INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Tremendous Bowl LVI was shaping as much as be a supersized disappointment for the Los Angeles Rams.
That they had misplaced their lead throughout a disastrous begin to the second half. That they had misplaced one among their greatest gamers in large receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to a knee harm. They have been about to waste MVP-caliber performances from Aaron Donald and Von Miller, to not point out what may be their greatest shot at a championship within the foreseeable future.
Then, as they’ve so many instances in the course of the Rams’ championship season, quarterback Matthew Stafford and large receiver Cooper Kupp got here to the rescue.
In a drive that may go down in NFL lore, Kupp transformed a fourth down with an finish round, drew three straight penalties and caught 4 passes from Stafford, the final of which produced a 1-yard landing with 1:25 left, capping a 79-yard drive that began with 6:13 remaining.
Donald then closed the door with one other stress of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow on fourth-and-1 from the Rams’ 49 with 39 seconds left.
The Rams’ return to the highest of the NFL world is the proper ending to a narrative that reads like a Hollywood script.
They mortgaged their future, buying and selling excessive draft selections in an all-in effort to win Tremendous Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium — within the first season with followers at proprietor Stan Kroenke’s $5 billion venue — and it paid off with a 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. It was the Rams’ second Tremendous Bowl championship and first title in Los Angeles since 1951.
“It feels excellent. You speak about a resilient staff, coaches, gamers. I am so happy with this group, simply proud to be related to it,” Rams coach Sean McVay mentioned. “We speak about aggressive greatness on a regular basis, being your greatest when your greatest is required. For the offense to have the ability to discover a method after which Aaron to have the ability to end it off, it is poetic, man.”
They moved again to Los Angeles in 2016, a homecoming that adopted a 21-year run in St. Louis that was highlighted by a win in Tremendous Bowl XXXIV in 2000. They fell onerous in Tremendous Bowl LIII to the Patriots after the 2018 season, setting the stage for eventual redemption.
They bought it because of a string of daring strikes.
Hiring 30-year-old McVay as head coach in 2017, making him the youngest head coach within the league’s trendy historical past.
Buying and selling two first-round draft selections to the Jacksonville Jaguars for cornerback Jalen Ramsey in October 2019.
Buying and selling quarterback Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round choose to the Detroit Lions for Stafford in January 2020.
Buying and selling a second- and third-round choose to the Denver Broncos for Miller on Nov. 1.
Signing Beckham Jr. to a one-year contract on Nov. 11.
Kroenke introduced his staff again to a extremely saturated sports activities market lengthy owned by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Lakers and their 24 mixed world championships, a relocation that got here with the promise of a brand new stadium and later led to a lawsuit from St. Louis settled for $790 million.
The Rams additionally took an opportunity on McVay after a nasty and boring 4-12 marketing campaign underneath coach Jeff Fisher within the staff’s first season in L.A. McVay, who has brazenly contemplated his future as he tries to steadiness his skilled and private life, is now the youngest head coach to win a Tremendous Bowl at 36.
“Many individuals had danced round Los Angeles,” Rams chief working officer Kevin Demoff mentioned earlier this month. “Nobody had been prepared to say, ‘I will go purchase land, construct a stadium, convey my staff and actually plant my flag with out understanding the end result.’ That first threat adopted by Sean McVay, these two dangers set us up for the place we’re as we speak.”
There was loads of threat in the best way the Rams constructed their championship roster. They regularly gave up high-end draft capital whereas buying and selling for one marquee participant after one other — Ramsey, Miller, receivers Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks and cornerback Marcus Peters, to call a couple of. They believed that method was essential to seize the eye of a metropolis that loves its stars and to construct up what stays a lukewarm fan base.
However their largest commerce of all was the blockbuster for Stafford, which gave them a wanted improve over Goff — whom they drafted first general in 2016 after buying and selling up 15 spots — and, as that they had hoped, the lacking piece to a Tremendous Bowl run. It was effectively well worth the threat.
“I am simply actually happy to be related to a bunch that’s not afraid to shoot their shot, take probabilities on issues that we really feel like is in the perfect curiosity of the soccer staff,” McVay mentioned. “There’s plenty of rolled eyes at us, however we consider in these issues and we will do issues that we expect is in the perfect curiosity whether or not it is myself, Les, Kevin Demoff, [VP of football and business administration]Tony Pastoors and all of it begins with Mr. Kroenke and his belief and willingness after which the gamers having the ability to onboard the blokes in the suitable method. It is candy. Actually joyful for these guys.”
Stafford informed ESPN after the commerce he wished to play in large video games after going winless in all three of his playoff appearances over 12 seasons with the Lions. He bought that likelihood after main the Rams to a 12-5 file and NFC West title. He proved worthy of the massive stage by main game-winning drives within the divisional spherical, NFC Championship Sport and Tremendous Bowl.
Not that it was a wholly clean journey for the Rams or their quarterback.
Stafford regarded like an early-season MVP candidate because the Rams raced to a 7-1 begin, however then he dedicated six turnovers as they misplaced three straight November video games to eventual playoff groups. Additionally they misplaced receiver Robert Woods to a season-ending knee harm throughout that skid, instantly turning their addition of Beckham from a luxurious to a necessity because the No. 2 wideout behind Kupp, the NFL Offensive Participant of the 12 months.
The Rams received their subsequent 5 video games regardless of Stafford’s turnover issues persevering with and a COVID-19 surge hitting their locker room, main the NFL to maneuver again their Week 15 sport with the Seattle Seahawks to a Tuesday.
That they had an opportunity to get rid of the San Francisco 49ers from playoff competition in Week 18 however blew a 17-0 lead at house — in entrance of a sea of red-clad Niners followers who had invaded SoFi — en path to a sixth straight loss to their divisional rivals.
The Beckham and Miller signings additional signaled their all-in method to 2021. In 11 video games, together with playoffs, Beckham caught seven landing passes whereas Miller recorded 9 sacks.
“They have been very impactful down the stretch,” basic supervisor Les Snead mentioned earlier this week, “and that was the intention in bringing them in.”
Miller and Beckham have been the most recent stars to affix an ensemble solid that included Kupp (who received the NFL’s receiving triple crown in the course of the common season), Ramsey (who led the staff with 4 interceptions) and Donald (who had one other Defensive Participant of the 12 months-worthy season). All three have been named first staff All-Professional.
But the Rams won’t have gotten to Tremendous Bowl LVI if not for a few of their lesser-known gamers coming by means of with large performs within the playoffs. There was backup security Nick Scott selecting off Tom Brady within the divisional spherical and linebacker Travin Howard sealing the NFC Championship Sport by coming down with an errant Jimmy Garoppolo throw that Donald’s stress had pressured. And there was Matt Homosexual kicking the successful area objective vs. Tampa Bay, then doing it once more vs. the 49ers, capping the Rams’ rally from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit.
“To return again, to fell your largest rival within the largest sport in your new stadium for the suitable to play a Tremendous Bowl, that’s the Hollywood story,” Demoff mentioned. “I do not wish to have to put in writing the sequel the place we disappoint on the finish of the primary model and are available again and need to attempt to climb the mountain once more.”
That will have been particularly robust given the questions in regards to the long-term viability of a roster that was constructed to win now. The Rams aren’t scheduled to choose within the first spherical till 2024 — which might mark seven years with out doing so — after giving up their 2022 and 2023 No. 1s within the Stafford commerce. They parted with this 12 months’s second- and third-rounders for Miller, which leaves them and not using a choose inside the prime 100.
They’re additionally practically $14 million over the 2022 wage cap, which is able to make it robust to re-sign pending free brokers corresponding to Beckham and Miller, and to maintain high-priced starters like left sort out Andrew Whitworth, who would possibly retire anyway.
“It isn’t for the faint of coronary heart,” Demoff mentioned in regards to the method the Rams have taken in constructing their roster. “It isn’t for the faint of pockets. Now we have to show that that is going to achieve success … We have to go show that this will work and that we will proceed to do it.”
However the Rams do not have to fret about pulling off the sequel proper now after nailing the proper ending in Tremendous Bowl LVI.
“There’s so many hard-workers, so many gifted guys, so many guys on my staff that was deserving of this second, man, and it feels good to offer it to them,” Miller mentioned. “It feels good to offer it to Aaron Donald, Andrew Whitworth, Jalen Ramsey, all of those guys which were working their entire careers to get so far.”