With running back Todd Gurley sidelined by a knee injury on Sunday, new Los Angeles Rams signee C.J. Anderson filled in admirably in his team’s dominating 31-9 win over the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday.
Anderson, the former Denver Broncos running back who signed on Tuesday, had one of the Rams’ three rushing touchdowns in the game. Wideout Robert Woods and quarterback Jared Goff ran for the others in the first half.
The Rams, who led 21-9 by halftime, set the tone early putting up 21 first downs in the first half, gaining 139 yards rushing on 22 carries on the ground.
Anderson finished carrying the ball 20 times for 167 yards and a touchdown. The Cardinals allowed 269 rushing yards in the game, a season-worst.
“The run defense was just horrendous,” Arizona coach Steve Wilks said.
Anderson has been released three times this year — by the Broncos in April, the Carolina Panthers in November and the Oakland Raiders 12 days ago — but he looked like he was in top form with the Rams against the Cardinals.
“If you watch the tape, that was nothing different than my game from what I’ve done plenty of times,” Anderson said. “The big boys played really great up front. Obviously I get nothing going if it wasn’t for them. That’s been my game since I’ve been in (the league) for six years. If you ever paid attention to any football with C.J. Anderson in it, you wouldn’t be surprised at all.”
Los Angeles (12-3) held on to the second-best record in the NFC with one game to go. The Cardinals (3-12) finished 1-7 at home, their worst record since they moved to Arizona in 1988. A loss in their season finale at Seattle would leave them 3-13, matching the worst record since moving from St. Louis.
The Rams will be back at home to complete the regular season Sunday against the 49ers.
Los Angeles backup running back John Kelly added 10 carries for 40 yards while wide receiver Brandin Cooks (27 yards), tight end Gerald Everett (16 yards) and Woods (15 yards with the touchdown) were used effectively on fly sweeps.
“We’ve got to do a better job,” Arizona defensive tackle Corey Peters said. “No ifs, ands, buts about it.”
The Rams were just as dominant in the second half, maintaining possession a majority of the half.
That was in large part because of defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who broke two records with his 3.0 sacks on quarterback Josh Rosen. Donald set the league’s single-season record for sacks by a defensive tackle, then broke the overall franchise single-season sack record. He now has 19.5 sacks.
Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald, perhaps playing his last game with the Cardinals after spending 15 years with the franchise, dazzled the crowd with a 32-yard touchdown pass to running back David Johnson on a double-pass play. Placekicker Zane Gonzalez missed the extra point, keeping the Rams’ lead at 14-9.
The Rams put together another methodical drive on their ensuing possession, with L.A. converting a pair of third-down chances with an 18-yard pass from Goff to Cooks, and a two-yard jet sweep by Cooks on 3rd-and-1.
Anderson topped off the 12-play, 75-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown — his first rushing TD of this season — to give the Rams a 21-9 lead.
Los Angeles began the second half on defense, forcing a punt after defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh recorded a sack and batted a third-down pass by Josh Rosen.
After the Rams went up 24-9, Anderson broke off a 46-yard run to put the Rams at the Cardinals’ 49. A couple plays later, Woods caught a 39-yard touchdown to give Los Angeles a 31-9 lead. Woods also became just the fourth player in NFL history with 14 straight games with at least 60 receiving yards within a single season on the reception.
Rosen left the game in the fourth quarter, the second straight game he was forced to leave because of subpar play. He finished 12-of-23 for 87 yards without a touchdown or an interception.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s my fault,” Rosen said of his early exit.
Goff, meanwhile, completed 19 of 24 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown, a good bounce-back performance after struggling last week in a loss at home to the Philadelphia Eagles.
“He has great command,” Rams coach Sean McVay said of Goff. “I thought he did an excellent job commanding the run game, did a good job recognizing coverage, getting the ball where it was supposed to go when we did decide to throw it.”