GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Rams were in need of a spark with the Arizona Cardinals slowly chipping away at a double-digit lead built in the first quarter.
Cam Akers stepped up, something Rams coach Sean McVay had been waiting for after saying two weeks ago that he needed more urgency from his running back.
Akers’ angry runs regained control for the Rams, and he was on the verge of putting the game away before fumbling at the goal line to give quarterback Kyler Murray and the Cardinals new life on Sunday at State Farm Stadium.
Murray attempted the rally, but the Rams forced him to kill plenty of clock and they completed a 20-12 victory. The Rams improved to 2-1 and have two consecutive wins after a season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills.
The Cardinals added three field goals from Matt Prater to trim the deficit to 13-9 while the Rams’ offense struggled to put together a productive drive. But Akers delivered such a drive with four consecutive bruising runs for 39 yards, including a 14-yard rushing touchdown to extend the Rams’ advantage to 20-9 with one minute left in the third quarter.
With Cardinals fans heading for the exits, Akers fumbled on Arizona’s 1-yard line to give Murray the ball back with an 11-point deficit and 6:39 left in regulation.
The Rams started fast offensively to build a 13-0 lead, but struggled in the second and third quarters to allow the Cardinals to hang around. Stafford and his Rams’ offense had three consecutive three-and-outs during the slump.
Stafford spun away from Cardinals linebacker Zaven Collins to rifle an 11-yard pass to Cooper Kupp on third-and-11 to end the first-down drought during Akers’ scoring drive.
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown ignited the Cardinals’ offense midway through the second quarter after recording a four-yard catch to convert on fourth-and-2 and followed that with a 20-yard reception. The Cardinals entered the red zone for the first time on that drive, but stalled on the Rams’ five-yard line and settled for a 23-yard field goal from Prater to make it 13-3 with 1:51 left before halftime. Arizona took nine minutes, 30 seconds off the clock during the scoring drive.
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The Rams generated only 22 yards in the second quarter and entered halftime with a 13-6 advantage. Prater added a 43-yard field goal with two seconds left in the second quarter.
In the opening quarter, the Cardinals were the ones who struggled offensively, failing to record a first down until their third drive and having only 26 yards compared to the Rams’ 158 heading.
Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald added to the Cardinals’ early frustrations by recording his 100th career sack after swiping at Murray’s feet to bring him down.
The Rams’ offensive creativity was on display during Kupp’s first career rushing touchdown. With wide receiver Ben Skowronek lined up at fullback, Kupp came around to take the ball from Stafford and ran up the left sideline for a 20-yard rushing touchdown to give the Rams a 10-0 advantage with 4 minutes left in the opening quarter.
The Rams started the game with a short field after defensive end Michael Hoecht blocked a punt to give Stafford the ball on Arizona’s 35-yard line, but the Rams stalled on the four-yard line and settled for a 22-yard Matt Gay field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 9:45 in the first quarter.
More to come.