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Rams 2-0 for first time since 2001 after blanking Cardinals

September 17, 2018
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Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley scores past Arizona Cardinals defensive back Patrick Peterson during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams had a short week to prepare for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.

It didn’t look as if they needed extra time.

The Rams dominated the Cardinals 34-0. Los Angeles has won its first two games for the first time since 2001, when it started 6-0 en route to the third Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

“We responded the right way physically and mentally (after a 33-13 win over Oakland last Monday),” Rams coach Sean McVay said.

“It is a credit to our players. Offensively we were able to capitalize on some short fields while the defense and special teams were outstanding.”

Todd Gurley ran for three touchdowns while Jared Goff threw for 354 yards and a touchdown.

The Rams allowed only five first downs, recorded tackles for loss on six running plays and didn’t allow the Cardinals to cross midfield until the final minute of the game.

On special teams, punter Johnny Hekker ended up having to do placekicking duty after Greg Zuerlein strained his groin in pregame warmups. JoJo Natson, who was signed on Wednesday, averaged 22.2 yards on six punt returns.

The Rams had 10 offensive plays of 17 yards or more. The Cardinals’ longest play went for 15 yards.

“You’re always expected to win, but when you can just go into the game with a confidence just knowing that you just have so many talented and great players on the team it makes you happy,” said Gurley, who had three rushing touchdowns for the second time in his four-year career and finished with 42 yards on 19 carries.

Goff, who has six 300-yard games, completed 24 of 32 passes, marking the third time in 24 starts he has completed more than 70 percent of his passes when making 25 or more attempts. The 354 yards were only a yard off his career high, set last season against Houston.

Goff completed passes to six receivers including Brandin Cooks, who had seven receptions for 159 yards.

The Cardinals, who went three-and-out on five of their 10 drives, fell to 0-2 for the first time since 2005. Sam Bradford, the first overall draft pick by the Rams in 2010, was 17 of 27 for 90 yards in his first start against his former team.

“When you look at the game it’s a little deja vu from last week,” Arizona coach Steve Wilks said. “We just couldn’t find ourselves making a play. A lot of things that we need to address moving forward across the board, personnel, everything, scheme, and we’ll look to do that as we get back on Monday.”

The Rams opened the scoring early in the second quarter with Gurley’s 11-yard run. They successfully went for the 2-point conversion on Gurley’s run.

Hekker’s 20-yard field goal extended the lead to 11-0 before Gurley had a 1-yard touchdown and 2-point conversion on the final plays of the first half.

The Rams extended their lead to 27-0 in the third quarter on Gurley’s 2-yard run and Goff’s pass to Malcolm Brown on the conversion. They added another touchdown in the fourth quarter when Goff connected with a wide-open Tyler Higbee for 3 yards.

Since trailing Oakland 13-10 at halftime in the opener, the Rams have scored 57 unanswered points over their past six quarters.

“If we can play elite defense like that and put up zeroes across the board and let our offense just run up and down the field, so be it,” defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said.

BLANKING ARIZONA

This is the second time in three games that the Rams have shut out the Cardinals. Los Angeles has scored 32 or more points in all three meetings and has won by an average of 27.7 points.

SPECIAL TEAMS ADJUSTMENTS

The Rams went for the 2-pointers after their first three touchdowns due to Zuerlein’s injury. Hekker handled kickoff duties as well as punting.

JoJo Natson, who was signed after 2017 All-Pro Pharoh Cooper was lost for the year with an ankle injury, had a strong debut as the team’s returner, averaging 22.2 yards on six punt returns and one kick return for 22 yards. His 60-yard punt return in the second quarter helped set up Gurley’s second touchdown.

McVay said he doesn’t know what Zuerlein’s status is going forward.

INJURIES

Cardinals: WR Larry Fitzgerald injured his hamstring during the fourth quarter and did not return. Fitzgerald said after the game that he could have continued to play but that he didn’t know how effective he would have been.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have two straight home games, beginning next Sunday against Chicago.

Rams: Host the Chargers in the first regular-season Battle of Los Angeles between the two teams.

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Follow Joe Reedy at www.twitter.com/joereedy

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