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Matthew Stafford hears superlatives but keeps sights on Cardinals showdown

Quarterback Matthew Stafford readies to lead the Rams onto the football field.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been the Ram’s leading man through three games.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The day after leading his team to victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford appeared as a guest on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” broadcast that features Peyton and Eli Manning, also known as the Manning-cast.

“It was cool,” Stafford said after practice Wednesday. “It was good to talk to those guys again.”

Peyton and Eli Manning each won two Super Bowl titles.

Stafford did not win a playoff game in 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions, but he has emerged as an early MVP candidate for a Rams team that is 3-0 and regarded among the contenders for a Super Bowl run.

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Does Stafford aspire to have “Super Bowl-winning quarterback” in front of his name?

“Definitely,” he said. “The second you step in the league you get a chance to do it, and any time you get a chance to do it you want it to happen.”

It was a coming out party for Rams tight end Tyler Higbee and receiver DeSean Jackson against Tampa Bay, but starting linebacker Justin Hollins was lost because of a pectoral injury.

Stafford is off to strong start with the Rams. Heading into their NFC West opener against the Arizona Cardinals at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, he has passed for nine touchdowns, with one interception.

Stafford led the Rams to victories over the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts and the Buccaneers. In the 34-24 victory, he completed 27 of 38 passes for 343 yards and four touchdowns, making the Rams’ trade for the 33-year-old Stafford look better each week.

Stafford already appears to have mastered coach Sean McVay’s system.

“He’s been a tremendous talent in this league for a long time and I think it’s kind of the perfect storm when you put him together with one of the brightest minds in football,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said Wednesday during a conference call with Los Angeles reporters. “As a fan of the position and offensive football, it’s fun to watch him play — just not when they’re going against you.”

In a season that is three weeks old, Stafford has twice been named the NFC offensive player of the week. He said he does not pay attention to MVP chatter.

“I don’t really think about it too much,” he said. “Just go out here and try to prepare to play well the next week. That’s been my job for the last 12-years plus, so I just go about it the same each week.”

In his first two games with the Rams, Stafford relied mainly on receivers Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Van Jefferson.

McVay opened the playbook against the Buccaneers. Receiver DeSean Jackson caught a 75-yard touchdown pass, and he also had a 40-yard gain. Tight end Tyler Higbee caught a touchdown pass and made several third-down catches.

Moderated by NFL editor Athan Atsales, let’s open the roundtable for Rams beat writer Gary Klein, Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller, and columnists Bill Plaschke and Helene Elliott.

Stafford’s command, leadership and “his ability to be at his best in those most important moments” has been on display, McVay said.

“The poise, his ability to recognize things in the midst of the games is something that really stood out to me,” McVay said, adding, “He’s just so steady.”

The Cardinals are coming off a 31-19 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Quarterback Kyler Murray and receiver DeAndre Hopkins lead an offense that is averaging 34.3 points a game, tied with the Buccaneers for the league lead.

Stafford could be tested by a defense that features outside linebacker Chandler Jones, lineman J.J. Watt — a three-time NFL defensive player of the year — and safety Budda Baker.

“Their defense is playing at high clip,” Stafford said, “so we’ve got a big challenge.”

Etc.

Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (ankle), receiver Tutu Atwell (illness) and cornerback Robert Rochell (illness) did not practice, per the Rams injury report. Running back Darrell Henderson (ribs) was limited. “The anticipation is that he’ll play, but not 100% sure on that,” McVay said before practice. ... Linebacker Obo Okoronkwo and offensive lineman Tremayne Anchrum have been designated to return from injured reserve. With Justin Hollins sidelined because of a chest muscle injury, Okoronkwo could play Sunday in rotation with Terrell Lewis. The Rams also claimed outside linebacker Jamir Jones off waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers.


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