INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Although the Los Angeles Rams have played plenty of stellar offensive football over the past seven seasons, Sean McVay's team hasn't usually done it by simply squaring its shoulders and running the ball straight through opposing defenses.
The Rams ran it relentlessly in the second half against Arizona on Sunday, and the result was a runaway win.
Kyren Williams rushed for a career-high 158 yards and a touchdown, and Cooper Kupp made seven receptions for 148 yards and his first TD of the season in the Rams' 26-9 victory over the Cardinals.
Williams produced the Rams' best individual rushing performance in nearly three years despite getting just 4 yards on two carries in the first half. McVay dramatically leaned into the running game after halftime, even calling eight consecutive runs to begin the third quarter, and his players responded superbly to the test of their toughness.
“It's awesome. I love it,” said Matthew Stafford, who passed for 226 yards. “I was so fired up, stepping back into the huddle each time with a run play. Those guys were loving it. ... Wasn't anything too tricky. Just line up and go play ball.”
The Rams (3-3) scored 23 unanswered points and shut out their NFC West rivals in the second half of their first home victory of the season.
McVay focused his offense on Williams, the second-year pro from Notre Dame whose play allowed the Rams to trade away Cam Akers last month. Williams broke off runs of 31, 27, 17 and 14 yards after halftime, and he put the Rams comfortably ahead with 8:19 to play on a gritty 5-yard TD run, stretching the ball past his tacklers and over the goal line near the pylon to end an 88-yard drive.
“That's something I've always wanted," Williams said of his heavy workload, with 58 carries in the last three games. “I never had to adjust to it, because I was always working toward it. I always knew I had it in me, so now it's just displaying the work that I put in before.”
Williams' 158 yards were the most by a Rams running back since Akers had 171 against New England in December 2020, the season before Los Angeles’ Super Bowl championship run.
“He was running like an absolute man on a mission today,” McVay said. “He was the star in the second half.”
Joshua Dobbs passed for 235 yards for the Cardinals (1-5), who lost their third straight while attempting to remain competitive without Kyler Murray. Arizona led 9-6 at halftime, but Dobbs threw a red-zone interception and fumbled on a sack during the second half as Los Angeles rolled away.
“We did things well, so there are things to build on,” Dobbs said. “But just two or three plays, man, that you don’t convert a couple of third downs and settle for field goals and turn over the ball in the red zone, that’s what the game comes down to.”
Kupp caught a 13-yard TD pass to cap that run-heavy drive in the third quarter for the first score of his season, which began only last week after a serious hamstring injury in training camp. The Super Bowl 56 MVP also missed the final eight games of last season.
Neither team reached the end zone in the first half, with the Cardinals failing even after Los Angeles' Austin Trammell fumbled away a punt return at the Rams 17. Arizona led 9-6 at halftime after the Rams ran out of time to get to the end zone following a 49-yard catch by Kupp in the final minutes.
“Those are four-point plays, you know what I mean?” coach Jonathan Gannon said of Arizona’s red zone failures. “The points are at a premium there, and we’ve just got to get back in the lab and make sure we’re putting our guys in positions to make plays.”
Arizona drove to the Rams 12 after Kupp's TD, but linebacker Christian Rozeboom made his first career interception on a tipped pass thrown behind Zach Ertz.
Los Angeles rookie Byron Young forced a fumble while sacking Dobbs later in the half.
Record-setting rookie receiver Puka Nacua had only four catches for 26 yards, but he excelled as a blocker. His 50 catches and 598 yards receiving are still the most by any player in his first six NFL games in the Super Bowl era.
Cardinals: CB Antonio Hamilton injured his groin in the fourth quarter. ... Both starting safeties sat out. Jalen Thompson, a native of nearby Compton, missed his first game of the season (hamstring). Budda Baker (hamstring) is on injured reserve. ... RB James Conner also sat out for the first time this season after going on injured reserve (knee).
Rams: Williams missed the Rams’ final offensive series after injuring his ankle, but it doesn’t appear to be serious. ... Backup RB Ronnie Rivers injured his knee early in the second half. ... Rookie NT Kobie Turner made his first career start and had five tackles in place of injured Bobby Brown.
Cardinals: Visit Seahawks on Sunday, Oct. 22.
Rams: Host Steelers on Sunday, Oct. 22.
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