Rams lose to Cardinals with Stafford out, Kupp hurt

INGLEWOOD — For at least one drive, the Rams displayed the offensive innovation that wide receiver Cooper Kupp requested, but then reality set in Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

With starting quarterback Matthew Stafford sidelined, Rams coach Sean McVay unveiled a preseason-like game plan with a quarterback rotation of John Wolford and Bryce Perkins. It was surprising and maybe innovative for a bit, but there’s a reason NFL teams prefer to play one quarterback in the games that count.

The flavor of creativity quickly wore off after the opening drive and the Rams found themselves down double digits against Cardinals backup quarterback Colt McCoy, who filled in for the injured Kyler Murray. Wolford and Perkins attempted to rally, but this broken Rams offense isn’t equipped for comebacks even with a healthy Stafford, who’s in the concussion protocol.

This Rams team might also not be equipped to make the postseason after losing to the Cardinals 27-17 at SoFi Stadium. The defending Super Bowl champions dropped to 3-6, and to make matters worse, Kupp left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey pleaded for the offense to step up in critical comments after last week’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now the Rams’ defense deserves some blame for struggling against McCoy and the Cardinals’ offense. McCoy connected with wide receiver Rondale Moore for a 26-yard completion to convert a fourth down during the fourth quarter.

The Rams showed some fight after a four-yard touchdown run from running back Darrell Henderson trimmed the Cardinals’ lead to 17-10 with 4:24 in the third quarter.

With a 17-3 deficit, the Rams jogged to the locker room for halftime with the crowd booing them. Wolford’s fumble was sandwiched between two Arizona touchdown drives late in the second quarter. Cardinals linebacker Myjai Sanders knocked the ball out of Wolford’s hands and it was recovered by defensive end J.J. Watt.

The Cardinals capitalized on Wolford’s turnover when McCoy threw a six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver A.J. Green for a 14-point advantage with 24 seconds left before halftime. Wolford was 8 of 14 with 52 yards in the first half, and the Rams had only 37 rushing yards at that point, with 32 coming on the first drive.

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After the scripted plays, the Rams’ offensive innovation disappeared. Wolford and Perkins delivered three consecutive three-and-outs and didn’t record a first down until late in the second quarter. The Cardinals took the lead on a 13-play, 66-yard scoring drive that took 6:31 off the clock. Running back James Conner capped the touchdown drive with a four-yard run up the middle to give the Cardinals a 10-3 advantage with 1:56 left before halftime.

The Rams’ two-QB system started on the fourth play of the game when Perkins surprisingly replaced Wolford for a snap. Both quarterbacks received designed run plays and contributed to the 32 rushing yards the team gained on the opening drive, which ended with a 36-yard field goal from Matt Gay to give the Rams a 3-0 advantage with 6:16 in the first quarter.

On the opening drive, Wolford had an impressive 14-yard completion to wide receiver Allen Robinson on a bootleg going to his left, a play that resembled the many connections Wolford and Robinson had in August. Wolford received many repetitions with the starters during training camp because Stafford was sidelined for nearly two weeks with elbow soreness in his throwing arm.

McCoy and the Cardinals tied the game at 3-3 after a 36-yard field goal from backup kicker Tristan Vizcaino, who filled in for the injured Matt Prater. In a strange coincidence, both teams had opening scoring drives of 14 plays, 57 yards with a 36-yard field goal.

More to come.

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