INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The Los Angeles Rams and their roster full of stars are headed to Super Bowl LVI, where they’ll try to win a world championship on their home field.
And it was three of their biggest stars who helped get them there.
Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp connected for a pair of touchdowns during a back-and-forth NFC Championship Game against the division rival San Francisco 49ers Sunday at SoFi Stadium. After Matt Gay gave the Rams a lead in the final two minutes with a 30-yard field goal, Aaron Donald and the defense slammed the door shut, with Donald pressuring 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo into an errant throw that was intercepted by linebacker Travin Howard to seal a 20-17 win.
The Rams now face the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13. The outcome that owner Stan Kroenke had in mind when he built the $5 billion venue — and the outcome the Rams aggressively pursued by loading up their roster with one big name after another — is one step closer to reality. Even if the road to get there was more stressful than they might have preferred.
A week after holding off a furious comeback bid by Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Rams rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter against a 49ers team that had beaten them six consecutive times. Before Sunday, the Rams had been 0-14 under coach Sean McVay when trailing by 10 or more points entering the fourth quarter, including playoffs. That included 0-4 this season.
Gay’s 30-yard game winner was the same distance as the field goal he made as time expired to lift the Rams to a win over Brady and the defending world champions in last week’s divisional round.
Stafford now becomes the seventh quarterback to start a Super Bowl in his first season with a team. He’ll try to join Brady (2020 Buccaneers) and Trent Dilfer (2000 Baltimore Ravens) as the only three to win it.
Kupp, the fifth player since the 1970 merger to win the NFC’s receiving triple crown, finished with 11 catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns, giving him four this postseason. His 386 yards are third most in a postseason before the Super Bowl.
The 49ers had kept Donald at bay for much of the night before his late pressure of Garoppolo. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year didn’t have a QB pressure through the first three quarters Sunday, as the Rams as a whole pressured Garoppolo on just four of his 22 dropbacks in the opening three quarters (18%). In the fourth quarter, however, Los Angeles pressured Garoppolo on seven of his nine dropbacks (77%).
The Rams secured their second Super Bowl berth since hiring McVay before the 2017 season. They lost to Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.
Source: ESPN NFL