Rams no longer just the best team on paper

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Rams could be the best team in football, and that might not be up for debate after a shutout victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

The offense? Unstoppable, as Jared Goff utilized every playmaker to score 34 points.

The defense? Impenetrable, with Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald hunting quarterback Sam Bradford and not allowing a point.

And special teams? They managed even without Pro Bowl kicker Greg Zuerlein, who was sidelined unexpectedly before the game because of a groin injury suffered during warm-ups.

"Great team win," coach Sean McVay said after the 34-0 victory, adding that the defense was "outstanding," the offense was "able to capitalize" and special teams was "excellent."

It wasn't just coachspeak.

The Rams (2-0) overhauled their defense this offseason in an effort to improve the 19th-ranked unit. They traded for Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib and signed Suh in free agency. After it was assembled, the made-over group, which also features NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Donald, was called the best in the league, at least on paper.

On Sunday, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' unit earned the title of best on the field.

The Rams limited the Cardinals (0-2) to 43 total plays, five first downs and 137 yards of total offense.

Bradford had to hurry most of his throws, knowing Suh and Donald were on their way. Bradford completed 17 of 27 passes for 90 yards, with an interception. Running back David Johnson was held to 48 yards on 13 carries.

"I feel like we can even get better," said Donald, who rebounded from a subpar Week 1 performance and finished with four tackles. "That's the scary thing."

Suh, who signed a one-year, $14 million contract, played it cool when asked if the Rams had proved that they were more than just the best offense on paper.

"I still stick to us being very elite on paper," said Suh, who finished with a tackle and quarterback hit. "But we have to continue to play week in and week out. We're going to have different tests, especially as people understand how we play."

Talib broke up two passes before halftime. Peters finished with a lone tackle as his side of the field went untargeted by Bradford.

"You put a bunch of alpha dogs on one defense and it's either going to be good or it's going to be terrible," Talib said. "And this one turned out to be good."

A week after coach McVay expressed frustration with the Rams' red zone offense against the Oakland Raiders, the unit had no choice but to work through its issues with no kicker to rely on.

Gurley scored three red zone touchdowns and also converted two two-point conversions. Tight end Tyler Higbee caught a 3-yard touchdown for his first reception of the season.

"Compared to last week, we did a great job of putting the ball in the end zone, in the red zone," Gurley said. "That's what matters at the end of the day."

Gurley rushed for 42 yards and three touchdowns in 19 carries and caught three passes for 31 yards.

As for the deep passes that Goff struggled to complete against the Raiders? That issue was resolved in less than a week.

Goff aired it out to Brandin Cooks, who caught a 57-yard strike in third quarter. Robert Woods also made an impressive 21-yard catch. And not to be left out, Cooper Kupp caught a 29-yard throw.

"Today, you kind of felt that rhythm start to happen," Goff said about his timing with Cooks. "I think all three [receivers], like I always say, they complement each other so well."

Goff completed 24 of 32 passes for 354 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Cooks, acquired in a trade from the New England Patriots, caught seven passes for 159 yards in his Los Angeles debut.

Woods caught six passes for 81 yards and Kupp caught six passes 63 yards.

As for the less-often spoken about special teams, punter Johnny Hekker took over kickoff duties, kicked a 20-yard field goal to put the Rams up 11-0 in the second quarter and kicked a point-after-touchdown at the end the game. Returner JoJo Natson, who last Sunday watched NFL games from his home in Florida before the Rams signed him on Wednesday, had a 60-yard punt return.

When asked after the game how deep into the season the Rams can go, Gurley didn't hesitate with a response.

"We can go pretty far," Gurley said, before he pivoted to a Week 3 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Rams have all the pieces to go to a Super Bowl. They proved it on Sunday.