2 big Kyler Murray INTs help Rams to big win as Cardinals lose grip on No. 1 seed in NFC

Two bad plays from Kyler Murray. That's all it took to change the Arizona Cardinals' footing in the NFC, and maybe the NFC West too.

That's why the NFL is so hard. The Cardinals had the league's best record until Monday night kicked off. Then the Cardinals lost 30-23 to the Los Angeles Rams — and had a chance to at least tie after a late onside kick recovery, but Aaron Donald ended the game with a sack — and will wake up Tuesday as the No. 3 seed in the NFC.

That's three months of really good football unraveled by one loss. Any kudos the Cardinals were getting will be replaced by skepticism and questions about their legitimacy. That's life in an incredibly competitive league.

It's not even like Monday night was a blowout. The Rams were better, but not by a ton. The game flipped on two bad plays Murray would surely like to have back. Two plays could cost the Cardinals dearly when the playoffs are seeded. Those miscues might even cost Arizona a division title.

Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals is tackled by Greg Gaines of the Los Angeles Rams. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals is tackled by Greg Gaines of the Los Angeles Rams. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Kyler Murray has a couple bad INTs

The Cardinals came out strong. They led 3-0 early and were driving for more. They got inside the 10-yard line. Then Murray made his first mistake.

Murray tried forcing a pass. It was tipped at the line by the great Aaron Donald and intercepted by linebacker Ernest Jones. It was returned 31 yards, setting up a long drive and a touchdown that gave the Rams a 7-3 lead. Donald made a great play, but it might have been intercepted anyway. There was nowhere Murray could squeeze the ball to intended receiver Zach Ertz. Had Murray thrown it into the ground and lived to try again on third down, maybe the Cardinals lead 10-0 or at least 6-0 and the game goes differently.

The second interception was undeniably Murray's fault. The Rams scored quickly on a long Van Jefferson Jr. touchdown to start the second half. A seven-point deficit was no big deal to Arizona. But the Rams pushed the lead to 14 after Murray tried to float a pass over Leonard Floyd. It didn't get over Floyd, who tipped it to himself for an interception. The Rams cashed that turnover in with a short drive that was capped by a Cooper Kupp touchdown.

That was it. Two big turnovers that led to 14 Rams points. The Cardinals played pretty well. Murray made plenty of great plays too. But in a tight game against a talented division rival, the two mistakes is all Los Angeles needed to take control of the game, and cause the Cardinals to lose control of the NFC's top seed.


Rams close out a big win

It was a great Rams performance. They started the season hot but hadn't beaten a quality opponent in a while.

The Rams found out Monday they'd be without star cornerback Jalen Ramsey and tight end Tyler Higbee, who were put on the COVID-19 list. The Rams were two games behind the Cardinals, had already lost to Arizona by 17 earlier in the season, and a loss Monday night would have effectively ended the division race. Their backs were against the wall, and they responded. Murray made mistakes on those big interceptions, but the defense deserves credit for forcing them. Stafford made some nice throws, especially on the 52-yard touchdown to Jefferson. Kupp was great, as usual. He had 13 catches for 123 yards. The Rams defense got two crucial fourth-down stops, one on a rare DeAndre Hopkins drop and another when James Conner was stuffed short in the fourth quarter. It was a win that keeps the Rams' divisional hopes alive.

The Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are now tied with the Cardinals for the best record in the NFC. In the expanded playoff field, only one team in each conference gets a bye. The race for the No. 1 seed is enormous. The Cardinals have been in that spot most of the season, but aren't anymore.

The Cardinals did get a valuable lesson Monday. The margins for error as a Super Bowl contender are practically non-existent. Even a couple mistakes can change an entire season.