GLENDALE — Five weeks ago in London, the Los Angeles Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals 33-0 , the biggest Rams winning margin in the history of the long series.
Now the Rams (8-3) roll into the desert looking to solidify their spot atop the NFC West against the Cardinals (5-6), who are coming off their best win of the season, 27-24 over Jacksonville in Glendale.
Los Angeles is a touchdown favorite and, with a win on Sunday, would secure the Rams’ first winning season since 2003.
That blowout loss in London is a painful memory for the Cardinals:
• “We didn’t show up,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said.
• “It should be an embarrassment when you watch the film, the way we played,” coach Bruce Arians said.
• “That game was a nightmare,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “And the trip home was a long one, brother.”
But the Rams, predictably, are downplaying the magnitude of that rout as they look for their sixth win in the last seven games.
“I think the score of that game’s not indicative of the way the game was really going up until the end of the first half,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “We were able to pull away there at the end of the first half, but up until four or five minutes left in the first half it was a 7-0 game, I believe, or 10-0 game - I can’t quite remember. .. It’ll be a tough division game no matter.”
Actually, the Rams led 6-0 before outscoring Arizona 17-0 the final 5:25 of the half.
Blaine Gabbert wasn’t even in uniform that day in London. Carson Palmer broke his left arm in the game and Drew Stanton took over as backup, until a knee issue opened the way for Gabbert, who has had two productive starts.
Gabbert said the Cardinals are facing “a great defense” this week.
“They have a great front seven,” he said. “Their secondary is playing hard. They’re forcing turnovers, they’re playing fast. We’re going to have our hands full, but at the end of the day, we’re going to focus on what we can control: going out there and execute each and every play, not getting ahead of ourselves, and just playing good football.”
The Rams are trying to sweep the season series against Arizona for only the second time in the last 14 years. They last did it in 2012.
Arizona running back Adrian Peterson was bothered this week by a neck injury sustained in the Jacksonville game. The Cardinals depend heavily on Peterson to take the pressure off Gabbert, but the Rams effectively shut him down in London, limiting the 2012 league MVP to 21 yards on 11 carries.
“He’s fine. He was out there,” Goodwin said after Thursday’s practice. “Adrian’s a competitor so I expect him to do like he always does.”
The transformation of the Los Angeles offense under first-year coach Sean McVay is impressive. The Rams enter Sunday’s game as the NFL’s second-highest scoring team (29.9 points per game).
And Goff has been terrific on the road this season.
In games away from Los Angeles, the second-year quarterback has completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,207 yards and 10 touchdowns with no interceptions.
“He (McVay) has put him in a system that he fits,” Arians said. “They do a lot of ‘check with me’ at the line of scrimmage. They don’t huddle. A lot of that is coming from the sidelines to match him up in the best play.”
Above all else, the Cardinals want to shut down Todd Gurley, who ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns in the London game.