THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — The music blared from the Los Angeles Rams‘ locker room as celebratory shouts echoed into an adjoining news conference at SoFi Stadium.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford stood at a podium to discuss throwing for 343 yards and four touchdown passes in a statement 34-24 win over quarterback Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, only to be reminded of an upcoming contest.
In Week 4, the Rams would again be facing an undefeated opponent, this time a division opener against the Arizona Cardinals at SoFi Stadium (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox).
Would it be difficult to come off an emotional win and prepare for a 3-0 Cardinals team?
“No, they’ll get your attention quick,” said Stafford, who has earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week twice in three games and is among the early favorites to earn league MVP. “It’s a really good football team.”
The Rams are 8-0 against the Cardinals since Sean McVay took over as coach in 2017, including four wins over current Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray. During their win streak, the Rams have averaged 31.4 points per game to the Cardinals’ 11.4.
“What’s happened in previous years has zero to do with what we’re going to try to do on Sunday,” said McVay, who has led the Rams to a 3-0 start for the third time in five seasons. “Those things have no merit. It doesn’t do anything for us. We just got to make sure that we prepare the right way moving forward and try to do everything we can to put another good performance together.”
Although this is Stafford’s first season in the NFC West with the Rams, he’s familiar with the Cardinals, having faced them with the Detroit Lions the past four seasons, earning three wins and a tie to open the 2019 season.
“I’ve played them a bunch in my career and [it’s] always a big challenge, whether we were going to their place or they were coming to Detroit,” said Stafford, who has thrown for 942 yards and nine touchdown passes, with an interception, in the first three games. “Always a big challenge led by an extremely high-powered offense. Kyler is playing out of this world … and it’s a big task on offense for us to go up against that defense.”
The Rams (3-0) and Cardinals enter Sunday’s matchup in a statistical dead heat.
The Cardinals are tied with the Buccaneers for first in the league in scoring, averaging 34.3 points per game. Murray has thrown for 1,005 yards and seven touchdown passes, with four interceptions, and has rushed for 70 yards and three touchdowns.
“Unbelievable playmaker, seeing the field really well,” McVay said about the third-year quarterback. “You talk about being able to make plays on schedule, off schedule, being able to create with his legs, being able to extend plays with his legs but then be able to deliver the football own the field, he’s making as many plays as anybody.”
The Rams are ranked third in scoring at 31.7 points per game, with Stafford igniting an explosive offense with three touchdown passes of more than 50 yards.
“He’s been a tremendous talent in this league for a long time and I think it’s kind of a perfect storm when you put him together with one of the brightest minds in football,” said Kingsbury, referring to Stafford’s partnership with McVay.
Both teams also boast stout defenses.
The Rams have allowed an average of 20.7 points per game to the Cardinals’ 21.7.
“They’re an aggressive outfit,” McVay said.
The last time the Rams started 4-0 was 2018, when they ultimately earned a trip to Super Bowl LIII and fell to the New England Patriots.
But as they prepare for Sunday, players vowed that despite recent success over the Cardinals, Arizona could not be overlooked.
“Every year is different,” said receiver Robert Woods, who has caught 11 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. “Just got to look at it like that. They’re playing really well right now.”
In fact, the previous Rams-Cardinals matchups don’t seem to have been discussed around team meetings or the locker room.
Receiver DeSean Jackson, who the Rams signed to a one-year deal over the offseason, claimed he was unaware of his team’s current 8-0 run.
“I didn’t know that,” Jackson said. “That’s an interesting stat. Hopefully we can keep that going.”