out a 15-yard Murray scramble on Arizona's final drive. He finished his three-sack performance by burying Murray on the game's final play, ending Arizona's comeback hopes and providing one more highlight for a Rams team that created plenty of them for the rest of the NFL to see. If this is truly who the Rams are, watch out, NFC.

NFL Research: James Conner scored his 15th touchdown of 2021 on Monday night, joining David Johnson (20 TDs in 2016) as the only Cardinals players in the last 50 years to have 15-plus touchdowns in a season. Conner's 15 touchdowns are the most by a Cardinal in his first season with the team in franchise history.

Next Gen Stat of the game: Matthew Stafford finished a perfect 4 for 4 on passes thrown from outside the tackle box for 101 yards and two touchdowns.


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