Rams

Rams Staying Home for Super Bowl: LA Punches Ticket to Super Bowl LVI After 20-17 Victory Over 49ers in NFC Championship Game

The Rams rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half to defeat the San Francisco 49ers 20-1at SoFi Stadium in the NFC Championship Game. Snapping the Rams seven-game losing streak against their fiercest rivals.

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams
Christian Petersen

Sean McVay stood alone on the Los Angeles Rams' sideline. A long-sleeved royal blue t-shirt accentuated his muscular physique. A Bose headset covered his ears and short spiky hair, in his hand was a laminated play sheet. This was the look of the Rams' young head coach. The wunderkind conductor that despite a bevy of head-scratching decisions, defeated his biggest rival, orchestrating a trip to the Super Bowl like a symphony.

The Rams rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half to defeat the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 at SoFi Stadium in the NFC Championship Game. Snapping the Rams seven-game losing streak against their fiercest rivals.

Matthew Stafford threw for 337 yards and two touchdowns, both to Cooper Kupp who finished with 11 catches for 142 yards and two scores.

“He's been unbelievable for us all year," said Stafford of Kupp. "Huge on third down. Huge in big plays. Got blocks. Does everything. Great teammate. We're all lucky to be able to play with him. And I'm just so happy for his success. And his success helps us succeed as well."

Stafford will head to the first Super Bowl of his 13-year career despite the fact that three weeks ago a single playoff victory had evaded him. Meanwhile, the Rams organization will be featured in the big game for just the fifth time in franchise history, and the second time in the last three years.

"I'm so proud of our group. So proud of our players, our coaches. Just proud to be associated with these guys," said McVay who will now coach in his second Super Bowl in two weeks. "So many special men in that locker room. I love this team. We've got one more."

The back-and-forth battle began on the Rams second drive. Stafford drove the Rams offense down to the San Francisco 3-yard line, but his 3rd and goal pass to Cooper Kupp was tipped into the air and intercepted by Jimmie Ward in the end zone. It was Stafford's first interception of the postseason, and the third time Ward had intercepted him this season.

Despite the turnover, the Rams struck first when Stafford found Kupp, the NFL's leading receiver this season, in the far right corner of the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 8:46 remaining in the 2nd quarter.

The 49ers would then run off 17 straight unanswered points, starting with a screen pass on San Francisco's ensuing drive that Deebo Samuel took 44 yards to the house, bulldozing Rams defenders along the way for the game-tying score. Samuel's touchdown ended a six-quarter scoreless streak for San Francisco.

After a 54-yard missed field goal for the Rams gave the 49ers great field position, Robbie Gould ended the half with a 38-yard chip shot that sent San Francisco into the locker room with the lead. During the 2021 postseason, teams leading at halftime were 8-2 entering Sunday's contest.

"Yeah, we emphasize that every second," said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan about not letting up at halftime. "Guys didn't let up, they made a hell of a play on short yardage and got an opportunity to get it back and they didn't get many opportunities after that."

The Rams bad luck boiled over to start the second half. A quarterback sneak by Stafford on 4th and 1 fell centimeters shy of the first down and gave the 49ers the ball back with great field position again. San Francisco struck gold 10 plays later when Garoppolo found tight-end George Kittle for 16-yard touchdown pass.

The Rams would battle back on their next possession. Stafford capped off a seven-play, 75-yard drive when he found Kupp streaking into the end zone for the 11-yard touchdown pass that cut the 49ers lead to 17-14.

After another bad decision by McVay to challenge a 3rd and 2 stop by the defense, the Rams forced a punt and got the ball back deep in their own territory. Two plays into the drive, Stafford found Odell Beckham Jr. down the sideline for a 30-yard catch that included a helmet-to-helmet hit for an extra 15 yards. A few plays later, Matt Gay connected on a 39-yard field goal that tied the game at 17-17.

After a quick three-and-out by the Rams' defense, Los Angeles drove the length of the field for the go-ahead 29-yard field goal.

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On the ensuing 49ers drive, Garoppolo was hurried and his shovel pass fell off the fingers of JaMycal Hasty and into the awaiting arms of Travin Howard for the game-sealing interception.

"The stars shine the brightest when they need to," said McVay of the interception, which was forced by defensive tackle Aaron Donald who had his arms around Garoppolo when he released the ball. "Guys also stepped up when they were asked to. Travin Howard has done a great job over the last month. Chris Shula [linebacker's coach] has been outstanding with him."

McVay's merciless football machine has dispatched of many playoff foes in a multitude of different ways this postseason. Much like the composer that has to lead all the different families of instruments, McVay too has had to make sure each section of his team is operating at its peak. Whether it's the balletic offense, elevated by the offseason acquisition of Stafford. The unrelenting pass rush led by Donald and former Super Bowl champion Von Miller, or his special teams unit led by first-time Pro Bowl kicker Matt Gay, each earthbound attack developing and improving throughout the season, culminating in a championship concerto with a seat at the Super Bowl table on the line.

"The story could not be written any better," said Odell Beckham Jr. after the victory standing next to his best friend Miller.

"If we had won that game [in week 18 against San Francisco] I don't think things line up to create this path for us," said Miller of the journey. "It definitely feels good to get our lick back."

McVay and the Rams will now have their shot at redemption in their first Super Bowl appearance since Super Bowl VLIII against the New England Patriots in Atlanta. L.A.'s high-potent offense was held without a touchdown in a 13-3 loss, and McVay admitted after the game that he had been out-coached.

"We've got one more," said McVay looking ahead to Super Bowl LVI. "I'm looking forward to diving into the tape and figuring out how to put together a good game plan to try to see if we can finish this thing off."

The Rams will now stay home and become the second straight team to host the Super Bowl when they face the Cincinnati Bengals on February 13, 2022 at SoFi Stadium.

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