Rams beat Cardinals, finding rhythm after 'humbling experience' in opener

GLENDALE, Ariz. — There are pivotal moments and games that define a season for all 32 teams around the NFL.

For the Los Angeles Rams, one critical chapter came in their season opener, a 31-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills. The Week 1 rout did not sit well.

“One-hundred percent. It was a humbling experience,” Aaron Donald told USA TODAY Sports. “We didn’t play our best. But when you don’t do what you need to do, you try to find ways to correct it and do better.”

The Rams have elevated their play since then. Los Angeles has won two consecutive games after its 20-12 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, giving up the fewest amount of points in their three games this season. The 2-1 Rams held Kyler Murray and the Cardinals out of the end zone and had Arizona’s offense out of rhythm for most of the contest.

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Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers (3) celebrates a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half at State Farm Stadium.
Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers (3) celebrates a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half at State Farm Stadium.

Rams outside linebacker Leonard Floyd pointed to the team’s Week 1 loss as being an wake-up call for the defending Super Bowl champions.

“They came out and smacked us in the mouth,” Floyd said. “Ever since then, everybody has been grinding to get better.”

Sunday’s win over the Cardinals wasn’t a typical Rams offensive explosion, either. Quarterback Matthew Stafford had 249 passing yards and zero touchdown passes. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp produced a modest four catches for 44 yards, while running back Cam Akers ran for 61 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.

"You look around the league, there are really good teams or quote-unquote 'really good' teams," Stafford said. "Who knows, we are three games in. Everybody is just trying to figure out how they can continue to get better and try to fight through injuries."

The Rams had to grind out the divisional win. But that’s what good football teams do: Find ways to win, even if it isn’t pretty.

“It is great. We have so many guys who can ball out and step up,” Kupp said. “Having guys across the board that can make plays is huge.”

The Rams jumped out to a 13-0 lead. Arizona didn’t hit its first of four field goals until under two minutes remaining in the first half. Murray was sacked twice and finished the loss with a 77.8 passer rating.

Los Angeles has now won three straight games over its NFC West rivals. Consequently, Arizona has lost seven in a row at home.

Sunday’s game, though, was about the Rams beginning to resemble the team that won last year’s Super Bowl. They made progress, winning in all three phases.

“We have been working hard trying to get back to our way of success and how we play. Today was a big step towards that,” Floyd said. “I believe we can get even better. It’s another notch we can take it as a defense and offense and special teams.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Tyler Dragon on Twitter @TheTylerDragon.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rams back on track after 'humbling experience' in opener