Short-handed Los Angeles Rams win key NFC West matchup against Arizona Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey returned to Los Angeles on a private jet after producing a positive COVID-19 test, while tight end Tyler Higbee was left to wonder whether he had contracted the coronavirus at all after a series of tests produced differing results.

In the hours leading to kickoff against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football, the Rams were scrambling to make roster moves after Ramsey and Higbee joined three other teammates on the reserve/COVID-19 list, making them unavailable to play.

"My initial reaction was, 'You got to be s---ting me,'" Rams coach Sean McVay said about the situation. "You don't replace those kind of guys."

McVay was correct. His key playmakers are irreplaceable. But none of that proved to matter by the game's end.

Down four starters on reserve/COVID-19, and after having lost three of their previous four games, the Rams defeated the division-leading Cardinals 30-23. And now Los Angeles sits only a game behind Arizona in the NFC West after splitting the season series.

The Rams improved to 9-4, while the Cardinals fell to 10-3.

"We're playing good," said Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who had three sacks and a tipped pass. "We ain't arrived. We still got to do things to get us in a great position that we want to be in."

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford completed 23 of 30 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns, as the 13th-year pro ended a three-game losing streak on Monday Night Football.

"I felt good about it," Stafford said about his performance. "There were some things that you obviously want back ... but I felt like we managed the game really well."

Cooper Kupp caught 13 passes for a game-high 123 yards and a touchdown for the Rams, and he now leads all NFL receivers in receptions, yards and touchdowns -- an accomplishment achieved at season's end by only three players since the merger (Jerry Rice, Sterling Sharpe and Steve Smith), according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Four games into his tenure with the Rams, Odell Beckham Jr. continued to ingratiate himself with the offense after catching his third touchdown pass in as many games, marking the first time since 2015 that the eighth-year pro has recorded a TD reception in three straight games.

"It's just great to be having fun," Beckham said. "This is big kids at heart who love football."

Beckham finished with six catches for 77 yards, and Rams second-year wideout Van Jefferson caught two passes for 58 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown reception.

On defense, in an effort led by Donald (who had a sack on the first and last plays of the game), linebackers Ernest Jones and Leonard Floyd each intercepted a pass from Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray, who finished 32-of-49 passing for 383 yards. The Rams converted both takeaways into touchdowns.

"This was a must-win," Floyd said. "Our backs were against the wall."

The Rams were as short-handed as they've been all season due to the coronavirus, which caused five players in total to miss Monday's game.

"It was definitely shocking," Donald said about the late placement of Ramsey and Higbee on the reserve/COVID-19 list. "Jalen sent a text to me. I told him we was going to hold it down for him."

"Wish I could be out there tonight," Ramsey wrote on his Instagram page before the game. "I'm pissed off but Go Rams tho regardless! (I feel fine/normal)..."

L.A. running back Darrell Henderson Jr. was placed on the COVID-19 list on Saturday, followed by right tackle Rob Havenstein and cornerback Dont'e Deayon on Sunday.

Sony Michel started in Henderson's absence and rushed for 79 yards on 20 carries, and reserve tackle Joe Noteboom started in Havenstein's absence.

The Rams now return to Los Angeles, where they will play the 5-8 Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.