There will be firsts at SoFi Stadium when the Arizona Cardinals travel to Inglewood on Monday, January 17th to take on the Los Angeles Rams.
First Monday Night Football Playoff Game in NFL History? Both checked this box. First playoff appearance for Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury? Both will experience this for the first time in their NFL careers as quarterback and head coach. Will these two teams meet for the first time as divisional opponents in the playoffs? Yes, since the 1975 division round meeting when the Cards represented the NFC East as St. Louis.
But there’s another key moment for NFC West’s rivals to clash at the crystallized SoFi Stadium – one that a Rams executive alluded to in a conversation with Heavy on Thursday, January 13.
When it comes to sports, Martin Luther King Day often turns into an action-packed NBA date — especially with MLK uniforms worn on the ground by the Atlanta Hawks a year ago.
But the first-ever Monday Night Football playoff game will also be the first-ever NFL game, let alone any nationally televised football game, to be played on MLK Day.
Rams executive vice president and chief operating officer Kevin Demoff spoke to Heavy during the Super Bowl 30 Days Out event held Thursday at the venue where the Cardinals and his team will be part of the story. Demoff shared his reaction to the moment.
“I even think back to last week for our Week 18 Inspire Change game when we honored Kenny Washington (former Ram who signed the first-ever NFL contract among African American players). I think it suits us to play the first Martin Luther King Day game in NFL history. And we’re working with the NFL on how to bring this game to life to properly celebrate Martin Luther King,” Demoff said.
Both teams finished the 2021–22 season in the losing category.
But while the Cardinals lost their chance to win the division and host a playoff game by losing 38-30 to the Seattle Seahawks to close out the regular season, the Rams suffered an even more painful defeat: the 27-24 loss in overtime when they lost a half-time lead for the first time under head coach Sean McVay.
Oh, they also lost a 17-point lead with a chance to secure the No. 2 seed against the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Demoff was describing the moment after the Rams were defeated.
“It was such a melancholy moment when you left the stadium on Sunday: you won the division, you’re wearing your NFC West champion’s hat. But you lost such a heartbreaking game,” Demoff said. “Then you anxiously wait for your phone to find out, ‘OK, we’re going to have a game next week. Will it be Saturday or Sunday?’ And you really didn’t think about Monday. And then, of course, the NFL texts you, ‘Hey, you’re going to host Monday Night Football.'”
Now the Rams will aim to redeem themselves as the Cardinals try to finish their season — making it two years in a row that the NFC West champion fell in the first round if the Cards beat LA
But the excitement for the game continues to build – especially with the MLK theme in this competition.
“I’m just thrilled to be hosting the first playoff game in SoFi history. The first year this building opens for the Rams in the NFL’s most competitive division, with three teams in the playoffs and three teams with double-digit wins. Winning this division and being able to host a playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals and being the first Monday Night game in NFL history and the first Martin Luther King Day game in NFL history is a special moment for all of us and for Los Angeles. ‘ Demoff said. “We hope that we put on a good show and emerge victorious.”