The Los Angeles Rams are headed to the Super Bowl after being forced to excel in all phases, in a comeback victory 20–17, over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional Championship at Sofi Stadium, in Inglewood, California on Sunday.
Matt Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham, and Aaron Donald starred for the Rams’ win after being down 10 points to start the fourth quarter.
“I thought we had them on the ropes, but we gave them a chance,” said 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. “When you give those guys too many chances, eventually they are going to make them.”
The Rams defense made stops shutting out the 49ers in the fourth quarter, while the offense executed three consecutive scoring drives to end the six-game losing streak against the Niners.
Following Stafford’s only interception in the game attempting to throw a TD pass to Kupp on their second drive, the Rams marched in a 97-yard drive on 18 plays, culminating in Kupp’s first of two touchdowns on the day.
Kupp would finish with 11 catches for 142 yards. He now holds the NFL record for most yards combined for a season, to include the playoffs with 2,333.
The Rams tried to establish the run early on the drive with a handful of short runs to balance the drive before completing passes to eventually score.
Odell Beckham had one of his most productive games since joining the Rams mid-season with nine catches for 113 yards.
“Thought Odell was outstanding today,” said McVay. “To be able to go over 100. He had some key and critical catches to be able to extend drives. He’s a special player. So gifted and he’s brought such a charisma … and a swag to our team.”
San Francisco would tie the game, 7–7, on the following possession on just four plays for 75 yards, as Deebo Samuel caught a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo and was unstoppable running it for a touchdown of 44 yards total on the play.
Following the game, Garoppolo was emotional with a short statement that reminisced the season and Samuel’s great contribution. Samuel led the Niners with four catches for 72 yards, and also led in rushing with seven carries for 26 yards.
The Niners added a field goal by Robbie Gould, following a 52-yard miss by the Rams, of 38 yards to take a 10–7 halftime lead. Gould holds the NFL postseason field goal record with a perfect 21 of 21.
The Niners increased their lead following a 10 play 58-yard drive that was capped off with a touchdown pass from Garoppolo pass to TE George Kittle of 16 yards to go up by 10 points, 17–7, with 1:59 left in the third quarter.
The Rams responded on the following drive going 75 yards on seven plays that finished with Kupp’s second TD catch of 11 yards. The Rams tied and then took the lead, 20–17, on field goals of 40-yards and 30-yards by Matt Gay, who was 2 of 3 on the day.
These two drives were balanced, as the Rams had eight receivers totaled 337 yards on 31 receptions on 45 passing attempts by Stafford on the day. Tight end Kendall Blanton replaced the injured Tyler Higbee in the first half with five catches for 57 yards; many for crucial yards resulting in first downs.
Coach Sean McVay was very appreciative of the organization picking up Stafford at the beginning of the year, stating, “He’s elevated everybody around him. He’s made me a better coach. He’s made his teammates better. He’s such a great person.”
Cam Akers led the rushing with 48 of the team’s 70 yards. The Rams ran the ball 29 times, though stopped for short yardage, to nearly equal their passing attempts.
The Niners had 1:46 for a drive to potentially tie or win the game, but the Rams defense stepped up once again to keep the Niners scoreless in the fourth quarter with much pressure by the defensive line.
“I got total trust and confidence in that defense, (they) have been unbelievable all year,” said Stafford.
On third and 22, with 1:09 left, Defensive Tackle Donald got to Garoppolo to force an interception. As Garoppolo was going down, he attempted a forward pitch that was high intended for Jamycal Hasty; it deflected off of Hasty for an interception by Travin Howard to ice the game.
Following the Niners’ third-quarter touchdown, Donald gathered the Rams defense on the sidelines for a pep-talk and strongly willed the defense to close out the game.
The Niners consoled Jaquiski Tartt who had an opportunity for an interception with under-thrown pass to end a Rams drive in the last quarter, but dropped the ball.
“You can’t write the story any better,” Stafford said. “I’m at a loss for words. I’m just having a blast playing ball with these guys and, we’ve got one more at the home stadium. Let’s get it done.”
The Super Bowl will see for the first time a matchup of two head coaches under 40 years old. Rams Sean McVay is 36, and his former assistant, Zach Taylor of the Bengals is 38.
For the second time, it’s also a matchup of two top quarterback picks in the NFL draft; Stafford and Joe Burrow of the Bengals. They will meet in Super Bowl LVI, on Sunday, Feb. 13.