The Los Angeles Rams clinched an NFC championship berth after a thrilling road win over Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Matthew Stafford lifted the Rams forward behind a late-game drive that sealed the victory. All that made the feeling of elation much more enthralling for the Rams’ star quarterback.
Rams survive Tom Brady’s surge to move to the NFC championship game
The Rams ventured into Sunday’s divisional-round matchup with the daunting task of facing the defending champion Buccaneers.
Los Angeles answered the bell, pushing their way to a 27-3 lead behind their balanced play on both sides of the ball. Tampa Bay couldn’t sustain any consistent offensive drives as the Rams’ defensive front created constant pressure on Tom Brady.
The momentum changed in the second half, with Los Angeles struggling to put together scoring drives, while three turnovers gave Brady and the Buccaneers additional opportunities. Tampa Bay completely erased the massive deficit, scoring 24-unanswered points capped off by a nine-yard touchdown run by Leonard Fournette on 4th-and-1 to tie the game at 27 with under a minute left in regulation.
The Rams responded with Stafford connecting for a 20-yard pass and a 44-yard deep throw down the middle to set up the game-winning 30-yard field goal. It pushes Los Angeles to their second NFC championship game berth under head coach Sean McVay.
After the game, Matthew Stafford perfectly encapsulated the thrilling feeling from topping the defending Super Bowl champions.
Tom Brady’s comeback made the LA Rams’ win sweeter for Matthew Stafford because he got to ‘Steal somebody’s soul’
The Rams’ deep playoff run marks Stafford’s first career trip to a conference championship game.
The star quarterback has relished the unique opportunity in Los Angeles, anchoring their push toward Super Bowl contention. Stafford has stepped up in critical moments as his calm composure on the Rams’ final drive has pushed his team a step closer to the ultimate goal.
After the contest, Stafford voiced that he thoroughly enjoys making decisive big plays that decide the fate of a game.
“I would have loved to have been taking a knee up three scores,” said Stafford via USA TODAY Sports. “But it’s a whole lot more fun when you’ve got to make a play like that to win the game and just steal somebody’s soul.
Stafford’s performance in that pivotal moment was precisely what the Rams hoped for when they traded for him. The triumph became even sweeter as it prevented Tom Brady from vying for an eighth Super Bowl ring. Brady now heads into the offseason that could see him step into retirement after 22 seasons.
Meanwhile, Stafford has provided the Rams with the offensive spark they need in the playoffs. He has passed for 505 yards on a 74.5% completion rate with four touchdowns to zero interceptions, a 131.5 passer rating, and two rushing touchdowns. The task ahead only remains tougher with a matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers present a tough challenge ahead in the NFC championship game
The Rams secured their second trip to the NFC championship game berth in the last four years.
The 49ers await them after a thrilling road win over the top-seeded Green Bay Packers. San Francisco presents a difficult challenge that is only amplified by their success against the Rams, winning both regular-season matchups.
The 49ers convincingly trounced them in a 31-10 blowout in Week 10 and came back from a 17-point deficit to defeat Los Angeles in Week 18 to secure their playoff berth. San Francisco has been a nagging thorn in head coach Sean McVay’s side as his team has lost six consecutive games to their NFC West rivals.
The Rams must slow down the 49ers’ running game, allowing north of 130 rushing yards in each regular-season meeting. Meanwhile, Matthew Stafford and Los Angeles must set the tone with their offense.
All that sets the table for the Rams to finally move past them to reach the doorstep of a championship.