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Matthew Stafford not the only Rams star seeking first playoff win

 Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford runs onto the field at SoFi Stadium.
The focus will be on Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford when the Arizona Cardinals come to town for an NFC wild-card playoff game Monday night.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

His NFL resume includes nearly 50,000 yards passing, dozens of comeback victories and a selection to the Pro Bowl.

But Matthew Stafford has never won a playoff game.

In 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions, Stafford was 0-3 in postseason games, his last appearance coming in 2016.

On Monday night, Stafford continues his quest for a playoff victory when the Rams play the Arizona Cardinals in an NFC wild-card game at SoFi Stadium.

“There’s no question that in the playoffs it’s win and continue, lose and go home,” Stafford said. “Not oblivious to that.

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“But the biggest thing for me is to try to be the best version of myself for this team and let the chips fall where they may.”

Von Miller might not be the player at 32 that he was when he helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50, but he’s just hitting his stride with the Rams.

Rams general manager Les Snead and coach Sean McVay went all in for Stafford when they traded quarterback Jared Goff and two first-round draft picks to the Lions. Stafford passed for 41 touchdowns with 17 interceptions as the Rams finished 12-5 and won the NFC West.

It was the first division title for Stafford, the top pick in the 2009 NFL draft. Now he has the opportunity for another first.

“Looking forward to the opportunity to go out there and get it done against Arizona,” he said.

Stafford is not the only star player for the Rams seeking his first playoff victory. Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has played in only one playoff game — a New York Giants loss to the Green Bay Packers in 2017.

Since signing with the Rams in November, Beckham has five touchdown catches in eight games. But that was the regular season.

“I don’t want to say it doesn’t mean anything,” he said of the regular season, “but everything is about this weekend.”

Rams receivers Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. (3) chat.
Odell Beckham has played in one playoff game, with the Giants, but gets another chance alongside fellow starting receiver Cooper Kupp (10).
(Kamil Krzaczynski / Associated Press)

Beckham has extra incentive to perform well and help the Rams win. According to a report by Joel Corry, a former agent who writes for CBSsports.com, Beckham’s contract contains $3 million in postseason incentives tied to victories, including $500,000 for a win Monday.

This will be the third time the Rams play the Cardinals this season. On October 3 at SoFi Stadium, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray passed for two touchdowns and befuddled the Rams with his scrambling in 37-20 victory. Two months later, despite a roster ravaged by a coronavirus outbreak, the Rams defeated the Cardinals, 30-23, at State Farm Stadium.

Will Matthew Stafford finally win a playoff game? The reputation of Sean McVay might depend on it, since the Rams coach said this quarterback would make a difference.

The defeat started the Cardinals on a three-game losing streak. They lost four of their last five games, including a defeat to the Seattle Seahawks in their season finale that enabled the Rams to claim the division title.

The Cardinals, who started the season with seven consecutive victories and were 10-2, finished 11-6. But Rams coach Sean McVay anticipates a formidable opponent in a playoff setting.

“This team was good enough to get in,” he said. “They won 11 games out of their 17. They beat us earlier in the year. We had to play really well to get after them at their place.”

In that December victory, Stafford did not commit a turnover and defensive lineman Aaron Donald had three sacks.

“Aaron Donald, he wrecked the entire game,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said during a conference call with Rams beat reporters. “I thought he had as dominating a defensive performance as you’ll see, which is not unusual for him.

“But we’ve got to find a way to try and slow that front down as best we can.”

All-Pro Rams Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Cooper Kupp ready to test their mettle in NFC wild-card home game against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals were 3-5 at home and 8-1 on the road, their only loss coming in an upset at Detroit. Kingsbury could not explain the discrepancy between road and home records.

“Wish I had an answer,” he said. “We would somehow bottle it up and use it when we’re at home, but for whatever reason that’s been the case.”

Murray will face a Rams secondary depleted by injuries. Safety Jordan Fuller suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the Rams’ loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Safety Taylor Rapp is out because of a concussion.

Snead continued to bolster the roster last week when he signed safety Eric Weddle, a six-time Pro Bowl player who retired after playing for the Rams in 2019. Weddle will play in rotation with Nick Scott and Terrell Burgess.

“If he’s feeling good and there’s no risk and we’re in a good flow, we’ll kind of just take it a snap at a time,” McVay said of the role for the 37-year-old Weddle.

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Weddle joined a star-studded team that includes Stafford, Donald, Beckham, All-Pro receiver Cooper Kupp, All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey and eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller.

Miller, the most valuable player of Super Bowl 50 when he played for the Denver Broncos, indicated that it was time for the Rams to make good on Snead’s investment.

“He’s assembled a Super Bowl team,” Miller said, “and we just want to go out there and play and get it done.”

Donald echoed that sentiment.

“With the players we got, you got to take advantage of it this year,” he said, adding, “We just got to go out there and execute at a high level with the big-time players we have.”


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