Sunday October 17th, 2021 11:54AM

Wolford, defense lead Rams past Arizona 18-7, into playoffs

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — John Wolford's NFL debut started with an interception on his first throw. It ended with the inexperienced quarterback fearlessly leading the Los Angeles Rams back to the playoffs.

And though Wolford capably did his part, everybody in the Rams' jubilant locker room realized they owed this achievement to a dominant defense that scored as many points as the Rams' offense — and a couple more than the Arizona Cardinals — in Los Angeles' 18-7 victory Sunday.

Troy Hill returned an interception 84 yards for a touchdown to lead yet another overwhelming defensive performance by the Rams (10-6), who earned their third postseason berth in four years under coach Sean McVay.

Wolford passed for 231 yards and rushed for 56 more, producing many moments of excitement in place of injured Jared Goff. While he got more comfortable with each series, Wolford realized he had the luxury of being backed by a defense that has remedied the flaws of LA's inconsistent offense all year long.

“The defense played unbelievable,” said Wolford, who went 22 for 38. “And we got a block on special teams. Guys were fired up. We had energy throughout the entire game. It was a team win all across the board. I just love this organization, and I’m happy they gave me a shot.”

The Rams would have reached the playoffs even with a loss because Green Bay beat Chicago while a few minutes were left at SoFi Stadium. Despite failing to score an offensive touchdown for the second straight game, Los Angeles still snapped its two-game skid heading to the postseason with its eighth consecutive win over Arizona (8-8).

Aaron Donald’s group scored nine points on Hill’s pick-6 and a safety while holding the Cardinals to 214 yards and shutting them out for the final 55 minutes. Coordinator Brandon Staley’s unit finished the regular season allowing the fewest points (296) and total yards (4,511) in the NFL.

“I was really impressed with (Wolford), but I was proud of this team,” McVay said. “I just can't say enough about the defense. ... They’ve been unbelievable all year. They’ve really been the strength of this team, and I thought they showed up in a big way.”

Kyler Murray passed for 87 yards after sitting out for most of the first three quarters with an ankle injury for the Cardinals, who missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. Arizona would have clinched a postseason spot with a victory.

“Not being able to play in a majority of this game stinks,” said Murray, who got injured on a tackle during Arizona's opening drive. “I know we are a playoff team, but we hurt ourselves and we held ourselves back.”

Chris Streveler passed for 105 yards in his first significant NFL action, throwing a TD pass to Jonathan Ward. Murray's backup also threw that crucial interception shortly before halftime to Hill, who tipped the ball to himself and rambled for his third touchdown in six games — and the second pick-6 against Arizona this season for a six-year veteran who had never scored before this stretch.

“We just became best friends this year,” Hill said of the end zone.

Murray's first drive after returning ended in a blocked field goal by A'Shawn Robinson, and the Cards never got in scoring range again.


Los Angeles got a safety in the second quarter when Arizona left guard Justin Pugh held Robinson in the end zone moments after Cam Akers fumbled at the 1. Rams linebacker Leonard Floyd also triggered a $1.25 million bonus in his contract with another sack, his 10th of an outstanding season.


Wolford was forced to take his first NFL snaps in this crucial game after Goff injured his thumb last week. The Wake Forest product showed why McVay is high on him — after a big early bump, that is.

His first pass went straight to linebacker Jordan Hicks deep in Rams territory. Wolford shook off the Cards' subsequent TD and led the Rams on three lengthy drives in the first half with his arm and his feet.

Wolford racked up 47 yards rushing in the first half — more than Goff managed in any game of his five-year career.

Murray returned for the fourth quarter and immediately drove the Cardinals deep into Rams territory, but Jalen Ramsey made a remarkable deflection on third down before Robinson blocked a field-goal attempt with 9:01 to play.

Wolford made several big plays down the stretch, including a scramble for a first down on third-and-8 with 2:40 to play, all but sealing the victory.

“He came out and got some good runs,” Cardinals linebacker Markus Golden said. “I know QB is a top position and the best player, but at the same time, the second guy is an NFL player. You ain’t here for show and tell.”


Cardinals: WR Larry Fitzgerald didn't play because of a groin injury in what could have been the final game of his impressive 17-season career. ... Hicks injured his neck shortly after his interception in the first quarter, and he didn't return.

Rams: They played without their leading passer, leading rusher (Darrell Henderson) and leading receiver (Cooper Kupp).


Cardinals: A long offseason after a talented team still produced its fifth consecutive non-winning season.

Rams: A trip to Seattle for a Saturday matchup with the Seahawks. McVay said he didn't know whether Goff will play.


More AP NFL: and

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Football, AP Sports - NFL
© Copyright 2021
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Wolford, defense lead Rams past Arizona 18-7, into playoffs
John Wolford passed for 231 yards and rushed for 56 more in his NFL debut, and the Los Angeles Rams are headed to the playoffs with an 18-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals
7:44PM ( 7 minutes ago )
Congress opens new session as virus, Biden's win dominate
Congress has convened for a new session with lawmakers sworn into office during a tumultuous period
7:37PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Derrick Henry becomes 8th player with 2,000 yards rushing
Tennessee’s Derrick Henry became the eighth player in NFL history to run for 2,000 yards in a season
7:36PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: Derrick Henry 8th man to run for 2,000 in NFL
Derrick Henry has become the eighth man in NFL history to run for at least 2,000 yards in a single season
7:12PM ( 40 minutes ago )
The Latest: Justin Herbert sets TD mark for NFL rookie QBs
Justin Herbert has accounted for the most touchdowns by a rookie quarterback in NFL history
6:56PM ( 55 minutes ago )
Cardinals' Murray returns from ankle injury against Rams
Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray returned from an ankle injury early in the fourth quarter and was trying to rally the Arizona Cardinals against the Los Angeles Rams
6:55PM ( 56 minutes ago )
AP Sports
Browns end playoff drought, survive late Steelers rally
The Cleveland Browns are back in the playoffs
4:58PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Kyler Murray hurts ankle, Cards lead with backup
Kyler Murray has hurt his ankle, and Chris Streveler led the Arizona Cardinals to a touchdown on his first drive against the Los Angeles Rams
4:55PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Rivers now fifth on NFL's all-time TD pass list
Indianapolis quarterback Philip Rivers has thrown his 421st touchdown pass to break a tie with Hall of Famer Dan Marino for No. 5 on the NFL’s all-time list
4:44PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Football
Moore ends pursuit of Boise State job, staying with Cowboys
Dallas offensive coordinator says he is no longer pursuing the Boise State job and has signed a multiyear contract extension with the Cowboys
10:42PM ( 21 hours ago )
Floyd Little, Syracuse and Broncos great, dies at 78
Floyd Little, the versatile running back who starred at Syracuse and for the Denver Broncos, has died after a long bout with cancer
8:28PM ( 23 hours ago )
The Latest: Steelers place Haden, Ebron, Marsh on COVID list
The Pittsburgh Steelers have placed cornerback Joe Haden, tight end Eric Ebron and reserve linebacker Cassius Marsh on the reserve/COVID-19 list, putting their status for the playoffs in jeopardy
4:32PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Sports - NFL
Congress opens new session as virus, Biden's win dominate
Congress has convened for a new session with lawmakers sworn into office during a tumultuous period
7:37PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Derrick Henry becomes 8th player with 2,000 yards rushing
Tennessee’s Derrick Henry became the eighth player in NFL history to run for 2,000 yards in a season
7:36PM ( 16 minutes ago )
The Latest: Derrick Henry has 5th-best season in NFL history
Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans now has the fifth-best rushing total in NFL history
7:35PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Saints rout Panthers 33-7 to earn No. 2 seed in NFC playoffs
Drew Brees threw for 201 yards and three touchdowns, the Saints had five interceptions and New Orleans defeated the Carolina Panthers 33-7 to wrap up the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs
7:34PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Pelosi narrowly reelected speaker, faces difficult two years
Nancy Pelosi has been narrowly reelected as House speaker
7:28PM ( 23 minutes ago )