INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The lyrics of Randy Newman’s iconic song “I Love L.A.” blasted inside a fanless SoFi Stadium as the Los Angeles Rams retreated to a celebratory locker room with a playoff berth secured.
“We get an opportunity to play for it all now,” Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald said after an 18-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. “All we had to do was win this game, get our foot in, and now that’s all we need.”
The Rams finish 10-6 and earn the No. 6 seed, marking their third playoff berth in four seasons under coach Sean McVay.
They will play the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks (12-4) in the wild-card round next Saturday at Lumen Field.
“That’s what we wanted,” Donald said about the matchup. “That’s exactly what we wanted.”
The Seahawks and Rams split their regular-season series, though the Seahawks clinched the division title with a 20-9 win over the Rams in Week 16.
“Unbelievable, I don’t think you could ask for much more,” McVay said about returning to Seattle.
The biggest question now facing McVay and the Rams is who will play quarterback when the playoffs begin.
In his first NFL start Sunday, quarterback John Wolford overcame throwing an interception on his second play from scrimmage to prove himself as a serviceable backup with Jared Goff sidelined after undergoing thumb surgery following Week 16.
After the game, McVay was not ready to make any determinations for next week.
Will Wolford start again?
“We’ll talk about that,” McVay said.
Will Goff be ready to play?
“I’m not sure on that right now,” McVay added.
With leading receiver Cooper Kupp unavailable on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Wolford provided a dual-threat option as he completed 22 of 38 passes for 223 yards with an interception and rushed for 56 yards in six carries.
“I had a lot of fun, to be honest,” Wolford said. “A little bit anxious going in if I’m being 100% honest. Once I got rolling, I was just playing a football game.”
The Rams’ defense provided the caliber of play that has Donald eyeing a return to the Super Bowl, as the unit gave up only 214 total yards of offense and had four sacks, and cornerback Troy Hill scored his third defensive touchdown of the season.
“We just came together,” said outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, who earned a $1.25 million incentive when he reached 10.5 sacks for the season. “We believed in the coaching and we went out every day in practice and worked hard.”
The Rams entered Week 15 with a 99.9% chance to reach the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index but lost back-to-back games to the New York Jets and Seahawks, which saw their playoff chances dip to 89% entering Sunday’s regular-season finale.
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray left the game after the opening series because of an ankle injury and was replaced by backup Chris Streveler, before Murray returned to the game with 14:21 remaining.
In the third quarter, Hill intercepted Streveler and returned it 84 yards for a touchdown to give the Rams a 12-7 halftime lead. The pick-six was Hill’s third defensive touchdown scored this season, which ranks first in the NFL.
“We’ve just became best friends this year,” Hill said about the end zone.
The Rams have won eight straight against the Cardinals, who had the opportunity Sunday to clinch a playoff berth with a win.
The Rams’ return to the postseason avenges a disappointing 2019 season when they finished 9-7 and were the only team with a winning record to not earn a playoff berth, while also becoming only the second team since 2009 to lose in the Super Bowl and then miss the playoffs the following season.